This is no easy feat.
I know it’s my own fault. I’m a stay at home mom, and it’s easier for me to just DO it rather than have my kids “help.” I used to pretend to give them chores, but never followed up on it, and would almost always end up just doing everything. I don’t even make my kids clean their own bedrooms. The justification for that is that we’ve always been the house that has all the kids – between stepkids, kids I was babysitting for, cousins and friends stopping by – it was never just their mess, and it seemed unfair to make them clean it by themselves.
They’re getting older, Jessie is eleven and a half, Sam just turned eight and Julianna is four years old. That’s old enough to assume some responsibility. That’s old enough, past old enough, to start being able to help out around the house. Plus, we’ve got the whole unstructured summer thing happening for us right now, and three kids rocking around the house means that I could easily spend all of my time cleaning. It means that I should spend all of my time cleaning, to be honest. And if I’m not, then I need to make sure that the kids are doing their chores.
But what type of chores are appropriate? I want them to be equitable, while also age appropriate, and I want them to be not so overwhelming. I still want them to be kids, not junior housekeepers. I also put summer reading and/or Hebrew and bat mitzvah studying on it, because I want that done every day as well. The two older kids have to straighten out their bedroom, plus another room in the house (living room or dining room). Julie has to pick up all the shoes, and put away the silverware, as well as help me pick up the yard, and make her bed.
Once I figured that out, then I tried to figure out how best to keep track of it. There are lots of things that I can buy that would do it, like this or this , but I’m more of a now-that-I’ve-decided-to-do-it-I-MUST-DO-IT-NOW kind of girl, and spent most of the day trying to create charts by myself. I spent a long time trying to draw straight lines (because of course, I can’t find a ruler) and then remembered that I actually do know how to use a computer. Excel was kind of created for charts, after all. I spent a long time trying to create a chart. Then I remembered that I don’t have a printer.
I ended up assigning each kid 4 chores, and numbering them. Then I told them to write it down on my big calendar when they got it done. Not the most attractive way of doing it, but at least it’s done. Sort of.
Now I just need to figure out how to get the kids to do it.
Sam, honestly, is absolutely the best at doing chores. This system works completely for him. He likes the system, likes checking them off. He’s just into it, and has been from the beginning. Julie is sometimes very excited about it, and the key is just to make sure that I catch her when she’s in the right frame of mind and have her get it done. But my Jessie, oh my Jessie. She hates it.
Obviously, this isn’t the right system for her. Kids are different and different kids respond to different things. Jessie’s older, and more responsible, and she’s certainly not averse to helping out around the house, she’s normally incredibly helpful. She started helping a friend of ours one day a week as a mother’s helper, and was phenomenal at it. What would work for her? Setting it up as a power struggle between the two of us is not the right solution (because I tried that all day today, it didn’t work). My issue is that Sam is SO good at it, enthusiastic and excited about it, and I don’t want her to feel like a failure because her brother kicks butt at doing his chores.
Do you have kids do chores around the house? Do you have one that’s better than another? What’s the best way to handle different aptitudes and enthusiasm levels? I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to comment.