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Chore charts are a great teaching tool for parents to use.
Children can learn responsibility, hard work, independence, self-help skills, empathy for the work that their parents do around the house, understanding of how their messes impact the family, etc. Children learn that they are part of a family and that means that they need to give back to support the well being of others around them.
Each family handles the work load differently. It’s tough to know which method to use or who to ask for advice because your family has its own unique needs and circumstances.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you are deciding how to best implement chore charts in your home… as well as some examples of my favorite chore charts.
Too Big for your Britches
Development and age play a major role in a child’s capability to complete chores.
- Younger children (2-5 years old) have shorter attention spans. They should be expected to complete simple chores that do not require much time (around 2-5 minutes- usually around 1 minute per year of age).
- As children get older (6-12 years old), they are able to handle more time and focus on a chore (around 15 minutes at a time, again slowly increasing the time spent as they get older).
- Teenagers should be able to complete complex chores and tasks around the home that may take much longer, such as laundry. They are able to use deductive reasoning to see what needs to get done and follow through with the necessary tasks using time management skills. They should be independent in thinking through chores and taking care of their own areas/belongings. Teenagers with this skill will be capable of managing a home, apartment, or dorm on their own when they move out in a few years.
Choose chores carefully based on your child’s capabilities.
Don’t expect a child to do as much work as an adult would do or the same quality of work that an adult would do. Remember, you are teaching valuable life lessons, even if there are a few streaks left on the bathroom mirror.
The Plateau Effect
On the other hand, we don’t want to make chores too easy.
Sometimes, parents implement a perfectly appropriate chore for a child, such as a 5 year old wiping down the kitchen table before dinner. The chore fits the child well and works well for the family.
But, as the child gets older, it’s the parents’ duty to increase the difficulty level. Fight the rhythm of daily life- don’t get into a routine and forget to do this. I call it the Plateau Effect. The child continues wiping down the table when she is 7, then 9, then 12. No new chores are added. No new skills are learned. The child is more resistant to learning new chores because all she has ever been asked to do is wipe down the table.
Avoid the Plateau Effect by slowly adding chores to a child’s repertoire. Remember that a child needs to know how to fully care for a house by the time they move out (let’s assume that’s at age 18). That means, you should be teaching each skill needed before that time. Not only do they need to be able to wipe down the table, but they need to know how to sweep the floor, how to fold clothes, how to run the vacuum, how to dust, how to wash windows…. Everything.
Does your teenager know how to do laundry? How to clean a bathroom? How to organize their belongings?
Switch up a child’s expected chores so that they can experience all aspects of caring for a living space. Each time you change it up, expect to spend a little quality time teaching the child the necessary skills for the new task. Then slowly fade yourself away, offering less and less coaching as the child figures gets better at the new chore.
Slowly increase the difficulty of chores or expect a more thorough completion of the chore throughout childhood until a teenager is capable of completing all the necessary tasks to live on their own- and can do each task well.
Spruce It Up
Here are some of my top favorite chore chart ideas!
- Let the kids make choices. This is a great way to decrease resistance to chores by allowing the child to take some responsibility. It helps the child feel heard and valued as a member of the family. They take more pride and responsibility when they get to have a say.
- Some parents allow the child to choose which chores are on the chart and then the parent assigns a chore off the list each day.
- Some parents choose the chores on the list and the child chooses a chore each day.
- Some parents allow the child to choose one chore and the parent assigns one chore each day.
- Some parents choose the chore, but allow the child to choose any time of the day to complete their chore. Some parents need to assign a specific chore time to make sure it gets done.
- Make it a spinning wheel of chores. Whatever chore the wheel lands on is the one you complete!
- Make it colorful and add cute pictures. Not all kids will respond to this, but some will like the chart more if it is visually appealing.
- Add fun rewards- like music, a fun outing, tickling, a treat, a game, time using electronics, time with friends, one-on-one time with a parent, a small toy, stickers, or anything else your child is excited about! It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be fun!
- The reward should match the job done. If it was an easy job, the child should only receive a small reward. If it was a difficult chore or the child completed chores for an extended period of time, they can earn a larger reward.
- Work alongside the child. This makes cleaning more fun, but it also teaches the child that you also work hard. This develops empathy in the child for the things you do around the house every day. It also shows the child that you are fair. You are willing to work hard too.
- Try chore sticks! Click the image below!
- Include all siblings in some degree. Again, this shows that you are fair as a parent. It also teaches each child the valuable lessons from participating in chores rather than just one child. Don’t make the mistake of letting the oldest do all the work!
- Make it a competition. Let’s see who can do their chore the fastest, or who can get the windows the cleanest, or who can throw trash into the trashcan like a basketball hoop, etc.
- Break it down. If a new chore is too difficult for a child, teach pieces at a time and offer small rewards throughout. For example, if a child’s chore is cleaning the bathroom, you might teach him how to clean the toilet one day, then the next day teach him how to clean the sink, then the mirror, then the tub. Eventually, he’ll be able to clean the whole bathroom on his own!
- Have a dance party while cleaning!
- Set a timer. Some kids respond better when they know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than cleaning until a particular task is done, children can clean until a timer goes off. The parent will need to decide if the timer signals the end of chore time or if it is just a break from chore time for a while.
- Make sure the child does not get in the habit of cleaning slowly just to run down the clock!
- Limit how many toys children have out at once to make the mess less overwhelming!
- Clean often. Have a nightly pick up that involves the whole family. It goes fast with so many helpers, and it keeps the mess manageable. No buildup!
- Let kids use tools. Cleaning tools, that is. It’s fun to try to work the vacuum, or use a duster, or a sponge, or play with soap spuds.
- Get an app for that! Click the image below for a fun chore app that will help your kids enjoy chore time!
The Nitty Gritty Daily Challenges
- Get into a Routine
Once you have decided on a system that works for your family, stick with it!
Children tend to resist change at first, so they might not like the new chores that they are being asked to do. The more you apply your chore chart consistently, the less resistance you will face.
But if you cave here and there, you’ll have to fight that battle all over again from the beginning. Again. And again. And again… each time you try to get your kids’ help around the house.
So just stick to your guns. It’s easier in the end.
- Knowing What to Expect
It is easier for children to comply with parent demands when they can anticipate them.
Adults are the same way. Imagine your boss randomly changed your duties on the job and expected you to complete whatever task he threw at you at any time. That would be stressful and frustrating! It’s easier to know what your day at work will look like. You know what your boss expects and what tasks you will complete.
Make things easier on your kids. Let them know what’s coming by keeping the routine the same and telling them of any changes to the routine as soon as possible.
- Heads Up for the Kids
Don’t let chore time sneak up on your kids. Give them warnings beforehand. You can say things like “In 10 minutes we will start chores. Now there’s 3 minutes left. Now I’ll count down- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1- Chore time!!”
These warnings help kids anticipate when they will need to transition from whatever they were doing into a new task. This can decrease frustration and tantrums because it allows kids to finish up whatever they are doing. It also allows them to prepare mentally to do something they don’t want to do.
- Fight the Temptation
We all know that a kid’s attempt to clean the bathroom, or wipe down the table, or make a bed, isn’t perfect. They try their best, but adults are just better at this stuff. We’ve had more practice after all.
Parents often have a specific way in mind that they like things done, and that’s even harder for a child to live up to.
Resist the temptation to fix your child’s work to make it “your way” or to make it perfect. This sends the message that the child did not do it right and that their hard work isn’t good enough for you.
If you really struggle with the child’s level of completion, complete the task side by side with your child. Praise the things they do right and offer gentle guidance to teach them how to improve things that need work. Slowly decrease the level of help that you are offering your child until they are able to do it all on their own. This method takes time and patience, but it builds a child’s confidence and abilities rather than bringing them down.
This is the nitty gritty, get it done, just keep swimming, nuts and bolts, hard work of it all.
Now it’s your job as the parent to follow through and keep the system in place.
There’s nothing to say to make it easier. Good luck!