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.