Tuesday, March 20, 2007

We Can Work it Out

I need some advice, so naturally I turn to you, oh Internet Posse of Wisdom. After listening to some friends casually chat about what their kids do for chores, I have come to the realization that my kids are ruined with lassitude and apathy on the verge of spoilage unmotivated and unchallenged in the domestic arena. I am ashamed to say that they do very little. Ashamed because I know that I am not allowing them to develop the skills that will serve them so well through life - and, well, isn't that my job and all? They are still in that stage where they want to help me, so I need to harness that power and get them while the getting is good. Plus, I am just plain tired. 99 % of the housework falls to me, and while I realize that I am home for most of the day, Mom-at-home does not equal maid-at-home. The times, they are a changin'.

So what I ask you is this:
Do you have a chore schedule that works well for your home? How do you divide the labor and when do your children do these chores? (eg: after-school, nights, weekends) Where do you post these chores? Are the children allowed to pick and choose, switch, or trade, or are they locked-in to what they've been assigned? What are the consequences for unfinished chores?

And furthermore - do you pay allowance for chores? Our kids do not get allowances, and I am loathe to give them money for doing things that need to be done to keep a household running smoothly (like setting/clearing dishes). They need to realize the value of contributing to the household without expecting anything in return. (Besides, if someone's getting paid for housework, it's going be me - I'm just sayin' . . .) However, I am not opposed to giving them money for special projects that go above and beyond the daily duties. I think it teaches a good lesson about thrift and charity to have to make decisions about your own little pile of filthy lucre.

While I'm asking you to divulge your Household Secrets of State, I might as well keep going. I'm in a quandary about how to "let go" enough to let the children manage on their own. Let's put it this way: it takes a herculean effort, and some hard-core avoidance, to keep me from re-making Older Girl's bed in the morning. I have taught myself to honor her commitment to the job by not correcting it, and she really has gotten better over the years. How often do you step in when chores are not done to adult satisfaction? Do you make the kids do them again? I am afraid, for instance, that if I tell Older Girl to mop the kitchen floor, that I will become possessed with an uncontrollable desire to follow behind her with a rag and hit all the spots she misses. Nothing inspires more self-reliance than being subconsciously told that you aren't capable enough to wipe dirt off of the floor, right? (But sometimes doing it myself is so much faster.)
I am not a clean-freak, per se (although there are many who would dispute that claim), but I am a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist, with a little dollop of OCD thrown in for good measure. Plus, of all the members of the family save Baby Girl, I am the one who has to spend the most time in the house just looking at the state of things. Am I unreasonable?

Oh, and one more thing, how do you divide the labor? According to age? Ability? Obviously, there will be things that The Boy cannot do on his own, but that's not a get-out-of-jail-free card. There is no such thing as a free lunch in these parts.

This is a work in progress for me, and I'd appreciate your input. If you don't have kids yet, how did the work detail go down in your childhood home? Regular readers and lurkers unite, and give me some straight talk about chores. Have at it, peeps!


  1. Wow, what a load of questions! My kids do not have specific chores. I do ask them to clean up messes throughout the day. Usually messes they make, such as all of the dress-up clothes all over the floor. Or we ask them to put the coloring stuff away. Not realy chores, but still contributing to restoring order. We do have them clear their place at the table--we use heavy duty plastic plates that don't break if dropped. Sometimes I hear a "but that's not my mess" and they get no sympathy from me. I tell them I don't make most of the messes I clean up either.
    I'll be interested to see what others have to say on this. I know we could use more order and routine around here, and this seems like a part of that.

  2. Cool questions and ones I struggle with daily. We are on the Dave Ramsey commission plan at our home. On my window sill are three clear jars (the twins are sharing one until I find another antique). In those jars are coins and bills...as the children do chores (not those chores that give you the right to have a meal) but chores that are above and beyond you live in this house chores...they get 20 cents for each chore. Such as folding a load of laundry, 20 cents...unloading the dishwasher when it's not necessarily your turn, 20 cents. Ask me if I am consistent? I suppose in a manner I am. If they do a job, they get paid...but I have left it up to them to decide if they are interested in earning money...that being said, if they want to buy something I wasn't planning on buying, they better have the money or they aren't getting it. Oldest girl, saved 100 dollars (through a lot of discussion) to earn her American Girl doll. We weren't buying her another one...so there you go...that is my plan in a nutshell. www.daveramsey.com (GREAT CHRISTIAN FINANCIAL GUY!!!)

  3. In my household our oldest, now 9, does the dishes and must tend to her room. Keep in mind we don't have a dishwasher so she must do them by hand. This is an every night task that is done directly after dinner. Tending to her room may seems like a given but she and her brother share a room. She is stuck with the task because her 5 year old brother makes more of a mess in his attempt to clean it. She also cleans out the tank of her lil rodent friends, as they are her pets. Slowly, but surely, she is beginning to help more with laundry as well. Seems like a lot for a 9 year old but, in reality, it's very little compared to what I do around the house. Now the little guy must pick up his toys at the end of the night, put his own clothes away into his drawers and he feeds the dogs each night. He is also starting to clear the table. There wasnt any specific reason WHY they got these jobs. No, the tasks do not change only because in our home routine works best. This get out of hand when too much gets changed around.
    Allowance? Well, yes, kinda sorta. We are majorly guilty of allowing both kids to get something small from the WalMart clearance aisle with every visit to the store as long as things have been going well at home and school.
    As for following behind and redoing and such? Using the floor mopping example, when she is finished tell her you want to check her work. When you do so, if you see spots that were missed or something not quite right just say 'You did a wonderful job! Almost as good as I would've done and I've been doing it for years! Want to know what I would do different?' Most girls her age(now is the time because in a few years she couldn't care LESS what you would do different!)would be happy to hear how Mom does it and more apt to try it that way next time.
    Hope that makes sense and that it helps in some way!

  4. Anonymous11:51 PM

    sorry- i don't have any practical advice yet, but i wanted to let you know that my mother *never* asked me or my brother to do chores *ever* and it ruined us for life. so, you gotta do it!
    : )

  5. We follow day care's lead on toy clean up. Princess is not allowed to switch activities without cleaning up first. Play doh must be put away before painting or doll clothes can come out. She is also responsible for feeding the dogs before we eat dinner every night.
    Since we both work house cleaning gets done on Saturday morning. Before Princess used to get into our hair because she wants to clean too. Then one of us handed her a Swiffer duster. I no longer have to bend over to get the trim at the bottom of the walls. She gets that. And with the Swiffer it actually gets pretty darn clean. I'm amazed what a 2 year old can do!!
    As for the older kiddos... I clearly remember mopping, vacuuming and cleaning windows at my grandparents' houses and showing my work to my dad when he picked me up. Which means I was doing that kind of cleaning by age 9. Older Girl can probably step up in these areas and you can arm The Boy with a Swiffer.
    Good luck!!!

  6. I think teaching kids to work is one of the most valuable skills we can give them. My 5 year old daughter is in charge of putting the silverware away every day. We also have her clean up, help fold the blankets on her bed and help whenever she is asked. We keep a generic listening chart where she earns stickers every day for jobs well done. When the chart is full, she gets to choose a book from our book stash. However, at some point we do want to teach her about the value of saving money.

    Little man who just turned two helps pick up ... especially when he throws his food on the floor. When he gets out of the high chair, he is the one to pick up the mess.

  7. I stumbled across your blog somehow and this post caught my eye. I've got 4 kiddos rangin from 11-3 and this was a recent issue at our house. I was feeling WAY overworked, like only a mama can, and decided to share the load.

    I made a list of all the tasks I needed to complete, assigned them to me and the kids and then spent a week doing them WITH the kids to teach them how I want it done. To say we got nothing else done would be pretty durn accurate. I posted inside cupboards doors, what I expected when they tackled that room and then the next week they were on their own.

    I DID have to give up my thats-not-good-enough attitude and except their best efforts, all the while resisting the urge to go back and F.I.X. But it sure was better to just have it done than to have it done perfect.

    I'm filling up your comment section so I'll just stop but this was a really good question.


  8. Johanna7:59 PM

    Ok, I'll share the childhood version... there were two of us, and I am the older.
    We shared our tasks:
    - emptying dishwasher - sis did the silverware basket; i did the plates, bowls, and containers; mom or dad put the glasses in the cabinet above the counter top until we were old enough to safely put them there

    -filling dishwasher - always done by dad for max. capacity... but we were responsible for taking the dinner dishes to the sink for a pre-rinse

    - dusting & sweeping - sis did the bottoms of everything (legs, headboards on beds, etc.) and i did tabletops... this happened till mom deemed me capable of running the vaccuum and then sis did all of the dusting (mom swept the stairs)

    - the kitchen floor mysteriously got cleaned after we were sleeping... apparently it miraculously absorbed its dirt overnight

    - beds were made on the basis of you made your bed, now sleep in it.

    - laudry folding was a team effort... the basket was deposited in the hallway and we'd each do our own (except dad)... since we were working together, folding was always being overseen by the mothership who suggested messy items be corrected before they were taken into the rooms

    these things were expected as part of "living with a roof over our heads" ... it seems to have served me well (i came to realize this particularly when i lived with a girl who didn't have to share anything at home or contribute to any particular tasks)

    **** super random task... cleaning up playdough was generally done by mom as she "ate" the food we had created ;) she had us fooled for a bit :D

  9. Yay! Thanks for all the suggestions, I have been taking notes here, my friends. There's a new sheriff in town :)

    Meg - you got it going on with your 2! Thanks, honey!

    Kimmy - you are not ruined, maybe just behind the 8-ball a little? But you always were the fast learner :)

    T - The Boy loves that Swiffer! You know a mom invented that thing . . .

    jtcosby - I love Dave Ramsey! And I have started the "3 jar" technique with the kids. 1 jar for saving, 1 jar for spending, and 1 jar for giving. Thanks for the advice and the reminders!

    Gayle - I think taking the kids for a "walk in my shoes" through my chore chart will teach them how to do a task pretty well. Thanks!

    anordinarymom: I am so guilty of not always making them pick up the things they play around with, I have got to get on the ball with that! :)

    johanna - I like the laundry approach. They put their own away, but I think they are ready to move up to the big leagues of folding AND putting away.

  10. hey - sorry i've been out of touch, and haven't caught up on your blog until today. i wish i had answers, but i find myself in the same boat as you. what's worse, hubby and i disagree on the subject. the older boys are 15 and 11 and are only with us half the time (other 1/2 with their mom). so hubby doesn't think they need to do chores around our house. i disagree. in my world, everyone will keep his room clean, keep the bathroom clean, and do other menial chores as requested, and all of this is done for free. no paying for work, because i, like you, would be the first in line wtih an outstretched hand waiting for da cash. babysitting is the only chore i'm willing to pay for, and only because it's the only thing i'd pay someone else to do.

    that said, hubby feels that some $ is a good motivator. i distinctly remember being an abject cinderella around my house as a kid. but then again, there were 5 of us, and mom couldn't do it all on her own.

    so all that to say, i wish i could get our kiddos motivated too. i will definitely start early with the babies - aidan already has some jobs to do (like putting the cokes in the fridge, or picking up toys) and he's fairly good at that.

    the problem with the older two is that they don't have to lift a finger at their mom's house, so it's tough to get them to do it iwth us....but that's another whole can of worms.....

    errrrgh. i'll have to do a whole post of my own about this one.


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