It’s been a work in progress around here!
We began our family chore plan this week. We didn’t jump instantly into the full plan with consequences in full force, but sort of eased our way in. If you think about gradually getting used to a cold lake by allowing the icy water to creep up bit by bit rather than rushing in, dousing your whole body at once with the shock of cold water at once – that’s how I chose to get into this plan.
Here’s how it has looked this week. Rather than a full family meeting, I met with the older boys and younger boys separately. My daughter will be introduced to this plan when she returns home from her summer job.
Kids’ Responses to the Chore Plan
My cleaning-laundry-loving-son rejoiced with the plan. He was excited that our house wouldn’t be so messy all the time. Ahem, I didn’t think it was all that bad – but he’s right, it could definitely be more neat, clean and organized on a regular basis.
My younger two were not quite so eager to hear this plan. I could see tears well up in the eyes of one child who thought there had to be something completely unfair and unjust about this situation. I showed him the plan and explained how everything was divided up and spread evenly with everyone. I didn’t think anyone had too much or too little.
I gave the older ones a bit more work since they have phones and more privileges than the younger ones. If the older ones ever balk at the extra load they have, I just have to ask if they would like to pay for their phone service and they quickly quiet down.
Some chores stay consistent for each child
Household chores were divided and given out as each person’s main responsibility. They would keep these chores until further notice. It was based on what they were good at, their abilities, and what they prefer doing. If there is a sibling willing to trade chores with them, that’s fine. But I didn’t want to have to worry about whose turn it was to take out the trash or feed the dog. I just wanted those to be automatic jobs that were happening or who I needed to ask when it needed to be done.
Meal Time Chores
Mealtime chores are a on a rotating schedule, however. They keep their meal time task for a whole week, and then rotate to another job the next week. Here’s how we have that broken down.
- Help prepare the meal, set the table and unload dishwasher.
- Clear the table and load the dishwasher.
- Wash the table and sweep the floor.
- Wash the dishes that don’t fit in the dishwasher.
- Fill in for whoever is gone, or help the others.
They follow this in age order. So oldest is 1 the first week, and then the next week everyone shifts down to the next job and so on. Since my oldest is gone, the youngest filled in her position by helping me prepare the meals and set the table. I have enjoyed having a helper and he’s 8, so he’s actually quite helpful. He has been at my side in the kitchen since he was little and not the biggest help back then, but that is paying off now. He can unload the dishwasher very well, and loves to crack eggs and fish out the inevitable shell that falls in.
Of course the son who has justice issues was the one who was up first for dishwasher duty. This has primarily been my job. However, I knew this was an important skill they should be learning, and I could better use my time for other things like finding containers for leftovers – which finding a lid and container that match can often be the most challenging task!
Multiple times he complained about this task, and expressed how unfair it was that he was the first up at this huge chore. I kept explaining that he could have been done in such a short time if he had just done the job instead of going on and on complaining about it.
One night, while he was lying on the floor uttering his complaints, I told him if he didn’t get to it, it would be too late and he would have to go straight to bed with no Adventures in Odyssey (this is what they enjoy listening to when they get to bed on time). He ended up opting for this. I finished up the dishes for him and then told him it took me approximately 2 1/2 minutes to complete!
He did better the next day. However, one evening I went outside while he was on dish duty. I came back about 10 minutes later to find 2 lids washed and floor full of “cotton candy” he called it. Little puffs of soap suds all over the floor. I kept calm, and just simply handed him a mom and said, “Good, the floor needs mopping anyway.” I have learned by now that he often just loves to get a rise out of people, and he doesn’t find that from me too often anymore.
Kind persistence pays off
So the floor got mopped, but the dishes were still not getting done. So here was my next plan. I told him to stand right next to me and watch me wash the dishes. I showed him how quickly I could wash, yet still get them clean. Standing next to someone to watch them wash dishes, is apparently even worse than washing them yourself, so he took over and got the dishes done. He even got a difficult pan scrubbed and cleaned. Success!
Meal time prep and clean up has now been a huge load lifted off of me. I am no longer trying to divide up the tasks each meal or have them disappear before tasks are assigned. I have found more time for other important things in the kitchen. For instance, yesterday I began preparing meals for an upcoming camping trip. If I had been bogged down by all the dishes and other clean – up that I neglected to ask for help with, there is no way I would have had energy to complete some of the meal projects for our trip. Score!
So while meal time has been a huge win for me – trying to get the other chores accomplished has been a little rough. I have to remember that while there are people living in my house – the house will not all be clean all the time. That is ok. I love my people and I have to be okay with a little clutter and mess from time to time. However, my goal is to have the kids learn to help get the house clean and orderly on a somewhat regular basis.
The son whose job is laundry is also assigned lawn trimming, bathroom cleaning and car washing. He sees a list and accomplishes his tasks. No word from me is necessary. Thank the Lord! Then there are kids that are fully capable of reading and understanding what is expected of them, but have a tendency to procrastinate or hope that I might forget that task was theirs.
Like I said, we are easing into this plan. I didn’t jump on them with consequences right away. I am giving them big doses of grace through this training period.
I remind them what jobs are theirs, how often they need to be done, and show them the list of tasks for a particular area. I also help them out, doing it with them to show them how it is done. They are in training. As they gain a little better grasp on what my expectations are, I will lay down the ground rules of what needs to be accomplished and when or certain privileges will be taken away.
One chore I have been asking them to complete is making their bed each day. My goal is to have them make their bed before they eat breakfast. This has been something that I have done that gives me a sense of accomplishment. Even if everything else is falling apart, I can walk in my room and see a nicely made bed and know that at least one thing got done that day! I feel it is just a good habit, so why not start now?
One morning I realized I had not made my bed before breakfast. We were out and about that day and I bought them all a slushy for my failure to accomplish the task I was asking them to perform. Upon doing that, I told them that if they did not make their beds before breakfast they would owe me 10 minutes of weeding. Rather than groans and complains, one son let me know he would be making a sign for his door to remind him!
They youngest forgot one morning, and of course had an older brother make sure I knew this fact. I inspected and reminded him of what we needed to do.
Now keep in mind, I have made it very easy for these youngest two. Their comforters are tucked in neatly and stay that way. They just sleep on top and cover up with their favorite blanket. So they are just expected to fold their blanket and make sure it looks neat.
He tried to convince me that he had tried his very best, but by the look of the heap that was on his bed compared to the neat way he had it the previous two days, I knew not much effort went into his bed making that day. He joined me for 10 minutes in the strawberry patch pulling some nasty weeds. Didn’t hurt him a bit, helped me out, and I’m sure he will remember to make his bed from now on!
Yesterday was about the end of the week so I reminded them what jobs needed to be accomplished for the week. One son got the garage swept and cleaned up. He’s my mechanical guy – so if it does not involve a machine, he’s not too eager to perform the job. However, he managed to come up with his own plan to decrease his labor. He rode his hover board while getting the garage swept out!
The two youngest were supposed to clean the bathroom – one kid is to do a quick cleaning, and one kid a thorough cleaning. My plan is to have this spaced out so that every few days the bathroom is getting cleaned. Since they both put it off to the same day, they split the bathroom chores and got it sparkling.
Again, I helped a bit, reminding them of what needs to be done, but they are learning. I peaked in at one point and saw my 8-year-old standing on the bathroom counter and cleaning the lights! This was not the list, but he took it upon himself to make sure those were polished up!
Things to tweak and improve
I would like to have set days for their weekly chores, or have them set a schedule for themselves so they know what they need to do each day.
Also, as the kids are getting a little more accustomed to their chores, and what is expected of them, I plan to be a little more strict and follow through with consequences if chores are “forgotten” or not done with much effort.
It is a gentle balance between setting high expectations, knowing they are capable of much and yet large amounts of grace and not putting unnecessary perfection standards upon them.
We will continue to work and tweak, and I’ll share our struggles and triumphs as we go along. Writing this out has helped me stay accountable. If you are wanting to instigate a better chore plan in your house and need help, encouragement or accountability – please reach out. I’m always looking for a friend to join me in my adventures!
If you missed the first few posts in this series, you can click below. In my next post I will provide you with some free printables to help you develop your own family chore plan.