Oh my. If my littles didn’t pitch in every morning and take care of their responsibilities, I would be drowning. I seriously look forward to sipping my coffee while listening to the sound of the vacuum cleaner running and smile, knowing it’s not me having to do it. But are chores good for kids? Are they all that important, or does it just give Mommy a free ride? And how do you go about teaching kids to do them in the first place? Isn’t it just easier to do it well yourself instead of having a sloppily done job?
When I was new to the Mommy gig, I believed that I should serve my children in everything. Out of love, mind you. And yes, it IS loving to be servant-hearted toward one another. And when the children are really, really little, there isn’t a whole lot they can contribute. So year after year, I did everything. I ran myself ragged with all the household responsibilities that come with raising little bitties. For those of you still in the land of babies with no big kiddos to pitch in, hang in there. Those years were cute but tough. I may have more children than you, but I have older ones, which makes it far, far easier. You will get through this, and then you too, my friend, will be able to sip your coffee in sweet peace.
One day, about when we added our fourth child, I realized that I was severely drowning. I was not requiring them to lift a finger outside of their school work. It was making me irritable towards everyone. I had tried to handle it all on my own. God knows I did. I wanted to be everything to everybody. I did NOT want my children to have to serve me. They’re kids, right? Let them be kids!
But then I watched the Duggars. Such a sweet family. Not perfect, no, but only Jesus is. And there’s something so wonderful about seeing the way a huger family than mine struggles and deals with life that puts my own problems more into perspective. I learned so much from Mrs. Duggar. One thing she stressed is the need to involve the children in the household duties. In their family, every child capable of grasping objects helps.
So why is it something we should teach to our little ones? #1-Because we mommies need them to help out. I love and like my children. I like them a whole lot more when they’re helping out! It actually gives me warm fuzzies towards them to see them busily taking care of things. And I’m no longer drowning, which makes our house prettier, makes us ready to welcome any visitors that may come, and frees me up to be able to parent them better (and wife better and be by myself better, etc). And #2- because the children need the responsibility! It actually makes them think more about others to have to serve their family. It makes them less selfish, more careful with the messes they make, and (get this) feel like they are NEEDED. We all want to feel needed- even children. My little Carey (age 4 at the time) once told me, “I’m glad I have chores, Momma. That way, I know I’m part of the family,”. Totally not making that one up. If there was any doubt in this momma’s heart of the value of chores for children before, it was totally wiped away at that.
So- how do you go about teaching these things without losing your mind? Because, if we’re honest, kids are sloppy. And they have to be taught every single teeny thing. Holding a broom and dustpan does not come naturally to a child. They will dangle the broom around one-handed, slinging mess to the outer corners of the room if left on their own. It’s happened. Mrs. Duggar suggested a book that their family used to get started teaching responsibilities to the young kids. It really helped us out. It comes with little see-through sleeves that clip on to a child’s clothing. You print out the chores onto cards (using words or pictures) and place them inside the sleeve for the child to go through. No matter where that little one roams, his chores are right there with him, reminding him what he needs to complete. He turns in the sleeve to his mother when he’s all done! For the older child, simply creating a chore chart and posting it is enough. This book, listed below, gives recommendations of chores per age category.
We no longer use the little chore sleeves. It was super helpful at first, especially since the whole idea of children having responsibilities was brand new to us all. Now we simply use a chore chart and I assign only two duties to my very littlest, which are easy to remember for them.
When first introducing chores to children, it is super, super important that you tell them why they are being asked to do them. All young children want to help and please their parents. But chores, as anything done in repetition, get old. Having a reason behind why chores are being done ensures the child will understand what is being asked of him and keeps you all going. I explained to my children that mommy needed help. I couldn’t do it all on my own. I needed my children to serve me as I serve them. We help each other out of love because we’re a family. I have had to say this every few weeks for YEARS. Any time a little one wants to complain, I have to remind him or her of the why. Because it’s important.
After the why conversation, then I teach the chores required to each child. It does take a while. It takes patience and understanding and trying things out until they get it right. Stick with it, though. Once they grasp how to do things, your load will start to get easier!! I usually choose to teach new chores in the summer or winter breaks from school. That way, we can concentrate on those tasks without having to rush to handle other responsibilities. Once the child demonstrates the ability to complete a chore, I then supervise for a while to make sure it’s still being done right and reteach if it’s not.
Lastly, I walk around the house and inspect chores to make sure every child has completed them well. It’s important not to skip this step. Children that realize their parent doesn’t check up on them will sometimes start to be sloppy in their work or “forget” to do them at all. I do not check up on them every day- I do it sporadically so that they do not know when an inspection will take place. Chores left undone or done sloppily when the child says they completed them have to be done all over again. I’m pretty mean about this one. If I see fuzz on the rug (you know, in the amount that I am sure means a section got missed), the entire floor has to be re-vacuumed. If toys have been jumbled into one bin instead of being separated into different ones like I asked, I’ve dumped them all onto the floor again to be resorted. But you know what strictness in doing a good job gets you? It makes sure the job is done right the next time. Do take into consideration the age of the child completing the task to determine how perfect it should be. I ask that my older children fold shirts just so, but my five year old can hand in off-center washcloths. Because that’s the best she can do. If you are a bit anal about things like I am, you will have to lower your expectations a bit when the children are helping. But the benefits of their help far outweigh having sloppy towels.
Most of the time, my children are cooperative and sweet about it all. They love me and know what they’re doing helps me out a whole lot. I remind them of that constantly and try to thank them for their completed jobs. Our family provides a small allowance at the end of the week for each child with chores. You do not have to compensate yours if you do not wish to, but I do remind mine that this is why they have an allowance. Any time there has been complaining or an attempt to shrug off the responsibilities, however, I have pointed to the list of my own chores at the bottom of their chart. “Stinky chores” I call them. For fussing about their own, they have to add one of mine to their daily list. I usually request that the offending child scrub a toilet. Three toilets is the farthest it’s ever gotten. Sometimes, I actually look forward to someone complaining!
Here is our current chore chart. It changes once or twice a year for us just to keep life from being boring. Feel free to make one for your own family according to their ages and abilities and your own needs. We normally do these chores every morning after breakfast. It takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how much dawdling and goofing off happens along with it. In the afternoons after school, they fold a couple loads of laundry and then put their own clothes away. It takes them about 5-10 minutes. For us, there is no free time until all schoolwork AND chores are complete