A few years ago, my family started talking to an employee at our grocery store. We became fast friends. Every week my children would look forward to seeing him on our regular Monday visits. He got to know our children often telling us stories about his children when they were young and now stories about his grandchildren. One day, he told us about how his son would work in the yard with him every weekend doing this and that. My children had wide eyes that screamed, “Wow! That’s a lot of work!” Our friend looked at them and say, “Hey! Teamwork makes the dream work Mama!” And from that point on, my entire outlook on chores changed.
Because I have four children ranging from tween age to toddler, I’d like to say I have perfected this parenting gig, but I think we all know that will never happen. And honestly, I’m thankful there is no one perfect parent out there. We are all learning as we go and so instead, I find myself embracing the things I have learned and carry on!
One of many topics that comes up in circles of moms is chores. We all want our children to grow up and be responsible students, citizens, roommates, adults, etc. We know they need to start somewhere. So a frequently asked question is, when do we start giving chores to our children and what in the world do we have them do?
There is absolutely no right answer to this question. Sorry! Each family unit works and flows differently than others. We all have varying routines, activities, school and work that change how our families approach things like chores. However, ideas and tips are always helpful!
First, and this may seem logical, it’s important to start simple. A three year old is not likely to manage a vacuum well. The vacuum is bigger than he is! So, starting simple and actually just encouraging your young child to do something with you is a huge first step! At two or three or four, little ones are still excited about helping you! Let’s soak that up while we can! So, give them a dust cloth and have them walk around dusting with you. Or maybe, get a small broom and have them sweep beside you. Perhaps they can clear their plate and cup from the table after a meal? Look around your house and think about things you do regularly. What can they join you in doing? At this age, remember it’s not about them accomplishing their chore as you would, or about it being perfect. Introducing chores at this age is about them getting in the mindset of helping you!
Once they are a little older, you can add more chores to the mix. Around the age of six, we began giving our children a chore or two a day (in addition to the daily make your bed, keep your room picked up). My current seven year old takes pride in doing his chores (even if I occasionally hear an “Ugh. Do I have to do this today?). He knows on Mondays it’s his job to go around gathering the trash bags from each bathroom or bedroom in our house. Once he’s finished, he puts new trash bags in each trash can. On Tuesdays, he knows he is responsible for bringing his laundry basket to our laundry room and putting away his clean clothes once they are folded (though that day varies--I’m always doing laundry)! As each child gets older, we have them responsible for chores that are a little more challenging. My older children unload the dishwasher every morning now that I’m past the fear of dishes breaking! They also walk our dog since they are bigger than she is! Ultimately, we are working ourselves out of a job, right? 😜 It takes time, but it helps to start young and small and gradually grow their chores as they grow. They’ll never know any different!
Keeping up with responsibilities and how to do that is another topic that comes along with chore questions. Some people choose to make chore charts for their children and use stickers as incentives. Some people pay their children an allowance for chores. Each family is different. Our family chooses to embrace our friend’s motto “Teamwork makes the dream work” and they understand that as a part of our family, we all work to help each other out. As a family of six, things run a lot smoother when it’s not just mom and dad doing everything! It’s not perfect, but they know they play a valuable part in our family and they are learning life-skills along the way!