Teaching chores one Saturday at a time
Saturday morning starts off the same every week. We all mosey downstairs and lounge around until breakfast is ready. At that point the cartoons go off and the fun begins. From the very beginning, we have started our weekend with chores. It has become an expected time of teamwork and productivity.
We have a busy week and do our best to stay on top of things through the week, but it never fails that by Saturday it looks like a tornado went through our house. I have never done well with a lot of clutter, so even before I married and had kids, Saturday morning was a time I used to catch up and clean up household duties. Then when I had kids, my mind was blown by the amount of stuff that can collect and clutter the house (and mind) throughout the week! So as soon as I could I encouraged their help.
Saturday has always been our workday. While the kids are watching the morning cartoons or playing a video game, I am making breakfast and writing a list. The list really doesn’t change much from week to week, but it is nice to have a visual and the kids enjoy crossing things off the list when the chore is completed. (I love that too!) We have even been known to add something to the list that wasn’t already there, so we can cross it off and get “credit.” Ahhh…what a feeling!
Even as young as two years of age, my kids have participated in this tradition. In the early years, my boys were very eager to help and pitch in. As the years progressed, they became more reluctant. They have now developed their own interests, which causes them to want to cut corners and avoid the inevitable, but we still manage to get it done.
When my kids were young they would love to be my “helpers.” Even though their “help” usually resulted in more work for me, I encouraged them to take part. From the time they were out of a crib, they were making their own beds. It didn’t look so pretty at first, but they were proud to do it on their own. Laundry was another chore that I involved my kids in early on. We sorted the dirty laundry, making piles of whites and colors. The only skill required was knowing the color white. Then I’d let them match socks. They always enjoyed rummaging through the clean clothes to make a pair. My eldest does his own laundry now from start to finish. It was a process through the years but much easier for both of us than just saying one day, “You’re on your own. Do it yourself.”
As the boys age, my expectations have changed and the complexity of the chores they do has increased. As 2-year-olds, my sons’ beds did not really look “made” by my standards, but they were proud of what they accomplished. In general, I tried to leave the bed as they made it and not redo it. However, I must admit that when we had guests coming over, I would offer to “help” them. Now they need little instruction, just the occasional motivator.
We try to make it fun and try to have something planned for the afternoon that we look forward to. After breakfast, when the TV goes off we crank up the music. We are all jamming, singing and dancing across the house as we work. We have even been known to add some level of competition to the mix. “Let’s see who can clean their room the fastest,” one boy said last week, “I bet I can get my mirrors cleaner than yours.” (Their closet doors are mirrored.) My boys love to compete, so I use that to my advantage.
Most of the chores we do have no monetary value to them. This means I do not pay my kids for doing chores. We do them together as a family. Everyone pitches in. It is my belief that if you sleep in the bed, you make it. If you help dirty the dishes, you help clean them and or put them away. If you help fill the trashcan, you can help take out the trash. There are some chores I will pay for, such as washing my car, cleaning the patio, or washing the windows. These are great for older kids who have more maturity and are looking to earn some money toward something they really want. It can be a great motivator.
The earlier you start them on chores, the better. Establish the routine early on and it will be part of what they come to expect. The later you wait to give them those kinds of responsibilities the harder it will be to establish.
Okay…Now it’s time to me to crank up the music and join the boys!