Rebecca Matheson is our dear friend and a mom of three. Although she insists that, “The only thing we’re consistent at is being inconsistent,” she and her husband, Troy, have created a loving family with kids who know how to work–with maybe a little gentle encouragement along the way. Today Rebecca shares the secret to their success with chores. Welcome, Rebecca!
As a child I grew up singing the words to a children’s song that says,
When we’re helping, we’re happy,
And we sing as we go;
And we like to help mother,
For we all love her so.
– Wallace F. Bennett
One of the challenges I have found of being a mother is merging my idyllic expectations with the realities of raising children. It wasn’t very long into motherhood that I began to see the need to help my children learn responsibility, the value of hard work, and the importance of contributing as part of a family. Unfortunately, I began to realize very quickly that the lyrics to my childhood song were a bit misleading. I realized the way the song described children’s desire to work was incredibly unrealistic. The song in our home sounded a little more like this…
When we’re helping, we’re angry
And we complain as we go;
Why must we help mother?
Chores are her job, you know.
I’ve found as a parent that it’s easier when kids complain and revolt to cave-in and take the easy way out. Many times I have completed a job myself just so I don’t have to listen to someone complain about doing it, or because I will do it the right way. However, my husband and I feel strongly that our job as parents is to raise hardworking children who put the needs of others ahead of their own and make meaningful contributions throughout their lives.
One way we try to teach these skills to our children is through our family chore system. These ideas are not new or earth shattering. They are a compilation of ideas I have found online, from friends, or dreamed up on my own. Our family’s chore system helps our children to be responsible and takes the burden off of us as parents. This system represents years of trial and error, tears, patience, consistency, and a whole lot of dedication. This is what works for our family, but you may need to try a number of approaches before you find one that’s right for you. Hopefully, this will give you a good start!
Family Chore System
Each child is responsible for the following daily chores:
Our home is broken up into four main zones: bathrooms, mudroom/entry, family room, and sitting room (I removed kitchen from the list because I usually keep the kitchen clean on my own). Each child is responsible for one zone for an entire week and zones are rotated weekly. They are also responsible to “deep clean” their zone once a week. I got the idea for the zones from Shawni at her blog, 71 Toes. For more on zones and Shawni’s other amazing ideas for family systems, click here.
2. Parent’s Choice
Parent’s Choice chores are anything we as parents dream up that need to be done on a particular day (empty garbage, unload dishwasher, sweep front porch, etc.)
Each child is responsible daily to clean their own bedroom including making bed, cleaning up dirty laundry, picking up toys, books, garbage, etc. They are also responsible to “deep clean” their bedroom once a week (dust/vacuum).
This includes practice of any kind (instruments, sports, etc.)
5. Dinner Duty
Weekly Dinner Duty consists of: setting, clearing, and loading. The children rotate these responsibilities each week. My husband and I assist as needed and act as deejay for the after dinner dance party.
6. Act of Kindness
We encourage our children to look for opportunities to randomly serve others around them.
I have provided each of the children with laminated (indestructible!) cards that outline each of the individual responsibilities throughout our home. This allows for more accountability from each of them and less nagging from mom.
The children are encouraged to complete the week with a “black out,” meaning that they have accomplished their given responsibilities each day. We have offered many different incentives over the years for achieving a “black out,” including shopping at a family store and weekly allowance. I have learned that to keep them engaged we need to change things up often. Our current “black out” reward consists of drawing slips of paper out of a bowl with the following: doughnut date, movie night, $5 bill, 20-minute back rub, chore-free day, no dinner duty for one week, and one-hour screen time. They have been very motivated by these rewards!
Each family is unique, and the system that works for us may not work for you. I would love to say that our family chore system is foolproof and creates happy, helpful children 100% of the time in our home. The reality is that it does not. It does, however, create a feeling of unity as we work together as a family…one toilet at a time.
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