One of the hardest things about being a parent is keeping up with all of the housework! Whether you have one kid or 10+, doesn’t it always seem like you have 20??? I know it does for me, and I only have three kids!!! My gameroom can go from clean to THIS (see picture below) over the course of an hour!!! It’s like I’m raising three tornadoes sometimes!!!
In a society that encourages laziness, entitlement and taking the easy way out, it can be very challenging to instill work ethic into our children. The BEST thing that you can possibly do to help yourself in this area is to start early! Don’t wait until your kids are school-aged to start giving them small chores to do! They need to learn right from the beginning that a family is a TEAM, and we all need to do our part and work together.
Our family’s motto is “Teamwork makes the dream work!” Our kids hear my husband and I repeat this phrase again and again to instill the sense that we all need to work together in order for our household to function. They see my husband and me model that behavior for them everyday. My husband goes to work to make the money that we need to live. I do the cooking, cleaning and laundry because I’m home during the day to do it, and Daddy doesn’t have time to do it because he works outside of the house all day.
Now it doesn’t matter if it’s the man, the woman or both who are the bread-winners for the family. The point is that the kids see that Daddy and I work together as a team to make sure everything gets done when it needs to get done. We each take care of the things for which we are responsible.
Our kids also have responsibilities. As they have gotten older, they have also become more capable of cleaning up after themselves. They realize that, and so do we! That is why we try to have them do as many things as possible for themselves. If they can do it for themselves, they should do it for themselves and stop asking us to do things for them because they would rather be lazy.
Now, a word of caution here… DO NOT try to teach them everything at once!!! I repeat, DO NOT!!! They will become too overwhelmed and will probably cry and fail to do any of the chores properly. Although our kids can do A LOT for themselves at this point, we started out small. One thing at a time!
If you aren’t sure where to start with your children, choose your least favorite chore to do, and teach them that one! Some people may think that’s a jerk move, but in our experience, the kids really don’t care too much what the chore is. In their minds, as long as it is something that they “help” to make dirty in the first place, it makes sense that they should help to clean it. And since it doesn’t matter to the kids, choose the chore that will give you the most relief from your day. You have FAR MORE things to worry about everyday than they do, so give yourself a break!!!
When I first started dating my husband, he was a widower with three kids (ages 7, 5 and 3 at the time.) Not only was he dealing with the grief of losing his wife, but he was also working full-time and trying to raise 3 kids on his own! It was obvious that he was burnt out and could not keep up that pace much longer. If he could have put his coffee into an I.V., I’m sure he would have just to get him through each day!
He said that folding laundry was his nemesis! It was his least favorite chore, and it had to be done so often! So I decided to help him out. One evening when I was visiting and it was time for the kids to go to bed, his 5 year old daughter (who will be called “Lula” for the purposes of this blog) said she didn’t want to go to bed. So, I said to her, “Well, if you don’t want to go to bed, then you can stay up and help me fold this laundry.” She thought about it for a second and said, “Ok. I’ll fold the laundry!” #WINNING!!!
Because of the way I approached it (like it was a special privilege instead of a chore) she was THRILLED to fold the laundry!!! I showed her what to do and as she started doing it on her own, you could just see the sense of pride, confidence and joy on her face! I made her feel so special and important by saying things like, “Wow! You are so good at this! I can’t believe how fast you learned this! How does it feel to be the first kid in the family to learn how to do this?!” She was GLOWING with delight and felt like she was 10 feet tall!
My (now) husband could not have been happier!!! By teaching Lula to fold the laundry, I had just completely eliminated his least favorite chore forever!!! That may be why he decided to keep me around!
As I mentioned earlier, the key is to start small and give them time to “master” each chore and feel comfortable with it before adding anything more onto their plates.
Once all three kids were comfortable with folding their laundry, then I taught them how to prepare their laundry for the washing machine (i.e.- which clothes need to be turned inside out before they get washed, make sure to empty your pockets, etc.) After they were comfortable with that, I taught them how to use the washer and dryer and how to measure the soap. (By this point, they were 10, 8 and 6 years old.) Now they are COMPLETELY self-sufficient when it comes to laundry! I can’t even tell you how amazing that is!!!
Using the washer and dryer was something that required close supervision and some verbal reminders for the first month or so. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “It’s so much faster if I just do it myself!” And, yes! You would be right! BUT, although it takes longer in the beginning, once they get the hang of it, you won’t need to supervise anymore!
I actually have the kids supervise each other while their doing chores! It’s awesome because they are always trying to get each other in trouble, so they do a WAY better job when their siblings are watching!!! The kids know exactly what is expected of them with each chore, and doing their chores helps them to feel responsible and gives them some of the independence that they desire.
Our kids have told us that doing chores makes them feel really good about themselves. They have more confidence in their own abilities, they feel more grown up and responsible, and they no longer have to wait on us to help them with what they need. They have the freedom to do their chores on their own time schedule (within the boundaries that we give them: i.e.- “Do you want to do your laundry tonight or tomorrow morning?” or “As long as it’s done sometime before you go to bed tonight, you can decide when to do it.”) They are not stuck on our timeline, and they appreciate the flexibility to make their own choices.
Our kids are now 11, 9, and 6 years old. We decided this year that we were going to start giving them an allowance. We felt that it would be a great way to teach them about being responsible with money, teach them about savings and tithing, and to teach them that in life, if you want something, you need to work for it.
We came up with a list of chores and gave each chore a different payout, depending on how difficult and time consuming the chore is. We then printed out a chart with the pay for each chore listed so that the kids can decide what they want to do, and they can choose to make as little or as much money as they want.
In addition to the paid chores on the list, we also included their unpaid responsibilities. These are the things that are expected of them all of the time, and they will not get paid for doing them. Some examples of those responsibilities are making their beds every morning, rinsing their dishes and cleaning up any crumbs or spills from their spot at the table after every meal, putting away their toys before they go to bed, and so forth. Basically, if they make a mess, they need to clean it up. They don’t get paid for cleaning up a mess that they made themselves!
The kids have fun with their chores. Most days, I find a meticulously crafted and unique “sculpture” of rinsed dishes waiting for me in the sink!
It is no secret that I made MY least favorite chore (cleaning the bathrooms) the highest paying chore on the list! Yes, that was intentional! That chore has now become the most appealing chore for them because of the payout, and the kids actually fight over who GETS to do it each week!!! I LOVE MY CHORES CHART!!!
One of the best things to see was how good the kids felt when they worked hard and were able to buy themselves things with their own money. Our son chose to buy himself a dessert from our favorite restaurant. It is a dessert that he has had several times before, but he said it tasted soooo much better knowing how hard he had to work for it! (That may have been my proudest Mama moment yet!)
Lula chose to buy stickers to decorate Valentine’s Day cards for her class at school. She’s our little artist! I even let her count out the money for the cashier at the store. When we got back in the car, she said, “It really does feel good to buy things with my own money! I feel so grown up!”
Our youngest has yet to purchase anything with her money, but something tells me that she’s going to spend it all on ice cream this summer, hahaha!!! She has a serious sweet tooth!!!
In summary, get your kids started early! There is NO REASON you should be doing all of the work yourself!!! There will still be plenty left for you to do, even if the kids start helping out! If they are very young, start out by teaching them how to put their toys in a bin or box when they are done playing. If they have the dexterity to take the toys out, then they have the dexterity to put them back in! Our kids started setting the table for meals at a young age. We keep all of the “kid” plates, bowls and cups in the lowest drawer of our lower cabinets so that they are easy for the kids to reach.
Whatever your children are capable of doing, get them started now!!! The longer you wait, the harder it will be to motivate them to pitch in. We have seen so many positive changes in our children since we started giving them chores to do! In addition to that, with everyone helping out, it frees up more time for us to spend quality time as a family… and that is PRICELESS!!! 🙂
Need help coming up with ideas for how to get your kids started with chores? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would LOVE to help!