Chores

It is Friday cleaning morning at the Maxwell house! Eleven-year-old Joseph busily oils our oak dining-room table while Anna, age eight, runs the hand-held vacuum over the throw rugs. John, our nine-year-old, is singing as he pushes the vacuum, and Mom is mopping the kitchen and bathroom floor. These are a few of our weekly chores.

I would love for my children to have lots of free time. Unfortunately, the more hours they are on their own, the more likely they are to fuss and squabble with each other. We have found schoolwork and housework are very helpful in giving the children positive direction for their time. Then they are able to comfortably handle the free hours they have left. They greatly enjoy their personal time, and the children don’t complain of being bored!

Steve and I want our children to learn to work. We desire for them to have a healthy attitude toward responsibilities, approaching them with diligence and initiative. Having the children help with the daily workload in our home is a part of their training to eventually become good husbands, wives, homemakers, employees, and employers.

I need the help of my children to keep up with housework. I would not physically have the time to do it all myself in addition to homeschooling. I remind the children regularly of how much they contribute to the family and lighten my workload. Children love to please their mommies, and usually, mine love to do anything that visibly makes me happy. Much of their attitude toward their work stems from how diligent I am to praise them for help and to encourage them that they are needed members of the family.

Chores can present challenges to homeschooling moms. They wonder how much they should expect of their children as far as chores are concerned. Are they giving the children too many or too few jobs? What kind of work is a child capable of and at what age? How do you equitably divide the tasks? When can a child do his chores without being reminded? What consequences are reasonable for not doing an assigned job or for doing it poorly?

As you are considering chores for your children, I have a starting place. It is often helpful to see how other families structure their chore assignments. While your chore chart won’t be identical to another mom’s, you can glean ideas. You could evaluate what is expected of her children at various ages and determine how the chores are divided among the family members. You will get a picture of how long the chores are probably taking plus how often certain jobs are being done.

We have begun a section on our website where you can see real-life chore charts of homeschooling families. (Update: We now have a book on chores.) When we announced to the MOTHBoard that these chores charts were available to look at, we received some interesting feedback.

“Teri, an unexpected plus to the charts . . .

“I looked at the charts for the chores. I have to tell you what happened. I printed them out to do some comparing with the charts we use. Well, our nine-year-old son saw me looking at the charts and noticed that compared to other nine- and ten-year-old boys, he has it pretty easy. ‘WOW, Mom, look at all they have to do!’

“Needless to say, after a conversation our son did come to the realization that he could be doing more. Then, of course, so could his sister! So this morning we made new charts with some more involved chores! Just by seeing what other children are doing, our son was convicted! Today the new chores begin! It looks like Mom is going to get more help!” Janice

“Same here! My almost nine-year-old son, who moans and groans when asked to fold a pile of towels, which is one of about four or five chores, was amazed at the work that children younger than himself were capable of. A six-year-old clean the bathroom? Even he agreed that he could easily handle more work, and that’s exactly what I’m going to give him!” Amanda

As I was writing this Mom’s Corner, I realized something amazing. We have virtually eliminated grumbling about chores in our family! I am pleased this is the case; however, it happened unintentionally. It appears, though, there may be several factors as to why we have moved past chore complaints.

First, we begin assigning regular chores (beyond picking up after himself) around the time a child starts school. Second, the chores are written down. The child knows what is expected of him and so do I. Each child keeps the same chores for at least a year. We also have accountability to ensure the jobs are accomplished. Lastly, the child has a set time each day to do his work. I believe because chores have become so much a part of their daily routine, the children don’t grumble.

If I were always to call the children at random times from their play to do this job or that one, they might respond differently. However, even when I need to do this, the response is generally good. Perhaps it is because they have their assigned, scheduled tasks, and I don’t ask for “over and above” help very often. Just tonight I needed extra hands to get dinner on the table. Steve asked two of the children who were not my normal Thursday dinner helpers to pitch in. They did so with sweet, willing attitudes. They were happily surprised to receive an extra portion of dessert as a reward from their daddy for their cooperation!

The responsibility of whether chores are being done, and being done well, falls squarely back on me. I find it is important to take adequate time to train each child in what he is expected to do. It is all too easy to tell my son to vacuum the floor and then be unhappy with a poor job. However, I can’t assume a child knows how to do a task properly until I have taught him.

Also important, in addition to chore training, are regular inspections to check on the work. My children become sloppy in their jobs if I am not frequently looking at them. In the past two years we have had periods of time when I am intensely busy for several weeks. The children’s thoroughness in their chores slips greatly because I am not checking their work.

I encourage you to have consequences in place for failure to do a job or for not doing it well. The children and I have decided upon a consequence for this in our family. They made the suggestion, and I approved it. For each chore that isn’t done, or is poorly done, they have to sit on a chair for fifteen minutes. This discipline was decided upon because most of our chores take five minutes or less. The children thought that sitting on the chair for fifteen minutes would motivate them to do their jobs since the jobs take much less time than chair sitting would. Whatever consequences you and your husband decide upon, make sure you consistently use them.

I suggest you view your children’s chores as a great learning tool. See the benefits in teaching them to work diligently at their chores with a good attitude. Not only is this a help to you now, but you are also training your children for the lifetime of serving and ministering that the Lord Jesus has called them to.