My kids do chores. Lots. And they get paid nothing! No stickers, charts, incentives. Nada! They do it cause “Mama said so.” I didn’t know that was cool until I was informally interviewed at a workshop I was giving on Green Cleaning. A local parenting columnist wanted to know all about my kids’ chore routine.
Here’s how it works:
1. We have the Morning Chores on the wall, no names, just what has to be done before we leave.
2. Usually, Nate starts to unload the dishes while Zach and I head to his room to tidy and Callie does her room alone.
3. Then, according to how the morning is going and how complicated different chores will be today, I continue to assign the chores until we’re ready to go. Some days there are lots of dishes to load, some days less. Some days the animal chores take longer. Some days not. So, there’s no master list of who has to do what. Everyone just keeps working until it’s done.
4. We do the same thing after dinner with the Evening Chores. But, Papa and I spend more time directing from the couch than doing anything ourselves. We do the cast iron and the leftovers, but mostly we supervise. “No, the salt doesn’t go in the fridge. Put it on top of the oven.”
But, what about them doing a GOOD JOB?
Well, you have to let go a bit on all that. But, I find that if you do the chore often enough, it doesn’t matter. We swish the potties and wipe the counters every day. Who cares if they don’t do it perfectly? It’s not like it only happens twice a month. And some days I’m doing it cause they’re tied up doing something else. It all works out.
Same with dishes. Yes, they load it so that some dishes don’t get perfectly clean. They know to look when they’re unloading and toss them back in the sink if it’s still cruddy. They only get fussed at if they load dirty dishes into the cabinet. Not if the dishes have to be run again. And again, some days I do it for them to be sweet, so once in a while everything gets loaded correctly.
They also do the weekly/monthly chores with me. After I worked with them a couple of times, I realized that if I send Nate to vacuum my room, I’ll have to go back and do the corners myself. Same for Callie’s mopping. But, they can all dump trash and bring me the right color laundry from their baskets, etc. I have to check behind them, but it’s a lot less work than doing it all myself!
But what about age appropriate chores?
I have no idea what that means. I just know that each kid has to help me and I let them try new chores all the time. I can tell after a few tries what they’re capable of doing. My two oldest didn’t get really useful until about 6 years old. Before that, it was like a DOUBLE chore to let them do anything independently. It was just easier to do it myself.
My four year old stays with me and just barely follows directions. I make piles for him in his room and he can put away one “category” at a time (toys, shoes, dirty clothes)–if I stand over him and point to each item. At this age, he mostly gets in the way. So, this last week during the major kitchen clean, his job was to sit on the counter and tell me made up stories about eyeballs and monsters. It was pretty awesome.
How do they reach everything?
I let them work that out. Nate and Callie both unload all the cabinet-dwelling dishes onto the counter and then hop up on the counter and put them all away.
To switch the laundry, they drag a chair over. Unloading those last few clothes at the bottom of the washer can be tough still. I usually have to get those.
So what do they actually do?
Because we don’t have “assigned chores”, they don’t do the same thing every day or week. I may do it sometimes, but here’s what in a WEEK they (the older two) will have done more than they care to remember:
- Unload, reload, and run the dishwasher
- Stick vacuum the floors (with me getting under the furniture, getting the corners)
- Swish the potties
- Wipe down the outsides of the potties (with me checking behind and getting the corners)
- Wipe the kitchen and bathroom counters
- Clean their rooms and straightening the bedding
- Tidy the coat closet
- Brought me their laundry and empty hangers.
- Put away folded laundry and hung already “hanger-ed” clothes I draped on their baskets.
- Poorly swept/mopped floors that I go behind and finish
- Switched the laundry a few times
- Carry everything to the dinner table
- Clear the dinner table
- Poorly wipe the table
- Dump all the trash cans and recycling
- Take the big can and recycling boxes to the street
- Brought the empties back
- Feed and water the animals
- Collect eggs and exercise the goats
- Clean out the car
- Set up the Wii for Saturday
- Pack it away on Sunday (we only have one video game day a week, which is also Donut Day, and grill party day)
I can’t remember what else…