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Posted by on Jun 6, 2012 in Blog, Education | 10 comments

Chores! When? What? How? Share your brilliance.

Chores! When? What? How? Share your brilliance.

We all know we should give our kids chores. But we’re already so tired that thinking up the chore system…then communicating it to the kids…then teaching the kids to do the work…then following through and supervising…then having to do the work ourselves anyway just makes our heads go BOOM.

Anyone with us? Anyone?

Okay, so that’s how I used to feel. Christine and I both hold our kids responsible for household chores. But (speaking for myself here) my family was pretty late to the party, and I wish I had started giving my kids small chores at a much younger age.

What about you? How do chores work in your house?

  1. At what age did you start giving your kids chores?
  2. Do you tie chores to allowance or issue separate payment per chore, or are chores considered part of basic family citizenship?
  3. How do you structure chores as part of your kids’ larger set of responsibilities? That is, when do they get done alongside homework, extracurricular activities, family time, and free time?
  4. What chores do your kids do? Always interesting to see how other families handle the specifics.
  5. How do you motivate your kids to do their chores? What happens when they don’t get done?

Answer whichever questions resonate for you. We keep an eye on all of our “Share your brilliance” posts for quotable anecdotes and comments, so share away! As always, if we do use your quote, we will credit you appropriately. If you’d rather chat via social media, we’re @MinParenting on Twitter, and Minimalist Parenting on Facebook.

Thanks, everyone!

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  1. Our kids are 4 and 6 and we decided that some things around the house were expected (cleaning up the toy room at the end of the day, cleaning up rooms) and wouldn’t be considered chores. When our 6 year old expressed interest in doing chores, we made a chart of small things she could help with. It’s up to her whether she wants to do them or not. We put monetary value to them (the biggest tasks, like helping Dad wash his car, worth 50 cents) and at the end of each week, whatever chores have been done get added up and she gets her money. She was very into it for a while, then she lost interest. Apparently the financial incentive wasn’t enough! We have started telling them when they see things in stores (toys, etc) that they want that they might want to consider doing chores so they can save their money and buy those things themselves.

    • I read a great article on how habits are created and broken which actually went into the brain science of it and how when we are rewarded with something we like we get a little shot of dopamine and the more we do that the more we link the behavior to the pleasure center of the brain. The important part of that though was that the reward has to be immediately given afte r the behavior for the link to be made. Giving your daughter money at the end of the week won’t have the same effect as rewarding her right at the completion of the chore. I would give it a try for a while and see if it works.

  2. My daughter is 3, and since she was 2, she has been responsible for helping set the dinner table, clearing her own dishes (including scraping her plate clean into the garbage and putting her dishes and silverware into the sink), and putting any milk she didn’t drink at dinner back into the refrigerator. We are very good about keeping up with this, and she really seems to enjoy it.

    We recently gave her a toddler bed that she adores, so we have added “making her bed” to her chores. This is brand new, and we’re still helping her make this a habit.

    She has always been responsible for cleaning up her toys after playing with them, but we’ve been very lax about following through on that. It’s one of my goals this summer to help her reduce the number of toys we keep available to her on a regular basis (storing the rest for periodic rotation), so that it’s much easier for her to keep her toys tidy.

    We do not tie chores to allowance or any other reward (other than praise), as we all pitch in to help the family and the home run smoothly. When she expresses interest in helping Mommy and Daddy with our chores, we always welcome her into the task, and encourage her to learn how to do it.

    For example, putting laundry into the dryer from the washer, and folding clean, dry laundry, is a favorite. She’s not yet tall enough to manage the controls on washer or dryer, but she’s getting very good at folding dry laundry, and this may soon become one of her official chores (folding her own clean laundry).

    I believe that our approach helps her feel like a truly valued contributing member of the family, and I know that it helps her to feel like a “big girl” which is very important to her these days.

  3. With 4 kids ranging from 5 to 9 and 2 full time working parents, we do not use the word chores – we consider helping and pitching in (age appropriate) to a responsibility of being part of the family. Something of which none of us are monetarily compensated for but rather we get to enjoy a neat, clean and organized home. Helping started as soon as they were able. Putting away their toys started as soon as they were able to. They also make their beds, empty the dishwasher (silverware for the 5 year olds) and often help to fold laundry. They set the table and bring their dishes to the sink when finished. They love to help cook as well. Other things they ‘help’ with now that really creates more work for me include : dust, vacuum, wash windows – most of which I need to re-do but I don’t discourage the effort because someday it will become required! Outside they will pick up sticks, sweep the steps, raking, shoveling snow and LOVE to wash cars. We don’t have a reward system other than to thank them and to praise them for doing a job well done and showing my appreciation. These are done as part of our daily routine and don’t impact school work, it is part of family time. Helping out is just an expectation of being part of out family. It is how we were raised and it’s how we are raising our kids. We also feel that we are teaching them life skills. Isn’t it important to know the basics …. how to clean, cook, organize etc?

    • Heather, this is exactly what I’m trying to do with my 1,5 year old son! Whatever he is able to do I let him do it. Cause it is play for him.
      For example throwing his diapers in the bin.
      Before going to bed putting his toys back in the drawers. He understands so much now, that I was even able to tell him on which shelf to put the canned goods after shopping. I was amazed when he stored them away on his own.
      I always thank him for helping me.
      And he enjoys these little tasks so much cause they give him confidence and power.

  4. Our son is two, so he doesn’t have set tasks. We are teaching him to put his toys away at the end of the day/when he’s done playing, putting shoes by the front door, throwing away his own trash, etc. And he helps mama fold laundry and put things on hangers.
    I consider helping with housework basic family citizenship. But my husband and I still have conflicts over what’s “fair”. (He grew up in a family where mom did EVERYTHING for EVERYONE. Not gonna happen at our house – this mama works full time outside the home, getting help with second shift is non-negotiable.)
    Its house rules to clean up after ourselves and take care of our belongings-part of family citizenship. That goes for ALL of us. With the toddler, it’s difficult to reason with him. Most of the time, we won’t move on to the next thing until the “chore” is done. Lots of “do this, THEN we’ll do that”. Example: Kiddo frequently doesn’t want to throw away his banana peel – I take the banana, and he doesn’t get to eat it until he throws away the peel.
    To avoid breaking my brain and our marriage, I have taken a “do it as you wish, when you wish” stance (as long as it’s done before bed) with my husband and chores. I will have to do this with kids later. There are issues, but this approach lets me delegate the worry over the task as well as the task itself. My therapist refers to this as “executive functioning”. Letting go of some of that keeps my sanity far from the edge of Crazytown Falls.

    • It’s not ITS… stupid autocorrect.

  5. You’re crediting people right? As you sift through the “brilliance”, I hope.

    • Of course. We call out each anecdote in the book with special formatting and a first name (or name included here).

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