Along with feeding my family, the next common question I receive has to do with chores: types, what ages, pay/no pay, and how often. I thought the easiest way to address this question was just to write it out since it is a rather complex issue.
Before I begin, I want to share that I have really just had an epiphany moment on this very subject. Don't get me wrong, my kids have been doing chores for years, but I often struggled in this area. I had a difficult time enforcing chores on a regular basis because of guilt. As a child, I had chores to do. My mother worked and I was required to help around the house. As I got older and the responsibility increased, I became angry at having to do so much. Now, as a mom, I struggled with my own children because I didn't want them to become resentful towards me. It was a constant inner battle that often resulted in me trying to do everything that needed to be done...and accomplishing nothing!
The past few weeks the Lord has been showing me that one of my jobs as a wife is to be the manager of my home. That means meal planning, housework, laundry, child-rearing, and schooling all fall on my shoulders. It can be daunting at times, especially without help in the form of chores. I began to pray about ways I could improve in this area, and literally one afternoon my understanding of chores (why to implement them) became so clear.
TJ used to work as an assistant-manager at McDonald's. He is now a manager at a local university. He often shares some of his stories from his McD's days with me (usually to make me laugh) and things he used to have to do. I began to think about that one afternoon, and I pictured 2 scenarios in my mind. In the first, the manager was scrambling around, trying to take customer's orders, fill orders, run the drive-thru, and assist an employee with a problem. The other employees were just standing around, watching him (or her) do this. It was a chaotic scene and the atmosphere was tense, to say the least. In the second scenario, I pictured the employees each performing their assigned duties, one taking orders, one on the drive-thru, the other cleaning tables and emptying garbage, while the manager was overseeing the employees and assisting when needed. It was clearly a much smoother operation and had a calming atmosphere. That's when it hit me- my house is like that McD's. I am the manager. It's not my job to do everything, it's my kids' jobs to each do their part with my help/assistance, in order for our house to function in a calm, smooth way. And that brings us to this....
I have 2 chore charts, one is a chart that has chores listed that must be done daily. Examples include laundry, sweeping/vacuuming, dishes, and setting/clearing the table. Each chore is bulleted so that the specific expectations of what is to be done is listed. For instance, I can't tell my 4 year old to do the laundry. But, I can tell her to gather the baskets from all the rooms, sort them into 2 piles (light and dark), and get them ready to go into the washer. I can't tell my 6 year to do the dishes, but I can tell her to unload the dishwasher, put away the clean silverware, and load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Do you get the idea? It's breaking the big task into smaller steps so it's not so overwhelming.
We rotate names on the daily chart each week (Monday morning). I have it laminated and simply use a dry-erase marker to change it. All of my kids, except the baby, do chores. Obviously the older children have been doing chores longer than the younger ones, and along with their physical size/strength, are able to perform their chores "better". However, practice makes perfect so with time, everyone will be able to do their chores 100% independently and I will simply just have to ensure they are done. As it is now, I have to assist the younger ones in order to complete some of their chores. Would it be easier if I just did their chores for them? Maybe, but the point is that they are learning the routine and gaining an understanding of what is expected of them. It is easier to get a 2 year old to do chores than a 10 year old who has never had to do chores. The younger they start, the easier it will be because it will become habit.
The other chore chart is a weekly chart. Those are assigned based on ability, so as the children get older and can do more, I change the chores. I assign each child a list of chores to be done weekly (usually on Friday afternoon but sometimes we spend an hour on Saturday morning). Examples of this list includes cleaning the bathroom, dusting bedrooms, dusting the other rooms in the house, mopping, etc. The kids are also responsible for cleaning up their bedrooms, and I have a specific list that hangs on the door in their bedrooms detailing the expectation.
The chores they do around the house are a part of living in a family so they don't get paid for those. They can, however, earn up to $5 per week for their bedrooms. They earn $.25 for each item on their chart. I can count a handful of times that all of my children actually earned their full $5. Some are naturally more organized than others, so for them it's not a problem. But for those who are messy, the money is a good motivator to get their rooms picked up and clean. It prevents me from nagging them about it; it's their choice about whether or not they want to earn some money. Nothing is worse than going to the store and not being able to buy something while your sibling does. Rooms often get cleaned up on their own as a result. :)
I am happy to share my chore charts with you, so if you'd like a copy, please email me. Remember, if you are a mom, then the Lord has called you to be the manager of your home, whether or not you work outside of your home, as well. Chores not only teach kids life skills that they need as adults, but it also teaches them that they will have to do jobs that they may not like (again, each child's unique personality means that they all have chores they prefer over others) but that must be done. Chores are a part of responsible parenting, and as an adult, I appreciate my mom for teaching me that.