In my house growing up, we did chores as a family every Saturday morning. I remember it so vividly. Ginny and I had to clean our rooms, change our bedsheets, and then we each had a list of chores to help with around the house that changed every week, as my mom needed. And my parents helped, too. No one could escape chores. And Chris’s family was the same way. I can remember being over at his house on the weekends during chore time, and his dad handing me a broom and laughingly telling me to get to work.
But he was serious.
Both of our families valued children contributing to the household. And as adults, and now parents, Chris and I are really grateful that they did. For one thing, it taught us how to take care of our house. We knew what basic chores needed to be done each week in order to keep things neat and clean (most of the time).
But, more importantly, it taught us each personal responsibility. It taught us to take pride in the things we owned, to take care of things we possessed, and to treat our home and our valuables with respect. It also taught us to take personal responsibility for being part of a family. We lived in those houses, too. There was no reason our parents should have been walking around cleaning up after us when we were more than capable.
For these reasons (and a few others we have discovered through trial and error in our own kids), we are big believers in chores for our children, which surprises people because Bean is five and Gracie is only three. But as my mother-in-law says, “If you are big enough to make the mess, then you are big enough to clean it up.”
We started chores with Michael when he was four years old. Well, I should clarify that. We started ASSIGNED chores when he was four. Both of our kids have had to clean up their messes since they were at least two, and even earlier with our help. But for daily, routine chores, we started at four. By four, Bean was able to really LEARN about responsibility. Nothing too deep. Just the idea that we have to help Mom and Dad and we have to do certain things because we are part of a family. We have ended up starting Gracie a little earlier simply because she asked! She loved Michael’s chore chart and she really wanted one of her own, so Grandmomma bought her one for Christmas and we have been using it for the past few weeks with great success.
Yes, chores can teach personal responsibility, but they can teach so much more! One of the lessons our kids have learned through chores is about working hard for a reward. We don’t do an allowance, and I’m not really sure we ever will do a traditional allowance. But we do definitely reward the kids for completing their chores. Some families I know choose NOT to have an award for chores because they feel that chores are simply what you should do and they don’t want their kids to learn to expect payment for things they should be doing anyway. I completely agree with this thought, as well. In fact, that’s how I was raised. I don’t think I ever got an allowance, and if I did, it certainly wasn’t tied to chores. I was just expected to do them. But Chris and I found this to be a teachable moment for our kids, and so we have tied a reward in with their chores.
Here’s how we work it:
The kids each have their own chore chart. I am a HUGE fan of this Melissa and Doug chore chart. It has a set of chores that you can change out and that work for a wide range of age groups, so it will grow as my kids grow. It also comes with two blank white magnets that we can write in our own chores on, if we wanted to customize something.
(This is a close up of all the chore options on the chart…)
The kids love it because it has the magnetic smiley faces for them to put up when they complete a chore. The magnets are supposed to stay on the bottom board and then the kids can move them up as they complete their chores, but we were having an issue with some “overly enthusiastic” chore doers, and so we put the smiley face magnets in a bowl that I keep on top of the fridge. Now, they have to SHOW me their chore before I give them the bowl to pick their magnet (the picking of the magnet is HUGE in our house).
The reward for our chores is three-parts. If the kids complete EVERY chore EVERY day of the week (which sounds like a lot, but their chores are pretty simple), then they get their reward on Saturday morning.
My mom gave them each these really neat coin banks called, “My Giving Bank,” for Christmas that divide their money into three parts – one for spending, one for saving, and one for giving. We have incorporated those banks into our chores now. So, if they kids complete their chores throughout the week, they get three dollars on Saturday. One to put in their savings, one of give to the offering plate in church on Sunday, and one to spend at the Dollar Store.
Then, later that morning when I go grocery shopping, I take them with me and we stop first at the Dollar Store. I like this store for them because NOTHING is off limits. I don’t have to regulate spending or prices or anything like that. They can choose ANYTHING they want from the store, and they love that. This week, Gracie picked a mermaid toy and Bean chose a ninja sword (which he then shoved into the back of his tee shirt for the rest of the day, like a Ninja Turtle).
I like giving them the chance to go spend their money because it teaches them even more. Now, they understand the value of working hard and being able to buy what they want with money they have earned themselves. It also has taught them about paying for their own items since they do the entire checkout themselves. They practice speaking to store clerks and using manners and waiting in line… all things that I think if we don’t INTENTIONALLY teach our children, are overlooked learning experiences.
I get asked about what chores we ask the kids to do. Generally speaking, Michael’s chores are more “chore-ish” than Gracie’s right now, simply because he is capable of more. Gracie’s chores are more likely to be things that we will do together in the course of a day, but making them “chores” gives her some responsibility to take on those tasks herself. For example, she refused to dress herself for months. I worried she would be in college and calling me asking about how to put on a pair of shorts. But I turned it into a “chore,” by telling her that she had to dress herself in order to get her smiley face. Now, she kicks me out of the room each day so she can dress herself.
We also try to put at least one behavioral chore on the chart each week, too. Usually, it’s what they are struggling with. Michael’s has been keeping his hands to himself and Gracie’s has been showing respect because those are the things each of them are working on. This gives us a chance to reward that behavior that we want to see so that we aren’t always just correcting the bad behavior. To earn their smiley face for behaviors, at dinner Chris and I decide if they have shown that behavior enough that day to get a smiley face. This doesn’t mean they have had a perfect day. It just means they were overall pretty good. We’re trying to build confidence with the chore chart, not use it as a punishment. We WANT them to earn their smiley faces, but we certainly aren’t giving them away without reason.
So, that’s how we do chores in our house right now, but what about in your family? I love hearing about how other families handle household obligations. Does your family use chores? Allowances? What do you ask of your children?