Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chores and Kids: Putting it into practice (Part 2)

If you've not read Part 1 on Chores and Kids, do that first. You can click on this link.

Now that you have a foundation of why you want your kids to do chores, you have to implement the how. This part is, by far, the most taxing on you as a parent because these first few weeks of your new system will require lots of teaching, correcting and side-by-side cleaning with your kids.

But I promise, I promise, if you put in the hard work in the beginning, it's worth it and your children are more likely to do their work correctly, efficiently and even, dare I say, joyfully. (Or at least with minimal complaining.)

Again, as I am teaching our children how to do their chores, we talk about why we do what we do. Why do we keep our room clean? Because if it's clean, you know where all the pieces are to your toys. And, it's a blessing to your Mom and Dad and we will enjoy your room with you. Your room is your place of refuge, the calm away from the chaos of the house. Keep it tidy and you will enjoy spending time there!

Same is true for the bathroom. No one enjoys using a dirty bathroom, one that has trash overflowing, clutter all around the sink, hair all over the floor and a disgusting toilet! And, if one day, you're sick and spending more time than usual in the bathroom, TRUST ME, you'll be glad it's been cleaned recently.

Always putting the why behind what we are doing seems to help our children grasp the purpose behind good work ethic, putting in your very best and being really efficient (after all, the faster you can do your job, the sooner it's over with usually, right?).

Whew, okay. So, first, let's talk logistics.

CHORE CHARTS. This has been a source of wailing and gnashing of teeth for Luke and I since the beginning. Some of our first chore charts were so complex that it required lots of work on the part of us, the parents, to keep up with who had done what, when they'd done it, etc. We'd ask the kids to do chores and if we hadn't putting up a clean chart, marked off the list the things they'd already completed, rotated them for today, blah, blah, blah, then basically chore time was an epic fail. Finally, I realized...



So, we simplified it as simply as we could. I scoured Pinterest to find an easy chore chart. One that didn't require me checking boxes or flipping cards or spinning wheels or erasing or standing on my head while playing the tin whistle or ANYTHING because really, this thing should be self sustaining mostly, with minimal work for you, the parent. I found this link to make my own magnetic charts and adapted it just a bit for our family. I skimmed her post on the actual chores themselves and basically just stole her idea for the charts themselves.

Here's what ours look like:

(I painted them that color before we moved into our new house. The kitchen paint just-so-happened to be the same color as our chore charts. I don't really love yellow that much.)

Once you are 3 years old in our house, you get your own chore chart. Before that, you just help with keeping toys picked up, throwing things in the trash (any 18-24 month olds dream) and basic odds and ends. I keep our charts hung in the kitchen area of our house because that's the most central room where I can see what has and has not been done for the day.

Those are just pizza tins I found at the Dollar General and spray painted them yellow because, well, that was the cheapest color they had. See, here's the back of one:

I gave the kids creative control of their wooden discs and we took advantage of some paint supplies we already had and they painted their discs to their heart's content. Then I glued their chores to the front with clear modge podge. I think it helped them take a little bit more ownership over their chore charts. Maybe not, but I like to tell myself that.

For the older 3 kids, their chores are written out on their charts in words.

Elizabeth and Lucas decided to swap a chore permanently, thus the odd ball looking disc on her chart. For the younger four kids, I used clip art to show them what their chores are.

Their names as well as "To Do" and "Done" are simply some scrapbooking stickers I had laying around and I covered them with a thin layer of modge podge so the letters wouldn't pop off. Last, I bought round magnets and hot glued them onto the backs of the wooden discs. (I tried the peel and stick magnets and the magnets kept coming off the discs. Just fyi.)

Every morning that we are home, sometimes while I'm cooking breakfast or sometimes immediately after breakfast (if we have cereal or something from the crockpot) is chore time. Pick a chore time that can be relatively consistent. Before school, as soon as they are home from school, just before bed, etc. I've found that if we do it around the same general time every day, they see it coming and the complaining is minimal. Now, all I have to do is announce it's chore time. They all go to their charts, slide their magnets back over to the "To Do" side and begin. It's glorious, most days.

Now for the harder part of making charts: deciding what chores you want your kids to do. (I did a quick search on Pinterest of "chores by age" and got a gazillion results so if you're at a loss, try that.)

Here's what our kids do, but of course, you can decide which chores work best for YOUR family. I read somewhere that it takes about 3-4 weeks for your kids to master a chore, I think that's true. I think it's also important to keep in mind that some kids will be naturally gifted in doing some things rather than others. I also read somewhere (or someone told me?) that they had one of their sons on laundry duty. After several months, he politely and quietly went to his mom and told her, "Mom, can I have another chore other than laundry? When I have to fold your underwear and my sister's underwear it embarrasses me. Can I switch chores with someone who isn't embarrassed by stuff like that?" I was super impressed. Not only because he was able to articulate that it wasn't a chore he enjoyed, but he could say WHY he didn't enjoy it and he understood that just because he might not have that chore, he would certainly have one to replace it. It gave me hope that my kids would be able to do the same and it showed me that I need to respect their feelings if something like that should arise with our kids.

Lucas was in charge of sweeping for a long time. And honestly, he sucked at it. He was just BAD no matter how many times I showed him. I don't think it was lack of effort, it just isn't something he's good at. So he and Elizabeth switched. Now, Lucas does dishes and Elizabeth sweeps the floors. I'm not quick to allow kids to swap out chores because I want them to master their job so they can do it quickly and effectively. But like I said in my last post, some families have rotating charts and it works for them.

We do our chores EVERY DAY, except Sundays (and usually, if we have a busy Saturday we ditch them then, too). Soon, the older 3 will probably get one additional item on their list as will Ella, Olivia and Aaron. After all, just like in the real world, the more responsible you prove yourself to be, the more you are responsible for doing.

Everyone does these chores:
Make their bed
Clean their room
Pick up Toys

The older 3 also have this one in common:
Put away clothes (Luke or I will fold and sort them by kid. The older 3 must put theirs away.)

Our 3 and 4 year olds only have 4 chores total. So in addition to the 3 listed above, our 3 year old, Ella, also feeds the dog and our 4 year old, Olivia, (who just turned 5) cleans off and wipes off the table.

Aaron, our other 5 year old, has 5 chores. The three listed above plus he cleans up the outside toys that have been left out and he also cleans up the living room (our hot spot for toys and clutter). He also puts his clothes away and I can't seem to remember to give him another disc for that.

Finally, the older 3 kids have 6 chores each. Lucas and Ashlee are 7 years old and Elizabeth is 9. Elizabeth does the above 4 chores plus she sweeps the floor (one zone per day) and starts a load of laundry (or folds a load if there is none to start). I divided our house into 3 zones for sweeping: the kitchen, the dining room/foyer/sitting room, and the school room/hallway outside their bedrooms. She rotates each sweeping zone every day.

Lucas has the above listed 4 chores and also does the dishes once per day (unloads and loads the dishwasher) and takes out all the trash - which also includes him hauling the trash to the curb on Monday nights since pick up day is Tuesday.

Ashlee has the above listed 4 chores plus she also cleans one bathroom every day (we have 2) and she vacuums every, single day.

The hard work comes in when you, Mom, have to teach your children how do do each of these things. If you simply tell them what to do and release them, then not only will you be dissatisfied with their work but they will be frustrated with their lack of knowing what your expectation is for them. Therefore, when I taught Ashlee how to clean the bathroom I walked her through every step. We alternate between using sanitizing wipes and a spray solution with paper towels. I showed her how I want the bathroom cleaned, step by tedious step. At first, it was just the basics like wiping off the countertops, mirror, toilet, putting away stray toothbrushes and rinsing out the sink. Now, we are about to move her into scrubbing the inside of the toilet.

I talked with Ashlee about making the bathroom counter a place free of clutter and that it's important to make it hospitable for when we have guests, because they use our bathroom too. A few weeks ago Ashlee did her chores and later I entered the bathroom to find it like this:

It made me laugh all day long. And I think that's the thing about watching your children do work. You should take joy in it and laugh along with them when they do funny things, cheer with them when they do a great job and when necessary, gently correct or redirect them when they don't do it just how you've shown them. Sometimes, we have to have retraining sessions and that's okay. Sometimes, Mommy completely loses her junk because her daughters' room is a black hole of death that looks like a wild pack of wolves have taken up residence. Later, Mommy has to apologize for being someone who is rude and belligerent and talk to them nicely about her expectations.

The first time I helped the older 2 girls clean their room to my standard it took FOUR HOURS. FOUR HOURS y'all. And we had just moved and I had already purged a ton of crap. Somehow, a liquified banana made it through the move. Ew.

Now, we do random checks of their chores. We don't tell them when we will come behind them and inspect their jobs. But once they are fully trained, we will.

The bottom line is, have grace with your kids. Teach them and expect high standards because I truly think, as adults, we don't give kids enough credit for what they are capable of doing. But also do your best to be merciful with them when they don't meet those high standards each and every time. Because one day, you'll walk into a room, it will look very unswept, you will realize it wasn't done, lose yourself on your child who SWEARS SHE SWEPT, you'll both be on the verge of tears, you'll retreat to your room for a breather and realize that your darling daughter DID sweep. She swept your bedroom. And made your bed. And turned down your sheets. And organized your nightstand. And left your nightstand light on so that your room looks oh-so-very inviting. And you'll feel about this big.

We tell our kids all the time that when they do their part around the house they are helping our home run smoothly, but when they go above and beyond they overwhelm us with blessings. They do a lot of the latter. Especially when I don't expect it.

Oh, one last thing! We DO NOT PAY our kids for their chores. The way we see it, Luke and I do things around our house because we live here and we love each other and our kids. They can do stuff around here because, you know, THEY LIVE HERE TOO and they love us and their siblings. So I guess I'll drag this out to a third post and tell you about how we plan to implement a new system called "Jobs for Hire" where we pay our kids for helping out around the house, above and beyond their actual chores. Because y'all, we've got some money hungry kids and, honestly, we want to teach our kids how to handle money. So, until next time....

***Edited to add***

I should include that there are other things that our kids do just because they live here. Like putting their dirty clothes in the hamper, taking their plate to the sink after meals, keeping their shoes in their shoe bins, you know, normal stuff that people do when they live with other people. Just so y'all know. That's why those are NOT included on the chore charts. In my opinion, those are part of just being a human who lives with other humans.


Question for you: Do you already do chores? If so, what chores do your kids do at your house?

Questions for me? Ask!


  1. Can I please just say that when I watched your kids a couple weeks ago that banana was in a wal-mart bag in their room...and the girls wouldn't let me throw it away. It made me laugh SO hard. I love you guys! -Bailey

  2. Loved all your ideas! Thanks for sharing. Miss you all!!


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