Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chores: The Nitty-gritty

Continuing what I wrote yesterday about allowances... One thing I didn't make clear yesterday is that I do not feel you should tie allowances to chores. Everyone in a family does chores because a family should work together. It encourages industry, team work, a good self image and is valuable training on the road to adulthood. Everyone in the family gets an allowance so they can learn to budget and to save, and to use and [Scotty, 8, taking out recycling and trash] manage money wisely.

So, after that disclaimer, let's get going on how to figure out how to do chores...

Do the same thing you did with the money. Take a few days and write down all the chores around the house. Have your kids and husband make a list too, and then after a few days compile the list. Put things down that are done every day and things that are done maybe once a week. The list could look like this:

  • Daily-sweep kitchen floor, unload dishwasher, set table, turn on porch light, pick up toys, feed dog, take out trash, clean out car, do laundry, put clothes away, wipe down bathroom sink, wipe down toilet
  • Twice a week: vacuum, dust [this could be dust living room one day, dust another room the other day],
  • Weekly: sweep porch, scoop up after dog, mow lawn, dust bedrooms, clean bathroom, water plants
OK, now that you have your list. Divide it up among the abilities of the kids. An easy way is to make index cards with each kid's name and put the chores on the card. You can put it on fridge, or laminate, punch a hole in it and tie them together and hang from a nail. The main thing is it should be written down so you don't have to tell them what to do--for non-readers, draw a picture.

An example of how you might assign the chores:

9 year old: sweep kitchen floor, empty dishwasher, vacuum, fold clothes
6 year old: set table, feed dog, take out trash, dust living room, wash down sink and toilet
3 year old: water outside plants with a squirt bottle, pick up toys [with 6 year old], dust low things, turn on porch light

Also, put weekly chores on their card--maybe to do Thursday afternoon or something. The card can have each day on it with the chores for that day, or daily chores listed in one column and then on Thursday you can list the weekly chore[s]--whatever works for you.

Now, here is the secret of making this work. As much as is logistically possible, everyone works at the same time! Don't you just hate to work and see everyone else sitting around eating cookies? It makes work seem worse than it is, and truly work is good. So, to make it feel like we are team, everyone working together, it needs to be done at the same time. In our house, when the kids were little, we worked after supper. [Many people do this before Dad gets home, but at our house, Dad was always home, so we did it after supper.]

So, after dinner the dish boys would start in on the dishes [2 boys], the laundry boy would fold the clothes [he and I did a couple loads each day, then he folded after supper], Kari pick up living room and vacuumed, Scotty would pick up toys other places and put in kids' rooms, someone fed the dog [I can't remember who]--all at the same time! Everyone worked! [Of course, someone had to set the table before supper, but you get the idea]. Generally this took about 30 minutes. Then the house was picked up, chores done, the kids would take their clean laundry and put it in their drawers and then we could all relax for the evening.

When the kids got to be 10th, 8th, 6th, 2nd and 4 years old, the laundry situation changed and after that everyone did their own laundry. I still did Bob's, Scotty's and mine, but by the time he was about 7 he did his own laundry. Then the chores changed a bit.

I have a friend that has 5 kids 10 and under. A couple of years ago [when they had 4 kids 8 and under] I happened to come in during "The 15 minute Flash." This was about 4:30 on a weekday. The kids were buzzing around like bees--the 8 year old was putting away toys and helping the 2 year old pick up toys too. The 4 year old was setting the table, the 6 year old was emptying the dishwasher--she had just swept the kitchen floor. Their chores as supposed to be done in 15 minutes, so they buzz around and make a race out of it. She actually sets a timer! I talked to one of the kids a few months ago, and they have all moved up in chores. So, some of the easy chores have gone to the next child down, and the older child has moved to harder chores. When the Flash is over, they can play till dinner. I think the dad cleans up the kitchen after dinner.

At any rate, I hope this is helpful. The thing is, start somewhere. You can always change, adjust, re-evaluate--see what works for your family. Also, to keep chores down, we did a lot of color coding. Everyone had one glass, in their specific color, that they used all day for misc. drinks. They had a clean one for milk at supper time, but for water/lemonade, etc. all day long, they used the same cup all day. This minimized the dishes and kept the dishwasher so it wasn't constantly full.

I also went out and bought each person ONE bath towel, each a different color. They used this till I washed them. This prevented the misc. towel on the floor-no one admits whose towel it is. We had pegs in the bathroom and each kid put their towel on a peg. A couple of times a week I did a load of towels and then just re-hung them on the pegs. This saved a LOT of laundry, especially with teen boys showering a lot. I know Martha Stewart would cringe at the lack of color coordination, but it worked for us. Just make sure the towels are all light colors so you can wash them at the same time.

I guess that is it--if you have specific questions, please ask. I hope this helps.

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