First and foremost, chores are not a way to reduce the parents workload. It will be much more time-consuming to get your kids to do chores well, than it is to do them yourself. After all, you likely have many more years of experience than they do. The purpose of chores is to teach children responsibility and work ethic. A couple of generations ago, it was much more common for children to be asked to take on household tasks, even though most mothers were full-time homemakers. Currently, there is a lot of talk about teenagers being increasingly demanding and having attitudes of entitlement. A way to turn things around in your family may be to re-organize household chores.
Creating a chore chart will provide accountability for their designated responsibilities. A chart should be organized and placed on the fridge, or inside the bedroom door. Every child should have the same number of chores assigned to them. Children will consider it fair if they have can count the chores on the list and see that everybody is doing the same amount. However, the complexity and duration of the chores must be individually tailored to meet the child’s developmental needs. A toddler’s chores may include teeth-brushing, and good behavior at bedtime. Third graders often need an incentive to do homework on time. A twelve-year old that has become reclusive may be required to play outside for an hour a day. As children gain proficiency with their chores, they will be replaced by more appropriate ones. Teenagers can especially benefit from chore charts, since they are often so busy, parental interactions are too brief. The number and type of chores will depend entirely on your family’s needs.
Each child should have their own chart, and be able to check it off with pencil when they have completed the chores. The adults can later inspect the job done “approve” the work by giving a star sticker or “disapprove” by erasing the checkmark. You can create a simple spreadsheet showing the list of chores down the left column, and the days of the week across the top row. This creates a grid of squares for keeping track of progress. Also, create a “total” space at the end of each day’s column and a second at the end of each chore’s row. In this space, you will tally the week’s progress and decide on rewards. Make several copies of the charts, and include a place to write in the date. Hold onto the used charts and bring them out occasionally to show the kids how well they’ve progressed.
The rewards should be established along with the chores. Standards for receiving the rewards should be set also. Maybe doing the dinner dishes three times per week will earn a trip to the playground on Saturday. It can become difficult to create lots of rewards. Ask your kids what they would like. Think about some of the things they already have and may take for granted. (Video games are not a right.) Of course, money is a simple reward for older children. Perhaps each star on the chart is worth a quarter, but no allowance is paid if an entire row or column is missing. Remember that rewards will only be given for work that meets expectations. Do not undermine yourself by giving rewards to so-so performance. If you must, allow children to do some make-up work, by adding additional chores. If you have good rewards, the kids and you will enjoy them. Pretty soon, your kids will be mastering their chores and you’ll be creating more challenges for them.
For a few words of caution: it is important to check the chart each day. Don’t think that you’ll remember to do it in the morning, you won’t. Also, your kids will soon learn to procrastinate themselves. At the end of the day, if a chore has been skipped by the child, put an “x” through the square and remind them to do it. The responsibility is theirs to get the work done. Therefore, it is equally important to praise your kids for doing as much work as they do. Even if they don’t earn the rewards, a few kind words of encouragement will motivate them to try harder.
This may seem like a lot of work on the adults’ part, but think how often you must remind your kids to do mundane tasks. The kids will always try a little less than the parents, so you will get out of it almost what you put in. Your reward comes in approximately eighteen years – when your kids that are ready to take care of themselves and whatever the world throws at them.