Families are strengthened when children and adults share home responsibilities. When all family members work together to finish the daily and weekly tasks, they have more time to invest in playing and adventuring together.
My husband and I enjoyed spending an extended amount of time with our children and grandchildren. We were together for a week-long cruise, which was followed by another week of togetherness. Our daughter from Texas stayed for another two weeks before we left for Utah for a reunion of my parents’ posterity. Again, we were fortunate to spend extra time with children and grandchildren.
I was particularly interested in the behavior of the children. I noticed that the teenagers cleared the table and did the dishes almost every day without being asked or prompted. They were enthused about watching younger siblings and cousins while all the parents attended a temple session and did other things. All seventeen cousins worked together and played together. I am really pleased at the way they get along so well and enjoy being together.
I complimented my daughter for the way her teenage boys are so willing to help around the house. She replied that their father insists that they help prepare dinner and clean up afterwards. He is a very loving but strict father who wants his children to be prepared for life and to show respect for other people.
Each of the parents of my grandchildren incorporates chores into their family life. They also insist that their school-age children fix their own lunches for school. I always fixed my children’s lunches from the time they started first grade until they graduated from high school. I can see now that I should have expected more from them, and I am pleased that they are doing better with their own children.
My oldest son has two full-time jobs. He is an emergency room physician and has a successful blog. His wife is a stay-at-home mother, but she is also quite involved in Church and community activities. They have four children ages 13, 10, 8, and 2. The family has divided their living area into “zones.” They assign one child to each zone to keep it clean and orderly, and they change the assignments each week. I think the “zone” idea is a good one and feel that it works particularly well for them. I am not sure how the zones are divided, but the children know as which tasks they are responsible for each week. They are learning accountability for their assigned chores.
My youngest daughter has younger children, ages 8, 6, 4, and 1. Her family recently adopted some new chore charts. There is a separate chart for each of the three older children – and an extra one for when the baby is older. The charts look like they are in individual frames and have a metal background. Each child has five personal tasks to accomplish each day (making their bed, getting dressed, brushing teeth, going to bed and staying in bed, plus one more) as well as two chores assigned by their mother each day. If they are acting naughty or being disobedient, she assigns more chores. If they want to earn more screen time, they can do more chores.
All of these chores are on magnets that are moved from “To Do” to “Done.” If they accomplish all their chores for the day, they get a star magnet. If they receive six stars (for six days work), they receive half their age in pay. The 8-year-old would receive $4. Five stars would earn ¾ pay, four stars would earn ½ pay, and three stars would earn ¼ pay. There is no pay for one or two stars. She says that the best part of this chore system is that the children are going to bed and staying in bed, so she has quality time with her husband.
I am pleased that my children are responsible parents who teach their children essential skills for life. I know that it is not easy to teach children to work and that it takes a lot of patience. It also includes a willingness to accept a less than perfect result because children do not do things the way an adult would do it. The end result of teaching children to share the household tasks is more fun time together as a family.
Marie Calder Ricks recently published an excerpt from her book titled “The Children You Want with the Kids You Have.” She is “a professional organizer who specializes in helping families function better.” She shares the following eight essential skills that she believes all children should learn. She says that children who learn these skills learn how to “work together as a team and increase their sense of personal responsibility.”
Skill #1: Individual responsibility leads to group success. Make clear and definitive assignments to each family member. [She gives laundry as an example. Assign the children the responsibility of putting their dirty clothes in a basket. Mother washes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and children are responsible to put away their clean clothing before dinner.]
Skill #2: Bedrooms are a mini-home. Make beds and tidy bedrooms every morning. A made or unmade bed in and of itself is not important. The skill you are working to achieve is the steadiness of doing something simple day after day so it becomes a part of the “background” of your lifestyle….[I was pleased when my youngest daughter begin making her bed every morning after a Young Women leader said it was a sign that she loves her mom. From my personal observation, children – and older people - do not enjoy a cluttered space. When their bedrooms are messy, they move their mess to the living area.]
Skill #3: Help out at meal time. Clear your place at the table. Push your chair in at the table. Put one additional food item away. This skill is useful to relieve mealtime stress from the cook and dishwasher. It shows family members that if everyone helps a little bit, then a lot of the work can be done quickly….
Skill #4: Don’t put it down, put it away. Everyone keeps their personal items picked up, especially in the public areas of the home. This skill is somewhat elusive because it takes self-discipline…. Of course, putting items away is not about time, it is about habit…. The goal … is to have … [the living area] … returned to order again and again because family members using the room put their items away, not put them down.
Skill #5: Learn to finish. The skill of finishing is best taught initially in the room that sees a lot of family members each day and can become quite messy without consistent “finishing.” With younger children, it is enough to focus on flushing the toilet, checking the toilet paper, and helping them hang up their towel after bathing. With older children, teenagers, and adults, the skills might include washing their toothpaste spittle down the sink, putting their toothbrush and toothpaste away, and getting their dirty clothes inside the laundry basket.
Skill #6: Seek to serve. Help Mom or Dad [for] 15 minutes every day doing what they want you to do. Mom or Dad will, in turn, do what you would like to do once a week on “your day.” …Ask family members to come to you sometime during the day and ask how they can help out. Set a timer for 15 minutes and let your children serve you in unique ways, according to the demands of the day…. This is countered by children having one day of the week where Mom or Dad will do what they want for the same 15-minute period…. [This helps to create] a “sure, I’ll be happy to help” attitude.
Skill #7: Regularly return the whole home to order. Clean up the house three times a day, usually before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This skill helps keep the home neat and teaches family members that any little job done frequently is much easier than a bigger job done less often. [Cleaning before meals helps to motivate children.]
Skill #8: Practice self-initiative. Do one chore every day without being asked. This skill is also somewhat elusive unless there is specific training about both the principle and the practice. It is useful for a family meeting to be held where each family member is given a chance to choose a daily chore they will do for the whole week without being asked or reminded…. [Write it down or have a magnet for it.] [I like this skill because it could teach children to look around to see what needs to be done and do it without being asked. I do not remember being taught this skill, but I can walk into a room (particularly at another home) and immediately see a way that I can help a busy or frustrated mother – sweep a floor, fold laundry, do dishes, etc. I have learned that not every person has this skill.]
There are many other important skills to learn together as a family, but these eight skills seem to make the most difference to most families I work with….
I believe that it is important that children learn to help around the house. They need to know that it takes time and energy to keep the house clean, do laundry, and prepare meals. If children do not learn these skills while young, they do not know how to do their fair share of the work as adults. Families that share the responsibilities of daily household tasks are happier and stronger because they have more time to invest in quality time together. Happy and strong families strengthen their communities and nations.