Sunday, November 15, 2015

Children's Chores and Family Work

Chores are an integral part of my homeschooling and parenting philosophy.  Over the last couple years, I have endeavored to teach my children to do more chores and make them a part of our daily lives. Through chores, my children learn:
  • that there is meaningful work for them to do which benefits our whole family,
  • the values of working hard and doing a good job in the work they do,
  • life skills which will be valuable when they have their own households as adults, and
  • that through working together as a family, we can make our home a place that we love to spend our lives in.
The process of teaching my children to do daily chores and family work also benefits me, in that:
  • I am no longer feeling overworked with the responsibility to clean the whole house on top of my other responsibilities of homeschooling, being a homeopath, cooking, writing, etc,
  • I've learned to let go of perfectionism and impatience, instead feeling gratified with the work that my children do,
  • our home is cleaner, and
  • I have more time to pursue my own interests, which keeps me balanced and happy.

How I Teach My Children Chores

Whenever it is time to teach my children a new chore, I teach them one-on-one.  I make sure to keep my own mood positive throughout the process, so that it is not a stressful experience for the child. I first demonstrate how to do the chore, then ask them to do the same. I stay with the child the first few times they do that particular chore, and give them pointers only when necessary. Staying with the child the first few times they do a specific chore allows me to make sure that I have done a good job of explaining the chore, and that I am not assigning a chore that is beyond the skill level of the child.

Once a child has reached competency on any chore, they are expected to be able to complete the chore on their own, and then they call me to check their work. If the chore has not been completed well enough, I respectfully point out the flaws and the child corrects them. If I consistently find that a specific chore is not being completed properly, I start over again with training the child how to do that particular chore.

Encouraging Positive Attitudes About Chores

With the stereotype of complaining-child-and-nagging-mom in the back of my mind, I set out to make sure that our chore experience is positive and rewarding.  I have set the following rules and guidelines to achieve this goal:
  1. No complaining about doing chores is allowed. Any complaints result in the child earning another chore.
  2. I adjust my standards for each particular chore depending on the skill level of the child, and I do not take-over or re-do the chore when they are done. This teaches the children that their work is meaningful and that their best work is good enough for Mom.
  3. After the initial training sessions for a particular chore, I do not insist that the child complete the chore my way; they are free to find a different way to do the chore if they choose to. 
  4. When possible, I make sure to choose chores for the children that would naturally be the most enjoyable for them to do. For my daughter this includes straightening and organizing, whereas for my son it includes using power tools (such as the vacuum) or dusting.
  5. When a chore is completed satisfactorily, I praise the child for their hard work and contribution to our household. This is a very important part of the process!

Why I Don't Pay My Children To Do Chores

Years ago, when my eldest was a toddler, I tried using incentives and rewards to get my daughter to do simple chores. While this seemed to work well at first, over time I found that she started expecting to be rewarded anytime she did a chore or was helpful, and that she was not learning the intrinsic value of doing chores to help our household. That experience led me to the conclusion that I would not pay or reward my children for doing chores. Instead, I teach them that doing work is part of being in our household, and that we all have responsibilities.

I do give my children ways to earn money, though. They know that anytime they want to earn money, they can pull weeds outside and earn one cent for each weed that is pulled with the root attached. They can also request to do additional household chores specifically to earn money. And, ridiculously enough, there is a bounty on killing flies and ants in the house: ten cents for a dead fly and one cent per dead ant.  

 

Family Work

Some of my children's chores are to be completed independently, but many of them are completed as "Family Work", where we work side-by-side. Family work is especially important when encouraging young children to do chores, but it is great with older children, too. Working together as a family helps our family feel close and connected, and allows us to share a sense of accomplishment. When approached with a positive attitude, family work can also be an excellent time to have fun together, share stories, and enjoy each other's company.

Chore Lists For My 5-Year-Old and 8-Year-Old

Currently, both children are expected to do the following chores:
  • Daily:
    • Make their own beds.
    • Take their dirty dishes to the sink.
    • Put away their own clean laundry.
    • Any chores they earn through misbehavior or poor choices.
    • Clean up their toys and any messes they make.
    • Anything else mom asks them to do such as putting dirty clothes in the washing machine, helping with cooking, sweeping under the table, taking out the trash, getting drinks for meals, etc.
  • Weekly or Bi-Weekly:
    • Help bring groceries, library books, and other items from the car.
    • Help in putting away groceries.
    • Take their bikes to the car anytime they want to bring bikes along to the park.
    • Help in packing lunches on days when we will have lunch away from home.
    • Pack their own backpacks if they want to bring books, coloring supplies, etc on an outing from the house. Also, put all of those away upon returning home.  
    • Help with trimming the grass in the summer, pulling weeds during our rainy season, and weeding our family vegetable garden.
    • Help with kombucha brewing and bottling.
Additionally, my 5-year-old son is expected to do the following chores. My son is a particularly responsible and detail-oriented young child, so he is doing more at his age than other 5-year-olds may be capable of doing.
  • Daily:
    • Put away the clean silverware from the dishwasher.
    • Work with his sister to set the table for dinner.
  • Every-Other-Day
    • Wash breakfast dishes. He is not required to do any hand-washing of plastics or to wash any more difficult items (such as pots/pans). Mom loads the dishes he washes into the dishwasher.
    • Do one of the following (whichever is in most need of cleaning): dust the entertainment stand in the living room, clean a bathroom sink, or scrub a bathroom toilet.
  • Monthly:
    • Help in Once-A-Month Cleaning Day. He is free to choose which chores to do during this time so long as he keeps working hard, and most often he chooses to be responsible for vacuuming all of the carpets and rugs in the house, cleaning windows, and cleaning toilets.
Additionally, my 8-year-old daughter is expected to do the following chores. Because she is older and more capable than her younger brother, my daughter's chores tend to be a little more difficult. 
  • Daily:
    • Put away all children's dishes from the dishwasher.
    • Work with her brother to set the table for dinner.
    • Feed and water the chickens. Collect and label eggs. (She actually does earn some money from this since she has her own egg business, but she has been responsible for taking care of our chickens since before she started her business.)
  • Every-Other-Day
    • Wash breakfast dishes and load them into the dishwasher.This includes hand-washing any plastic items and scrubbing any pots/baking dishes that need washing.
    • Clean and organize the craft/project table.
  • Monthly:
    • Help in Once-A-Month Cleaning Day. She is free to choose which chores to do during this time so long as she keeps working hard, and most often she chooses to be responsible for sweeping the front porch, cleaning bathroom sinks, and dusting/organizing the children's room, desk, and craft table.

More Resources For Teaching Chores

Want to read more about children and chores?  I have found the following resources to be helpful.

Mother Helpers: 10 Reasons Not to Step In
Practical Suggestions for Responsibilities You Can Expect Your Child to Begin at Specific Ages
A House United: Teaching Children Self-Government
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning

Are chores an important part of your household culture? Do you have any tips to share about kids and chores?


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