Have any of you read the book Anna Hibiscus? There is a quote by one of the aunts that makes me laugh. She tells Anna’s mother that taking care of three children and a man is too much work for one woman to do alone! Ha. Wiser words were never spoken. And many of us have more than three children.
Even though I live in America rather than Africa, keeping a home for several people is no small task. The concept of “chores” has become a part of our culture for good reason. It’s a brilliant concept: teaching the kids life skills while lightening the load of Mom.
So here are my thoughts on chores.
Keep it Simple
Yes. Like everything. There are many fabulous chore ideas out there: charts, reward systems, Pinterest ideas, etc. We’ve had fun with various ones over the years, but the fact is, if it is too high-maintenance it won’t last.
Another helpful hint – don’t rotate chores. I’ve found things go much more smoothly when each child does the same chores. I may reevaluate the assignments after a year or two.
You will find that if you keep chores short, simple, and unchanging, you won’t need charts or lists.
For daily chores, Focus on the Essentials
Kitchens, laundry, and bathrooms are the most important areas to keep under control. Vacuuming, dusting, bedrooms, windows, etc. really aren’t important on a daily basis. It is better to give your kids a short chore list than a long chore list. So let some things go, especially if you’re just starting out.
Give chores priority and make them non-negotiable
One idea is to require completion of chores before eating breakfast.
Don’t try to produce perfect attitudes (Scold, Nag, Moralize, etc.)
While we all would love if our kids did their chores with a smile on their face, that might be too much to bite off at once. The fact is that they are little immature people and even we adults have a hard time doing disliked work. The best thing you can do is to work alongside them and model an upbeat, “get’er done” attitude. Praise any positive work ethic you observe. Be patient while you teach them to take pride in a job well done.
So how does this look at our house? Each of our four children have three morning chores:
17yo: Bed, Wipe down bathrooms, Sweep kitchen
11yo: Bed, Empty dishwasher, Care for chickens
8yo: Bed, Mop kitchen, Care for dog
5yo: Bed, Empty silverware, Vacuum entry rug
Is that all? Almost . . .
After meals, everyone helps to clear and wipe the table. I am generally the dish loader, and The Man is (sometimes) the pot washer. However, the kids are trained in so they can step in if we are busy.
Then every evening, the whole family does a “Clean Sweep.” That is, we all work together for about 15 minutes to get the house picked up. I have found it works best to assign rooms to different children. I like to do this before the bedtime story so that they have no time to mess up the house again and I can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere after they are down. Some moms do it before supper for before Dad Gets Home.
Laundry is done roughly once a week.
About once a month, we do a family deep-cleaning. This is when vacuuming, dusting, windows, and deep-cleaning bathrooms get done. We may do it more if we are hosting.
Summer brings lawn and garden work, done on an as-needed basis.
Should you pay your kids for doing chores?
There are both pros and cons for doing this. The way we handle it is that our kids are not paid for the daily chores. They are considered their contribution for living here together. However, I keep a separate list of special jobs with a price next to each. If the children want to earn some money, they can just pick a job or two off of the For Pay list and do some extra work. Both Mom and kids are happy.
And it always helps to keep life decluttered. Each additional item is an additional care.