Over at Homespun Heart, Monica has a great post up about how she introduced chores to her littles with a Team themed Family Night. It got me thinking back to when my kids were those ages. I thought I’d share some things that we’ve done.
In the SimpleHome, we have always stressed to the kids that we live here as a family and therefore need to work together as a team. My kids had simple helping chores from the time they could walk as a toddler. Folding washcloths is great fun for toddlers and a big sense of accomplishment.
Over the last 10+ years I’ve learned a few things. Some came from great tips from friends or articles, and others I learned the hard way.
For us, it was easiest in the beginning to just have the kids help us. If we were folding laundry, they helped fold the little stuff. If we were cleaning up, we gave them specific things to put away. Dusting? Put a sock on the toddlers hand and let them do baseboards…I guarantee you’ll both be laughing as they climb under & behind furniture. At this stage you can’t expect a great job, or even a complete job for that matter. Attention spans are short and new things catch their eye. I did learn that I always needed to make it MY choice as to when they were done helping. If they ran off I would bring them back to do one more little thing, then tell them that they could be done and thanked them for the help. For me this just reinforced that as the mom, they needed to obey me. If I saw interest waning I would say something like “Just two more minutes, then you can play.” This way we avoided the power struggle. My goal during the toddler years was to get them familiar with the things we do to keep our house in order.
As they got into the 3s there were some independent tasks. Making their bed or cleaning up toys independently. As they grew so did the chore list. Now, at 9 and 12, they do a lot of helping. They can clean bathrooms, put away all their own clothes, straighten their rooms each morning, empty the dishwasher…and the list goes on.
I find that as they hit school-age, the need to please dissipates at times and more motivation is needed. They tell sad tales of how they are the only children they know that have jobs around the house. And they become to tired to do their chores. It really is a pitiful state of affairs…imagine! Such expectation and responsibility! To have to make your bed at seven years old!
I’ve used all sorts of motivation over the years. At first I would get discouraged when a system started out working great, then they lost interest with that particular reward. I also struggled with how much reward a child should get for helping the family.
Here is a partial list of the motivational things we did over the years. I’ll explain some of them more in posts later.
- chore charts with stickers
- chore sticks
- daily chore cards
- point systems
- Buddy systems
- And on frustrating days…threats and privileges taken away (I hate admitting that. But it happens, right?)
Often the “prize” was free and easy to give, but still exciting to them.
Overall what I learned, and still need to remind myself of is that I set the tone. If I make housework look like drudgery, they will approach their chores the same way. If I’m having a day where the jobs don’t seem fun for anyone, I’m honest…I tell them that I’m not really in the mood for this and that I know they aren’t either. Then we turn off the television distractions and put on some fun music. Set the timer and just get through it.
The hardest thing for me to get into my head was that even if I worked out a great system for chores, be it charts or whatever, it may not work for long. Variety is the spice of life, right? Sometimes changing things up is refreshing and reinvigorating…for us as well as the kids. So if you can’t understand why they aren’t excited about the sticker chart anymore…put a twist on it. Or even put it away for a couple of weeks.
In short, being flexible in the system for chores and setting the right tone are very important.
Tune in tomorrow for more ideas for changing up the chore chart.