Teaching children to do chores
Give your children age appropriate chores to do around the house.
Give your children age appropriate chores to do around the house.

With the ongoing coronavirus concerns, children are spending more time at home with parents and grandparents. I don’t know about you, but this has changed our family dynamics to the extent of exasperating my sanity some days.

My three children usually wake up around 7 a.m. and begin playing some type of made-up game that requires something random like 47 stuffed animals, a hair scrunchy, and a glass pitcher (of mine).

As I walk, watery-eyed in search of the silver thingy that makes warm delicious liquid - yeah, that’s about how clear I think in the mornings. I trip over the blankets and library books left out by my boys the night before. I can’t blame them. At least they read. Right?

I spend a few moments alone on the porch reading my Bible. I pray I will be patient and show my family unconditional love today (translated: don’t yell). I look at my list and contemplate what our day will hold. Never on the list, but always implied (by my husband) is cleaning the house, my least favorite thing.

How do I make three appointments, find out why I was charged twice for a purchase, catch the realtor, take the kids to gymnastics and return late library books? Not to mention have a meaningful conversation with each of my three children sometime during the day. It’s overwhelming. With more time at home comes more messes. More dirty clothes. More dishes. More chaos.

When my children were in diapers, I could get away with a messier house. But, as they get older (7, 8 and 10), we are starting to work together more on chores. 

MOTIVATION

What do I use to motivate them? Video games, of course. I typically give my children video game time once a day for a couple hours if they have cleaned their rooms and done their chores. This is usually a good deal for all sides. I get a clean house and silence (hallelujah) and they get games.

However, getting them to do the chores correctly is another story. I would like to say I strive for progress and not perfection. But ... in my haste, I forget the age and maturity of each child.

I often tell my husband that its hard not to see our children as a little three-headed monster. And I tend to treat this monster as if he were the oldest child’s age. My poor seven-year-old gets the worst of it. I often expect too much of her.

We must remember the age-appropriateness of different chores. Here are some ideas from www.familyeducation.com and some I use with my children. Children as early as two can begin learning life skills with assistance. This is more for training and instilling habits. Do not expect perfection. Encourage effort.

AGES 2-3

• Get dressed and brush teeth

• Put toys and clothes away

AGES 4-5

• Set the table and clear dishes after a meal

• Simple cleaning tasks like dusting and wiping appliances

• Sort laundry or match socks

AGES 6-7

• Help bring in and put away groceries

• Mix, stir and cut with a dull knife

• Wash dishes with assistance

• Make the bed unsupervised

• Wipe countertops

AGES 7-8

• Bathe or shower unsupervised 

AGES 9-10

• Change own bed sheets

• Use the washer and dryer

• Prepare a simple meal

• Personal hygiene self-sufficiency

• Read to younger siblings

Whether you have a daily chore list for each child or just take time out once a day to stop and scrub, randomly assigning what needs to get done at that moment (like I do), know your children can and want to help the family. It builds a sense of pride and confidence in their little hearts. Especially when you praise them.

At dinner, I try to compliment at least one child who helped prepare the meal or table setting in front of the others. I love to see their hearts swell with pride.

Just remember to know your child and what they can do. If they get frustrated, take the time to go over the task with them step by step until they can accomplish it on their own. Be patient and applaud progress.

It takes time and fortitude, but training children to become self-sufficient is well worth the effort. And it’s good for your sanity too!