Chores. Even the word is mundane-sounding. But in order for a household to work smoothly, everyone needs to pitch in and help out. Here’s the first lesson: Moms – don’t do this alone! All members of a household should have some responsibility for keeping trash cans emptied, cleaning up messes, taking care of animals, and all of those other things that need doing around a home. We’ve had several iterations of ways to manage chores that have taken on various forms as the kids have grown.
There are lots of views as to whether or not kids should be paid for doing chores. We chose to pay ours a very small amount ($2.50 per week per kid) because we wanted them to start to understand the concept of money but we didn’t feel they were entitled to a large allowance just for doing what they should be doing anyway. (More on kids and finances in another post.)
As soon as your child can pick up a toy, they can help around the house. Putting toys away is usually a good first chore. Resist the impulse to do it for them, even though you of course can do it faster, better, and (mostly) without complaining. Children need to understand that they can help out and it’s a natural part of being a family.
Credit for our initial idea goes to Amy Dacyczyn (The Tightwad Gazette) as she described a chore wheel that outlines several chores and then gets rotated occasionally. Ours evolved from that initial idea and works as follows (this took our kids from about ages 4 – 12):
At first, we divided chores into 3 lists, as we had 3 children who could do chores individually. The youngest was considered a “subcontractor” to the older children. The chore lists included items that needed to be done regularly and items that were done just on a weekly basis. The wheel had each child’s name and we would rotate it every two weeks. The inside wheel had the youngest child’s name, which rotated in the opposite direction. He was the older child’s helper for those two weeks. Some chores were tougher than others, and of course no one wanted the “scoop poop” chore (we have always had a large dog). The kids had input into which chores should be done on a weekly basis.
As the youngest child became more useful around the house, he graduated to having his own spot on the chore wheel. This also gave us a chance to re-visit the chores and distribution.
On the back of the chore wheel was a list of other items that were just expected to be done as part of the household and another list of extra things the kids could do if they wanted to make more money.
And in case there was ever any discussion as to why Steve and I were not on the chore wheel, we had the list of things that we did on a regular basis to help around the house.
This worked really well for us over several years, and it became a natural part of daily life, with no complaining about chores being “unfair” or questioning why they had to be done. Next post will be about chores during the teenage years. Yes, they do still get done, just with a different approach!