Chores and children…are you teaching a life of laziness or sufficiency?

Doing chores teaches responsibility at any age.  Starting young, teaching little one to pick up his shoes and socks after taking them off and then properly putting them away will help lead a life of long term self sufficiency.  If you train your  youngest ones, as you do brushing their teeth, that it is a way of life to pick up after yourself and help contribute to the family by doing chores, this will carry out into your older children’s lives.  It is much easier to take the time to train your younger ones then to constantly “yell” and “nag” at your teenager to pick up after themselves.

When I was a young mom, I had four little ones and I did most all of the work.  I had them do simple things that I thought they could “handle.”  Looking back I realized that “I” was doing most everything and they did such a minor amount compared to how my next group of little ones contribute.  Now I realize the importance of training them, when they are young to do basic “clean up after yourself” tasks for everyone’s well being.  Simple things like:

  • after brushing your teeth, wipe down the sink and make it look neat
  • put away your shoes and socks immediately after taking them off
  • putting dirty clothing into the hamper, immediately after taking it off
  • hanging up clothing instead of setting it on the dresser, especially when in a hurry
  • put food scraps in the trash and dishes in the sink after eating
  • emptying out pockets before you put laundry in the hamper—I have become very rich this way:)

These are simple tasks, but I know that as a Mom, I have been guilty of just doing them myself.  I am trying to be aware so that I can let my children know that they can do that themselves.

When we allow them to get independent upon mom or even older siblings constantly cleaning up after them, they will never learn to do it themselves.  Think of the countless teenagers or maybe even younger adults, who do not know how to clean up after themselves?  Think of the messy homes, messy cars, messy closets, etc.  We need to be training our children at a young age so that they know what is expected of them.  It isn’t torture, its LIFE!  It’s RESPONSIBILITY!  It’s training them so that they do not have to be DEPENDENT upon other people to clean up after them as they get older.

I never had anyone under 5 do chores.  I had plenty of older ones to do the work, so the little ones could just go play.  But I realize now, that is not good for them.  I was not teaching them to be self sufficient, I was growing seeds of laziness in them.  Now, I expect much more out of my 4 year old then I ever did with any other of my children.

How do I get rid of the complaints from my children when doing chores?

By having your children help with chores, it shows them that we are a family and we are pitching in to help each other.  We are a team and we work together.  When we live in the same home, prepare food in that home, do school in that home, and play in that home….it gets messy and we need to work together to keep it clean.  If we as parents make it drudgery then our children are going to express the same amount of complaints when it comes time to do chores.  We need to make it a part of life and  just do it.  Do we complain that we “have” to eat breakfast in the morning?  Do we complain that we “have” to comb our hair? No, we do it because it is just what we have been trained to do and it is expected of us.  Treat chore responsibilities the same way.

Preventative maintenance is the key.

If you teach your children to immediately pick up their clothing, there will be no need to pick it up.  When they are finished eating, immediately scrape food into the trash, gather up their dishes and set them by the sink.  When they are done playing with some toys, immediately pick them up.  Teach them that there is a place for everything.  If you don’t have a place for everything, then how is your child going to know where to put it?  Make toy clean up simple by having certain colored bins for different toys.  Mark them so that they know where they are to go.

How do we go about scheduling chore clean up?

I think I have tried every method, and every scheduling option to manage household chores.  We did many different things over the years based on our life circumstances.  Everyone’s lives are different, they all run differently so I don’t think that one choice is better than another.  You pick and choose and see what goes well in your family and you go with it.  If it doesn’t work, do something else.  Try it out and give it some time.  Here are some ideas that we have used over the last 20 years:

  • write all the household chores on tiny pieces of paper and put them into a bowl.  Let each child choose a chore to do and complete it.  Continue doing chores until they are done.
  • write all chores on color coded Popsicle sticks.  You can have easier jobs on certain colors for younger children.  You can do different colors for daily, weekly, or monthly jobs.
  • Use color coded clothespins.  You can clip them to an area that your child will see and then when they are finished they can clip them somewhere else showing they are done.
  • Keep a recipe box filled with index cards that have your chores separated according to daily, weekly, and monthly chores.  Pull out which ones you want for the week and return them when completed.
  • Use the chore pack system.  This was one of our favorite methods.
  • Make a weekly schedule by choosing a different day each week to focus on certain tasks as in Little House on the Prairie.  Monday is washing day—focus on laundry, Wednesday is baking day—focus on food prep and kitchen clean up, etc.
  • Make daily checklist for your children in Microsoft Office.  Print it out and hang it up.  Your child knows what is expected and can mark it off after completion.  We make ones with pictures for younger children.

Let your children know what is expected of them.  Don’t get to the point of anger, prepare.  We do certain chores before school and then after school they have more to complete.  This way they know what they have to get done before they are off for free time.

What about rewards?

Do you reward your children for chores?  Some believe that in life if you work hard, you get rewarded.  We did this at one time.  You can have them save up so many marbles or points for doing certain chores and then they can “cash in” at the end of the week.  That gives them something to look forward to because they will be rewarded.  What we usually do now, is I say if we get all of our chores done we can go here or get a treat.  At one time, when we didn’t get out much, I purchased a bunch of inexpensive toys and treats and had them in my surprise box.  After completing chores each week, they go to pick out a special prize.  It worked.  For the most part they just know that when it is time to do chores, we do them.  No complaints, it is just part of everyday life to be able to function properly.

Any more ideas on doing chores that I missed?  Have a blessed day!

3 responses to “Chores and children…are you teaching a life of laziness or sufficiency?

  1. Great post as always! This was so timely for me because this issue has come up recently with others questioning the whys and hows of chores in our home.

  2. southafricanmama

    Thanks for the ideas & inspiration. Have been feeling so ling that I need to implement a chore system in our home. I love that your losts are always practical and realistic. Blessings to you.

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