Friday, June 06, 2008

Kids in Training

Last Friday I had one of those days. It was the kind where my kids were out of control. I couldn’t keep them from fighting, from complaining, from crying no matter what I did. I pulled out all of the stops. I got out numerous activities. I gave them great snacks. I hugged them. I disciplined them. I separated them. I sang along to kiddie songs! Nothing—absolutely nothing—worked. What’s worse was that it wasn’t an isolated event. It seemed that it was just a day that had built on the previous day and the day before than. I was frustrated and angry. I was in tears and I brought my anguish and sheer frustration to God. During naptime, I was hit with something wonderful – nothing short of an answer to my prayer. My kids needed, desperately needed, chores. It was clear. They needed to WORK.

My oldest child is 7 but I also have a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 6 month old. Somewhere in the midst of being a busy mom, I didn’t take the time to figure out appropriate chores. It just seemed like a huge task for me. It isn’t to say that my kids never help out. I often ask them to put up their toys, help in the kitchen, or help a sibling. I just have never given them specific jobs. Now I realize that work is necessary for their character and my sanity.

So, last Friday, when my oldest got home and everyone sat down for the afternoon snack, I informed them we were going to start something new. We were going to have daily chores. I was met with interested and confused looks. Much to my amazement, the idea was not treated with resistance. For chore number 1, I choose an activity that would seem fun to them and accomplish something that I really love. We swept and mopped the kitchen floor. Everyone had fun. Everyone WORKED. I did not let them give up when they were tired of it. I had them clean the tables and the pantry doors. I made sure it was more than fun. I made sure they worked.

Each day since, we have had chores. Every afternoon the kids want to know what chores they will have to do that day. I am trying to give them jobs that actually help me out – not just “kid jobs”. Here are some of the chores: cleaning up their room, laundry (1. bringing clothes downstairs and helping load the washer 2. Putting the folded clothes in their drawers), clipping coupons, making beds, and unloading the kid dishes from the dishwasher. Right now I am staying involved with them as they work. They are learning how to do household chores.

What’s working about this? The kids expect to work now. I have been surprised that they don’t complain about having to work around the house. The kids seem to be more aware of all of the “jobs” to do. The kids are working together. When one person finishes their chore, chore time is still happening. They can wait on their brothers or they can help them. They cannot go play during the work time. Every time someone has finished first, they have begun to help their siblings. This brings real joy to my heart.

I don't want my kids to think they need to be entertained constantly. I want them to understand that working is a good thing. I want them to experience working together. I want to encourage helpful habits and a good attitude about work. If you have any tips about kids and chores, I’d love to hear them. I am serious about this being a long term change at our house.


Kimberly said...


No actually, I think that this is a WONDERFUL idea and now that summer is fast approaching I really need to implement this in our household. And really my girls are 7 & 9 they really should have chores. Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Many moms will tell you that is the answer to a lot of behavior issues. You have inspired me. It's been on my to do list to start regular chores for a long time. I haven't been able to get over the hurdle of the training needed to do the job well. But, this is the age that they want to do the jobs. My girls ask me all the time if they can be the ones to clean the toilet. I love your idea of "work time" and no one plays even if someone is done early.

breaking free said...

I'm not exactly sure how my mom decided who got to pick, but I remember at times she would have 2 envelopes for me and Abi for doing chores for the week. We didn't know what was in the envelope we just knew if we did all our chores without complaining we got to do whatever was in the envelope. I'm thinking Andrew and Doug must have had their own envelopes or were too young. I don't even remember what our rewards were, but I just remember it was fun!!

Amy Jo said...

All 6 of us had chores we had to do every week. (Even had a chart!) And then, if we ever said, "Mom, I'm bored", she put us in the "Cinderella Program" in addition to our chores. :) Our youngest sibling would actually sing the Cinderella song while mopping the floor, like in the movie. :)

Tonya said...

My kids go through spurts of wanting to help and then not being interested in it. They are 7, almost 6, 3 and 8 months. Sounds about the same age as yours. This summer though they are going to have to have regular chores or I will go nuts ;)

leigh ann said...

Another option for making chores work for you is having a job jar. When your kids misbehave and it's time for creative punishment, have them pull something out of the job jar. It's a great way to get to those projects you never have time for, like washing baseboards, etc. And to make it even better, throw in a couple of "grace" tickets. If they happen to pull that one, instead of the yucky job they were expecting, they get to experience grace in action. It can be a great tool!

Katie @ 3 Blondes and a Redhead said...

This is a wonderful idea. I'm curious if it's still working out for you? Do you have a set "hour" to do the chores or does it vary daily? I'm ready to do something like this with my little ones.