If you’re like most parents across the country, getting your kids to help out around the house can be harder than having a root canal without painkillers. And it’s often more painful as well! But it doesn’t have to be. Chores are an important part of teaching children responsibility and what it means to be a member of a community. In this case, their family community. They learn that everyone contributes in different ways, and, when they help to take care of the house and the things in it, they often develop a greater respect and appreciation for those things.
There are a few important factors to consider when developing a chore routine. Planning and consistency can make the chore routine easier to follow and enforce. With time and practice, chores will become a natural part of your family life and not a battle to be fought every day.
First, you want to make sure that the chores you assign to your child(ren) are age and developmentally appropriate. Asking a child to complete a task that is beyond their skill level will only lead to tears and frustration (on both of your parts!). The opposite is true as well. Asking an older child to complete more trivial tasks denies them the opportunity to feel like an adult, and they quickly view chores as a “baby” activity.
Have your four- and five-year-olds sort laundry, set the table, and tidy bookshelves and coffee tables. This makes use of important pattern recognition and sorting skills that children develop during this age.
For your six- and seven-year-olds, give them tasks that allow them a bit more independence. Like making their beds and walking the dog around the yard or the block. Let them do important things that don’t require extensive complicated steps that they will struggle to remember.
Older kids can handle more complicated tasks, but you may need to supervise as they are learning the steps. Folding laundry and putting laundry away in the right spot, helping with meals, cleaning the bathroom sink and toilet, mowing the grass … these are all chores that older children can master and that will help them to learn to be responsible and give them a sense of independence.
Second, chores should be predictable. Set aside a specific time everyday or every week that is just for completing the chores assigned. Perhaps it’s making the bed right after they wake up or mowing the grass every Saturday at 8am. Whatever works best for your family and your family’s demanding schedule. But predictability is a sure way to avoid many of the arguments and challenges that can often accompany chores.
Third, use a clever chore chart that allows your children to have some choice in the chores they are assigned. A chore chart also helps keeps tasks and their completion visible, which is especially important for younger children and when initially establishing a chore routine. This chore chart by Lemon Squeezy Home allows kids to choose their chores from a master list and then they can mark them complete as they finish.
This chore picker by Simply Kierste adds a little element of surprise into the picking of chores.
If you’re a family that chooses to pay per chore, this chart by The WHOot allows kids to see the cost-benefit relationship with their chores.
A very important thing to remember is that your child(ren) will likely not do the perfect job that you would if you were to do the same task. Despite this, reinforce their contributions to the household with positive words and encouragement. With time and practice, they will get better and faster at their chores. Correcting them for every small imperfection or for taking too long will slow down that process. Keep it positive and upbeat. Everyone will enjoy the process so much more!