Help Wanted!

Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work the adults in our house have been putting into household duties. Some may call it the “daily grind”.  We were finding that our “family time” had been replaced with parents (us) cleaning and kids playing and creating more for us to clean along the way. Of course, play is a highly valued childhood activity and a necessary developmental activity. But what about mom and dad? We would like to engage in some playful activity with the kids too.

In order to redistribute our time, we decided to enlist their help. In other words, we decided to give our kids chores. Our definition of chores is as follows: household duties that are performed by all family members WITHOUT PAY in the interest of the entire family. This includes duties that all family members engage in together and duties that are done by a single family member. It has been noted by professionals in the field of child development and parenting education that chores have developmental advantages for the child as well as practical advantages for the family. Chores help build responsibility, self-regulatory skills and a sense of accomplishment and pride in one’s achievement and environment.

When developing a system of family chores we had to consider the age of our children (5, 9, 11), their school and extracurricular schedules, and our family’s priorities. Once we took stock of our needs, goals, and reality, we were able to draft a plan. Our plan includes a chart for each child that details their chores for the week in a visual format that is developmentally appropriate for each child. My 5-year-old has tasks such as: straighten bed, put clothes in hamper, and clear her place at the table. My 9-year-old has chores such as: feed and water pets, make bed, and fold his clothes. My 11-year-old has tasks such as: clear out dishwasher, feed the dog, and “pick up” the floor in her room. They are all invited to cross off each task as they finish them so they can see their progress toward our family goal of “all tasks done for the week”. If/when we accomplish this family goal, we go out to dinner or ice cream (whichever our budget allows at the time).

Our family’s plan is working well for us so far. The kids are motivated to participate in chores and they are beginning to internalize the responsibility for their chores. In other words, they can see their chores as “duties” they participate in because they view themselves as responsible members of our family unit. We have more time to spend together as a family. And we get a fun Sunday night treat, dinner, or dessert out as a family too.