I’m a firm believer that children who don’t do chores grow up to be adults who don’t know how to care for themselves.
It’s all well and good to assign chores to your children, but without consistency, motivation, and/or consequences, chore time turns into a game of frustration and nagging.
Enter, the chore chart.
Seriously, guys. If you have more than one kid (or roommate for that matter) chore charts are the best. It may seem daunting at first, but setting it up is really no biggie.
Step 1: List your chores and frequency
Not every chore needs to be done everyday, but some desperately do (or multiple times per day). For us, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the dogs, and setting the table are daily chores. Other things like washing the windows, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms are weekly tasks. Make a list and prioritize so that it’s easier to assign tasks later.
Step 2: Consider your audience
Flipflops and MacGyver are 13 and 11 respectively and are responsible for their own laundry. Little one is 8 and Swiffers the front hall.
When doling out chores, consider the ages, abilities, and preferences of your brood. One kid may like to vacuum (or doesn’t mind) while another would rather scrub toilets than clean carpets. Older children can probably handle laundry, while little ones might turn all their whites pink.
Step 3: Chart a week
Start with one week and assign chores to each child each day until they are all accounted for. By having the same chores on the same days every week, kids get into a habit. Eventually, they know that we clean bathrooms on Thursdays, which days they have to set the table, and how long until their next laundry day.
I stick to no more than two chores per day and balance long-term jobs (laundry) with quick ones (feed the dogs).
Step 4: Keep your distance
Kids are kids. They aren’t perfectly responsible at all times, especially when the chart is new. If Flipflops and MacGyver have back to back laundry days, MacGyver isn’t going to be able to start his laundry on time if there are still clothes in the dryer from the day before.
To prevent the backup, Flipflops does laundry on Tuesdays and MacGyver on Fridays. As you arrange your chart, consider not only how often, but when you’d like things cleaned. I like laundry done and bathrooms clean as we head into the weekend, just in case we have company, or want to head out on a weekend trip.
Step 5: Add the daily chores
In addition to daily chores, there are also everyday chores which include making their bed, picking up their stuff from downstairs, and straightening their rooms. Daily chores prevent your child from spending his whole weekend cleaning his room. You may have to do a deep cleaning at first, but then it should be simple to maintain.
Step 6: Consequences
The chart is all fine and good until someone slips up. That’s where consequences and consistency come in.
In the early stages of the chart, my kids would lose their electronics if chores were not complete by 4pm (it was summer).
Honestly, it turned my kids into tiny lawyers trying to find loopholes in the system. So we changed the rule. No electronics until after chores are done (exception: when you need the computer to do homework). Now the electronics are an earned privilege for contributing to the household instead of a punishment. Same effect, much less whining.
How did your child learn to read? Someone taught them, right? The same is true with chores. You must (read: MUST) teach your children your expectations for everything from making their bed to cleaning the bathroom. Even older children need to be taught. What comes across as laziness may actually be lack of training.
The chore chart has brought sanity to the house, but not overnight. Keep at it, it’s completely worth it!