I’ve finally done it. I’ve given my kids chores. I’ve put it off for a long time partly because I have a hard time sticking to parenting experiments that involve sticker charts, incentives, and rewards (i.e. I’m lazy) and mostly because I can do all of the work faster and better. Anyone who knows me well knows not to load my dishwasher because I will unload and reload it my way (i.e. the right way).
But it’s time. I’m sure of it because as often as I preach gratitude to my kids, I don’t often see it in action. I’m tired of their constant wants, and I’m sick of cleaning up the clutter of things (that I buy for no justifiable reason) that bring them instant and fleeting gratification but no long-lasting joy. I want to teach them that happiness doesn’t come from a plastic toy in a blind bag, that money has financial and moral value, and that the true reward for a job well done is in the earning rather than the spending of money. That, and I want to distract them from Minecraft and YouTube for a little while each day. Also, I’d like them to aim better when they pee, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to make them clean the toilets.
So, here’s my system for now.
It’s baby steps over here for my kids who have never lifted a finger in the house. I admit I’m using the chores as a way to get them to take responsibility for tasks that have nothing to do with cleaning, like brushing their teeth, reading, and playing with the dog, but once these “jobs” become ingrained in their routine and I no longer have to threaten that their teeth will rot by middle school, I’ll up the ante. Also, once school starts, I’ll add tasks related to backpack and homework organization.
The Chore Cup
After they finish the basics, they pick one chore stick from the chore cup. They actually love the chore cup (so far), because it feels like a game. In fact, they beg to pick their chore stick for the next day as soon as they finish their current one. I only have two rules with the chore cup: (1) you can’t keep picking sticks until you get a chore you want and (2) you don’t have to do the same chore twice in one week. The chores in the Chore Cup are basic age-appropriate tasks that range from cleaning bathroom surfaces to putting folded laundry away to sweeping floors.
I filled an easy to access cleaning bucket with everything they need to get the chores done, including multipurpose cleaners, paper towels, trash bags, and Swiffer dusters and sweepers, They also have access to the handheld vacuum and the Swiffer. Nothing is difficult to operate and everything is safe for their ages.
Overall, the boys are doing great. Watching them make their beds has been hilarious. Their bed-making styles match their personalities to a T! Riley is meticulous, but it takes him about an hour, and by the time he finishes, he’s sweaty and out of breath. Dylan, on the other hand, is pure chaos. In fact, his bed looks neater before he attempts to make it than when he’s done. Of course, I want to step in and reload the dishwasher, so to speak, but I’m practicing restraint because if I step in, I’ll end up doing it for him and that will defeat the purpose. Instead, I’ve stuck to brief tutorials and provided some useful tips, like that it’s easier to make a bed when you’re not jumping on it. Otherwise, they’re accountable for their work and their chores are inspected daily.
This week, Riley cleaned his room, put away his laundry, vacuumed the stairs (with assistance), took out the trash, and collected cups and dishes. Dylan had some tough assignments, too. He organized the shoe rack by the front door, which is an endless task in our house, cleared the clutter from and cleaned the kitchen table, which is another endless task in our house, dusted, and cleaned two toilets! Poor kid. He picked two separate bathroom sticks. Since the bathrooms are labeled #1 and #2, it didn’t count as a repeat chore.
Today is Pay Day and they’ve each earned their first $5. Of course, Riley wants to take his money straight to the toy store, but that’s okay…for now. Next up on my parenting to do list is to introduce the boys to the save/spend/donate ratio, but one step at a time, remember? It’s only been five days, and it’s quite possible that this “game” will get old, but so far we’re all reaping the benefits of their hard work. Not only are they brushing their teeth and reading (hallelujah!), but also they’re taking pride in their work, practicing fine motor skills, and building confidence. It might be wishful thinking on my part, but I think their aim has improved, too.
Do your kids do chores around the house?