Teaching Children Chores
One of the most difficult things in raising a child is training them to be an independent adult.
Establish goals that will create autonomy as they mature. Invest time necessary to train your child to do all domestic jobs they will need to succeed as an adult. Your confidence that they can complete the job will eventually lead to a job completed correctly.
Domestic jobs such as laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning, care of a baby, large cleaning jobs, home maintenance, and a myriad of others tasks can be completed efficiently by a team helper. This necessitates that mom spend the patient time on the front end instructing on how a job must be completed. Just this week my oldest daughter was attempting to teach her 11 and 12-year-old brothers how to iron a dress shirt. Both of these young men enjoy dressing up. Since they are eager for their clothes to be ironed, it was time for them to learn how to iron their own dress shirts.
Once my daughter begin to teach them the process of ironing a shirt, they were stunned at how long it took. She was equally surprised that the teaching process was lengthy. Lesson one completed. A 4 x 6 card near the ironing board will list the order in which a dress shirt should be ironed. One lesson in ironing will not make a successful job. However, if we demonstrate this task a few more times, a new skill will be gained. This work will be transferred. My boys may own the job of ironing their own shirts instead of having them dry cleaned or expecting their future wives to do the job for them. Few things are more attractive than a domestically efficient young man.
Too Tired to Train
Many moms feel too tired to train their children to do these domestic jobs. Let me encourage you that however tedious the training period for a domestic chore, a successful result will always be worth the time invested. Many resources suggest the age appropriate chores. Below are some suggestions. Let me suggest changing the word "chores" to "contributions." Semantics count. The word "chore" implies drudgery and duty. "Contribution" communicates teamwork. "Contribution" also implies the value of the contributor as a team player. Just try it. This might be part of the contract that you draw up as you begin each school year. Decide on what you expect, what you will contribute. Put this on paper. Meet with your student. Read and sign together.
This article from Focus on the Family by Sheila Seifert spurs you in the right direction.
Do you know which chores your child can do?
What chores are important for your children to learn, and what are they capable of doing?
A Chore vs. A Life Skill
First, recognize the difference between a chore (an ongoing task that benefits the household) and a life skill (an activity that children should know how to do before living on their own). The following list includes both chores and life skills.
Maturity at Different Paces
Second, remember that every child matures at a different pace. Adjust this chart to what you know about your children's skills and talents, and realize that no child should do all of the chores listed below every day.
With those two qualifiers in mind, here are some general guidelines for personal and family chores. This list is only meant as a guide and reflects the types of chores that many children in these age ranges are capable of completing:
Ages 2 and 3
- Assist in making their beds
- Pick up playthings with your supervision
- Take their dirty laundry to the laundry basket
- Fill a pet's water and food bowls (with supervision)
- Help a parent clean up spills and dirt
Ages 4 and 5
Note: This age can be trained to use a family chore chart.
- Get dressed with minimal parental help
- Make their bed with minimal parental help
- Bring their things from the car to the house
- Set the table with supervision
- Clear the table with supervision
- Help a parent prepare food
- Help a parent carry in the lighter groceries
- Match socks in the laundry
- Answer the phone with parental assistance
- Be responsible for a pet's food and water bowl
- Hang up towels in the bathroom
- Clean floors with a dry mop
Ages 6 and 7
Note: This age can be supervised to use a family chore chart.
- Make their bed every day
- Brush teeth
- Comb hair
- Choose the day's outfit and get dressed
- Write thank you notes with supervision
- Be responsible for a pet's food, water and exercise
- Vacuum individual rooms
- Wet mop individual rooms
- Fold laundry with supervision
- Put their laundry in their drawers and closets
- Put away dishes from the dishwasher
- Help prepare food with supervision
- Empty indoor trash cans
- Answer the phone with supervision
Ages 8 to 11
Note: This age benefits from using a family chore chart.
- Take care of personal hygiene
- Keep bedroom clean
- Be responsible for homework
- Be responsible for belongings
- Write thank you notes for gifts
- Wake up using an alarm clock
- Wash dishes
- Wash the family car with supervision
- Prepare a few easy meals on their own
- Clean the bathroom with supervision
- Rake leaves
- Learn to use the washer and dryer
- Put all laundry away with supervision
- Take the trash can to the curb for pick up
- Test smoke alarms once a month with supervision
- Screen phone calls using caller ID and answer when appropriate
Ages 12 and 13
- Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
- Write invitations and thank you notes
- Set their alarm clock
- Maintain personal items, such as recharging batteries
- Change bed sheets
- Keep their rooms tidy and do a biannual deep cleaning
- Change light bulbs
- Change the vacuum bag
- Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
- Clean mirrors
- Mow the lawn with supervision
- Baby sit (in most states)
- Prepare an occasional family meal
Ages 14 and 15
- Responsible for all personal chores for ages 12 and 13
- Responsible for library card and books
Do assigned housework without prompting
- Do yard work as needed
- Baby sit
- Prepare food — from making a grocery list and buying the items (with supervision) to serving a meal — occasionally
- Wash windows with supervision
Ages 16 to 18
- Responsible for all personal chores for ages 14 and 15
- Responsible to earn spending money
- Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
- Responsible for maintaining any car they drive (e.g., gas, oil changes, tire pressure, etc.)
- Do housework as needed
- Do yard work as needed
- Prepare family meals — from grocery list to serving it — as needed
- Deep cleaning of household appliances, such as defrosting the freezer, as need
Domestic Skills Necessary
Recently, my 16 yr old daughter came to me with a list of domestic skills that she felt that she needed to learn before she left home. She listed a few things that I thought she would feel efficient completing currently. We intend to complete the list ahead of time.
Running the House Before Leaving for College
My mother taught me almost all domestic skills before my senior year in high school. The summer before my senior year, she asked me to be responsible for our home for a month. While I knew how to do everything she was asking, I was very concerned that I could do it all at once. My responsibilities included laundry and ironing, planning the menus, shopping at the grocery store within our budget, organizing the meals, preparing the meals, cleaning the house weekly, monitoring daily straightening of the house, and keeping one vehicle clean.
Initially, I struggled to organize these skills. Sometimes meals were late. Often most of the meal was ready, but food was cold while waiting for all to finish cooking. Laundry was easy. No trouble with it. Cleaning jobs were completed daily and once a week. Overall, I learned to think through the jobs and manage our home efficiently.
Confidence in Skills
Throughout college and even entering marriage my confidence was high that I was prepared for the task ahead. If you gage the activities that vi for your attention in adult years, domestic activities grab quite a bit of that time. Why not be properly prepared for guaranteed tasks that will be expected of us? When you are tempted to quit training and just do it yourself, remember that your kids need to have these skills to win in their lives ahead!!
Train an Independent Adult
Establish specific goals that will create an independent adult. Your confidence that they can complete the job will eventually lead to a job completed correctly. Teach the boys all domestic jobs. Teach girls yard work and maintenance. Teach them all things needed for domestic success.