Thursday, June 7, 2012

Children's Chores - Gayner style

I have had several conversations with other moms at various times and places regarding the role of chores in their families lives - conversations that have involved how old, what chores, and how much (me doing at least as much asking as answering!). One thing I've realized is that there are as many ways to tackle family chores as there are families. Here's how we do it:
  • I have a list of several daily chores for each child posted in the kitchen. Each child is responsible to make sure each thing is done after breakfast, before they run off to play or do other things for the day. If I find them at other things, I ask, "Are you finished your chores?" and am greeted with a "Yes, Mom" or "Oh, I forgot about...!" Honestly, they are not excellent about remembering all their chores, but for me, it's been more about creating an expectation of what they are meant to do. I'm trusting that, in time, the self-discipline will come.
  • Some of the daily chores we include are emptying the dishwasher (7 year old with 2 year old), feeding the dog and picking up his deposits in the yard (5 year old), running the sweeper (9 year old) and putting away any books that had been left out (4 year old). That's in addition to making beds, putting away any folded laundry, and brushing teeth.
  • When I make the lists, I go over them with each child so they fully understand the expectation. That way, it saves on the fight in the morning of how to do it and how they thought it was someone else's job. It's all there in black and white for them to consult, not down to my whim of what needs doing, which can change each day. Though I will ask a child to occasionally help me out with something that's not on the list if they finish their chores early, that's not a standard thing and I am diligent to express my thanks for going above and beyond. They need to know they are appreciated.
  • While they do their chores, I do mine. I take care of the stuff like the big vacuuming, a full cleaning of the bathrooms, a full cleaning of the kitchen, dusting and paperwork - one each weekday. That way, the stuff that I really want done a certain way gets done and they see that Mom has her work to do, just like them.
  • On Saturday, we do what has come to be known as "Cup Chores". Basically, I've written a bunch of chores on slips of paper, things like brush the dog, organize a dresser drawer, or wipe the baseboards in one room. Each kid pulls a different chore from the cup and does it. When the cup is empty, the kids are done. The older girls don't need much instruction on most of them, but I'll occasionally work with Noah on a job if he doesn't have much experience with it. Ellie tends to assist one of her sisters or plays with Dan and keeps him out of the way. This has been great for us - the kids love it and we don't have the "I always do this chore!" problem. It also gives them experience doing/learning different responsibilities.
  • We've made the decision not to pay our kids for their chores. There are several reasons behind this: we want them to learn to serve as an act of love and not for remuneration, they are totally irresponsible with money - we'd likely find it stuffed down heating vents, and I'm not sure we can afford it. My hope is that by the time the kids are able to work for pay (babysitting or yard work, etc), the training they've received at home as far as work ethic will make them in high demand for paying jobs.
So, that's what it looks like for us. It's not perfect, and there were some hiccups when we first started, but overall, it works really well for our family and the stage we're in. No doubt, as they get older and our family grows and changes, we will be looking for new methods to keep things in order.
I'd love to hear what other families do for chores - please share!