Family chores are tasks that contribute to keeping a household running smoothly. They are duties that the whole family participates in, not just mom, dad, or children. Certain tasks may always belong to specific individuals in the family, but the others can be divided up and traded off to make things more interesting for everyone. When working with children, it is important to remember that they are best motivated with mom or dad working with them. This doesn’t mean that the parents are doing the children’s chores, but rather that everyone has a designated time when they are all doing their assigned chores.
Some chores are automatic and should be done routinely every day. When waking up in the morning, children can get dressed, comb their hair, make their bed, tidy their room, put their dirty clothes in the laundry room, feed the pets, and set the table for breakfast. When required routinely, these tasks become habit and over time they will happen automatically. In our family, the rule was that pets always get fed before humans. This included the sheep, pony, turkey, and chickens!
Other tasks may not be so routine. If there is more than one child in the family, it is more interesting to trade off, especially if there are some jobs that are not as desirable as others. Some of the techniques we used in our family for allotting chores included the following:
- Write down all the tasks that need done on individual slips of paper. Take turns pulling a chore out of a hat, going back and forth until all the chores are selected.
- Make a list of chores that need done. Take turns having the children choose which chores they would like to sign up for. Use a different colored marker for each child and highlight those items they chose. This gives them a sense of empowerment, as they get to choose their chores. It’s true that these are the same chores that could simply be assigned.
- Sign up for some chores and that are traded off weekly with another family member. For example, empty the dishwasher for one week, and for the next week fill it. Empty the wastebaskets in the house one week, and the next week sweep the kitchen floor. Some chores won’t be as desirable as others, but the child knows that once the week is up, they get a break the next week while another family member does the task.
- Allow for something interesting to happen while a chore is being done. Folding laundry while watching a nature DVD turns the task into a family event.
- Occasionally make a game out of household chores. Hide a surprise under objects that the child can find when dusting the furniture. A nickel under a vase, a stick of sugarless gum behind a picture frame, or a coupon for a cookie from mom all provide incentive and challenge.
- If the house has become cluttered, set the oven timer for five minutes and have everyone pick things up and put them away, counting how many objects they cared for. Have a reward for the person that put the most things away. The reward may simply be that mom or dad will do their next assigned chore.
- Another technique for a cluttered house is to give each person the task of putting away 20 things. This is conducted like a race, seeing who can put away 20 things fastest.
- Teach children to put away things as they complete a project. Toys, craft supplies, and school books used should be put away before they move on to another activity. After a meal, have each family member take their dirty dishes to the sink. It helps if they are asked to each choose three or four things on the table and carry them to the kitchen as well.
- Make a chore chart. Give children a sticker for completing each chore. At the end of the week, count their stickers. Have a reward system where the children receive a prize for achieving their goal. Stickers are not given for chores done in a complaining manner, even if the chore was eventually completed.
- Chores work best if done on a consistent schedule. Our family found that the time between breakfast and starting school activities for the day worked best. Generally an hour is enough time to allot for daily family chores.
Age appropriate chores can be assigned from toddler years until a child leaves home. They help to establish habits of good home management, and the child will reap rewards for a lifetime! Useful work is a strong component in educating the whole child.