As our children get older, I continue to receive more and more questions about chores…
- What chores do our kids do?
- Do we use chore charts?
- Do we give allowances?
- What ages do we start chores?
- Do we have certain days for family cleaning?
- Do we have punishments for not doing chores or rewards for accomplishing them?
I’ll be honest, for someone who really likes a clean house, I have a fairly relaxed approach to chores. 😊
We’ve tried various tactics over the years, but currently… we don’t have a chore chart, we don’t start specific chores at certain ages, we intentionally do not spend our weekends cleaning, and we don’t give an allowance or payment when the kids help out around the house.
NOTE: Our children do get a small monthly allowance (their age in dollars) but it’s an opportunity for them to practice spending, saving, and giving — the money is not tied to chores or “performance” in any way.
Related Reading: How to Help Your Children Increase Their Savings
When I first shared my thoughts about kids and chores (back in 2017) our kids were too young to worry much about it yet (they were 5, 3, 2, and newborn).
And even now, several years later, I don’t place much value on how many household tasks my kids do each week… and I know I’m not the type to keep up with chore charts or prizes!
Plus, I don’t think the actual chores are the most important part.
The most important part for me is my child’s willingness to give of their time and energy to help out around the house, to willingly pitch in to create a home we all love spending time in, and to acknowledge the effort required to maintain a clean and organized space.
SOOOOO….. if the thought of implementing chores, making a cute chore chart, downloading the latest App, coming up with prizes, doling out allowances, or nagging your children (for the 300th time) to make their beds stresses you out, I encourage you to take a step back and think about your main parenting goals.
- Do you really care if your child makes his bed right this minute… or do you just want him to know how to make his bed and respect you enough to listen when you ask him to do something?
- Do you really care if your child packs her own lunch by age 8… or do you just want her to know how to pack a balanced lunch and appreciate the effort and cost involved in getting the food she eats each day?
- Are you actually burdened by the heavy load of housework (you might be) and need your family to help out… or do you simply want your family to be united in their efforts to create a clean and enjoyable space to spend time together?
So often, the issue isn’t the actual chore, but the heart attitude behind the chore.
Yes, we want our homes to be neat and clean, but more than that, we want our families to notice our efforts, appreciate what we do around the house, and want to be a part of bettering our home and our family life by helping out around the house.
Am I right!?!
And yes, I know how idyllic (maybe even impossible) that sounds!
But how do we get our kids to care?
Honestly, that might be a million-dollar question!
And I think the answer is multi-faceted… but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll break it down into 3 things that have made the most difference in our family over the last 10+ years.
1. Model the desired behaviors consistently.
It’s not likely that your children will magically decide to clean and organize on their own, without ever seeing YOU clean or organize and without some training as to how to clean and organize.
This doesn’t mean that every lazy messy child is a product of a lazy messy parent… but it does mean that if you’re not willing to “walk the walk”, your kids will see right through your little plan and most likely won’t be super eager to help out around the house either.
Take one week and teach your children how to scrub the floors or use a vacuum. Then the next week, show them how to clean a toilet or unload the dishwasher.
It doesn’t need to take much time, and you can offer rewards for positive attitudes if you think that would be helpful.
2. Use positive language around housework.
Would you rather do “chores” or would you rather do “activities that help our home to run more smoothly so we have a nice place to live”?
I type that with a smirk on my face… but I am serious.
If we constantly begrudge cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc. our kids will have the same attitude toward housework.
But if we take pride in our homes and talk about the benefits of our efforts, they will start to see things in the same light.
Also, discuss what life would be like in your home without any maintenance — no clothes to wear, moldy food in the fridge, no dishes to eat with, dirty bathrooms, ants and bugs, etc.
It’s not a pretty picture!
3. Expect cooperation.
I know, this sounds a bit optimistic as well, but I do think we need to expect that our children will cooperate and put forth some effort once they know exactly what is expected of them and why it’s so important to us and to our family (children generally do want to be helpful).
Sometimes our children willingly help out around the house, sometimes they need to be reminded of our expectations, and sometimes they experience negative consequences for choosing not to cooperate and help out.
That’s just part of living together as a family… and in a way, I think children really like knowing we’re going to stand behind what we said and that we’re not just going to let them off the hook. They like being held accountable (even though they’d never admit this!)
Our Kids’ Current “Chores”
Many of you have asked for specific ways our kids help out around the house… so here’s a list of what we currently expect of them. (ages: 11, 9, 7, 5)
- Make their bed
- Get dressed and put their PJs away (they often sleep in their clothes though!)
- Do their hair and brush their teeth (I will help with hair if asked)
- Pack their snack and water bottle on school mornings
- Clear their own dishes and push their chair in after every meal
- Hang up / put away any outdoor gear whenever they come inside
- Put wet clothing on hooks in the laundry room or directly into the dryer
- Put wet gloves on the register in the kitchen
- Unpack their backpacks and give me any paperwork they came home with
- Unpack their lunch bags and put their ice packs away
- Do their homework (they don’t have much)
- Practice instruments (piano every day, instruments every other day)
- Clean out the dishwasher each night after dinner (usually Nora)
- Hang up wet towels in the bathroom
- Nora does her own laundry, the younger 3 put away their laundry after I wash it
- Pick up after themselves throughout the day
- Help with a “whole house pickup” before bed each evening
- Shower and get ready for bed
- Put all dirty clothing in the laundry hampers (and socks in the appropriate mesh bags)
- Help with random projects/tasks when asked (yardwork, house cleaning, organizing projects, etc.)
Eventually, the habits develop…
Now, if I’m being totally honest, our kids do most of the things listed above without much complaint, often without even being asked — and it’s not because they are all angelic or because Dave and I are such great parents.
It’s simply repetition…
Over time, these daily “chores” have become habitual — almost instinctive — to the point where our kids don’t even think about them much anymore. They just do them!
Of course, if the kids had the option to play with neighbor friends or put away their laundry, they would choose neighbor friends — but they know we expect them to put their laundry away first, that it only takes a few minutes to do, and that when they are finished, they can play with their friends for a long time.
I suppose it’s a little like putting their seatbelts on in the car — they just do it without question or complaint because it’s what’s been expected of them for so long and it’s what they see modeled for them each day.
There’s no choice, it’s not up for discussion… if you’re in the van, you wear your seatbelt because that’s how we stay safe, and as parents, we want our children to stay safe — just like we want our children to enjoy living in a clean and welcoming home environment.
I don’t say any of this to bash chore charts or a more organized system of family chores — if that works well for your family and your personality type, then keep at it! (Also, feel free to share what works for you in the comments so others can benefit.)
I’m simply offering a different perspective — one that puts less pressure on the chores themselves and focuses more on the hearts of our children.
Just spend some time with your kids. Explain how much you value them and that you want to create a nice space for your family to spend time together.
Let them think of ways they can pitch in and help out (I have one kid that literally begs me to “let them scrub toilets”!) — thus alleviating some of your load and allowing you more time to spend together.
Our kids’ chore accomplishments are not the most important feature on our parenting resume (especially if they are doing the chores with a negative begrudging attitude).
I’m convinced that if our children feel a sense of ownership in the state of our home and pride in working together as a family for one common goal, they will be more eager to help out now, AND more likely to have a positive attitude regarding housework moving into adulthood.
Your future children-in-law will thank you someday! 🥰
Teaching our children how to clean and maintain a home are extremely valuable life skills, but as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing that says our children should be doing XX number of chores by the time they are YY years old.
Rather than stressing out about how many chores our kids are doing, let’s get them excited to work together as a family to create a clean and fun space to hang out together with family and friends.
I realize I might be opening up a can of worms, but I’d honestly love to know…
What are your thoughts on kids and chores?
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