As I always say to anyone who will listen, (the list gets shorter month-on-month), it is September that is the month of renewal, not January. It is September in which we can reappear as a new incarnation of ourselves. We slough off the dead, dry skin of summer and step shiny as a conker into fresh thoughts and ideas. Fresh air. FRESH SHOES.
Among other things, this Autumn I am thinking about getting my kids to do chores. I have made a half-hearted stab in the past but they forget them all and, crucially, I forgot them all and the chores are undone and it falls to bits.
But this Autumn it’s got to happen. It’s got to. My mother never made us do chores because she viewed the implementation of such rules as petty and stupid. She hated nagging and thought it was just easier to do it herself, or leave things undone.
She’s right, of course – it is easier. But what you end up with is kids who stand up from the dinner table, knife and fork askew and just wander off, with not one single thought for what might have to happen next to those dirty dishes. Or kids who literally do not know how to set a table. Or just, generally, don’t lift a fucking finger round the house.
“Fine” you might say. “They don’t need to, they’re only children. Don’t be so uptight, leave them be.”
Yeah, okay but those children grow into adults. Spoiled, silly, entitled adults who don’t know that you need to clean a bathroom and put your clothes in the laundry basket. Who drift about just expecting other people to do things for them. That doesn’t end well, I’m telling you.
I ought to point out here that in fact when we were older at home we did do chores. We set the table and washed up after supper every night and did our own laundry and pinned our socks together. I moaned about it at the time but I’m grateful now. If only my mother had made me also clean the bathroom I wouldn’t have found mould growing in my sink in the second year of University.
Anyway chores are now my obsession. Both my children have a little chart in the kitchen and in order to earn their paltry weekend pocket money they have to
1 Put their shoes away
2 Put their own shoes on when we go out
3 Take their plates to the sink after meals
4 Put clothes in laundry basket at bath time
5 Kitty has to make her own bed, not Sam because he just can’t manage it
They need endless reminding about this – but it’s a new habit, you do have to endlessly remind them. But it will become a habit, just like I automatically hang up any towel I have used because my mother used to go so totally berserk, (it was the one thing she really minded about), if we didn’t.
It’s been my summertime conversation starter: “What do you do with your kids about chores,” I will say to some poor fellow at the cricket, or a fellow mum round the pool.
Everyone always knows someone whose children literally serve them at the table and clean out the car without being asked. Is that going a bit far? I don’t know.
What about you? What do you do about your kids and chores? Tell me.
I have started this too with my eldest (4.5) but I’m stealing the chart idea – so far I make him do it just because I said so – mean mummy. I did my own washing and bed making etc at home from about the age of….14? I can’t tell you the shock of getting to uni and finding others that had no idea how to put a fucking duvet cover on.
PS love the new format x
We never had to lift a finger as kids (there were 5 of us and the house was immaculate, God knows how) and as a result I now live in total squalor and have no idea how to keep a house tidy. Ditto my siblings. There is literally broccoli smeared into my rug right now, and I don’t even have kids. I am 34. So totally feel you that chores set kids up for better lives. Anyway. On an episode of Queer Eye I watched the other day they had these natty little magnetic boards for the kids where chores were printed as magnets and the kids moved them from the ‘to do’ to ‘done’ list so everybody could keep track of what they had to do and whether they’d done it. The kids loved moving the magnets from one side to the other, Which I didn’t really understand, but then, children are weird.
This is a good thing. Nothing worse than sharing a flat/house with a person who expects stuff to be done. Ditto life partner. It’s the cause of most rows and can drive otherwise loving couples apart, unless you are monied up. I had to do bloody chores from a very young age, but at least now I can whizz around and get things done in double quick time. You are doing them a great service:)
My kids already do 4 of those! Except the plates thing because I don’t like them being involved in anything icky that could lead to more things becoming icky. I’m now thinking perhaps I’m really strict. I don’t do charts I just squawk “where do those belong?” “Do these live here?” “Who’s going to put those away then?” Like a demented macaw if they forget. So I can see a chart would be nicer for them. I don’t really like tying those sorts of things into rewards or money though (just because it’s tiresome for me keeping up with it, and my kids tend to get off-puttingly obsessed with such things) they are just things they have to do, and I enjoy saying “I’ll just cook dinner for me then shall I if we’re all not bothering to do stuff?” to glorious eye rolls all round if they complain about doing anything. It’s possible I’m awful though. Very possible. But it all stems from growing up without a system, and seeing what bloody good it did me, and wanting something different for them.
My niece is 12 and her mother did and does everything around the house for her since like day dot and when she came to stay with me recently over Christmas I had to explain to her why she had to clean up after herself after using our loo. I’ve never been so grossed out in my life (but to her credit she did as I asked and now cleans up after herself in the loo at least). I mean there are other issues like she doesn’t know how/can’t be bothered to do laundry or cook or pack her own bags or do any dishes and I do wonder how she (1) is going to live with anyone else ever that isn’t her mother and (2) doesn’t participate in bits of her own life. Getting kids to understand and do chores early can only be a good thing it seems to me!
I’m slowly getting my 4.5 year old to be more independent – she puts on her own shoes/ gets herself dressed etc and the latest is clearing her plate/ bowl etc to the top of the dishwasher (she’s klutzy so I don’t want her doing any more in case it all gets smashed). Luckily she’s fairly happy to help and likes being praised so no bribes required. And my 16 month old wants to do whatever her sister does and now whips away any unattended plates/ bowls/ cups etc regardless of whether they’re finished with… So winning. Ish.
I have always felt this way about Autumn! Back to School equals New Year!
Laminated chore chart here! Paltary pocket money depends on the boxes being ticked – they are visual kida so it works!
A friend does chores with her eldest 2, but the pocket money they receive doesn’t reflect the chores as she believes “they shouldn’t get paid to do things they are expected to do” which I get BUT then, they are basically getting money for nothing (and there chicks for free)
I do the same as your friend – I see it that there are things they are expected to do as part of the family, and also as part of the family they get a slice of the pie too – they are linked I guess, but not in a direct way. They still do the same stuff but not to earn their money as such. Otherwise I find that it can become a situation where they ask how much doing certain things is worth to them and I dislike that personally. Having a tidy room IS the reward kids! Kids?! They are mostly quite willing and helpful within reason so it’s not been a problem. I suspect the key points are having some expectations of them, and giving them some responsibility for their own money and an understanding of how that connects to obtaining things, rather than stuff just appearing in front of them. How you arrange those things to happen probably doesn’t matter a great deal so long as it suits you.
I have found that children respond incredibly well to a combination of habit and praise. If you drill a habit in deep enough (takes about 2/3 weeks) they just do it. I have been upping chores over the past 3/4 months and find introducing one thing at a time and then frequently praising them for doing it very effective. I am also against paying them for chores. The only person I pay to clean is my cleaner!
Just got into chores / money with my boys (they are 6 and nearly 4).
They are required to do everything on your list anyway (and tidy the playroom before dinner) but I was starting to think about pocket money and wanted to decide how to play it with chores etc.
I read an interesting book called The Opposite of Spolied, which helped me decide what to try first, this is what we are going with at the moment:
We don’t pay for chores – what do you do if they decide they don’t want the money one week?
We pay for extras / solving problems – ie get them to notice things to be done and offer to solve them. We came up with vacuuming the car and making his own packed lunch (only the 6 year old! And he’s doing it! I hate making packed lunches and we’re currently living in the US where it’s required).
Give a small amount of pocket money weekly to start them managing money, budgeting for their own treats etc.
The chores apply to both boys, the money only to the 6yo, the 3yo is not really interested.
This is more about money than chores, but I thought you might be interested in the book and the two are often linked.
There’s a pocket money app called Go Henry which is supposed to be quite good if you want to make some or all of your child’s pocket money conditional on their doing chores- you can add a list of jobs to do and tick them off, and the cash isn’t transferred until the list is done. I use the app although not for this, just for managing pocket money; my kids are a bit big for it and I’m not convinced that paying a child to eg make their own bed is really the right message. Having said that, I have friends who use it with great success and who have brilliantly behaved children, so who knows?
I have a tendency to do things myself, which I try to resist but I don’t try overly hard. I’m of a mind with your mother and have no wish to be a massive tede nagging everyone all the time about socks and mugs. I’m not convinced that this is going to make my kids lazy and incompetent (assuming they do actually know how to work a washing machine etc)- I grew up with a mother who did no cleaning or laundry for me at all after I was about 10 and I was still a complete skank until the age of about 30, when I had my own kids and got my act together. One could argue that making things clean and tidy gives a child an expectation of cleanliness and tidiness, states she will sooner or later work out she has to create for herself. I also think that so much of this stuff is down to a child’s individual personality, and what parents do makes only a smidge of difference. (Also, even though I am almost a mother of teens, I still love that feeling one gets when one’s kids are tucked up in clean pyjamas in a lovely bed with fresh sheets in a beautiful room…a bit like the smugness of having a cupboard full of preserved fruit or a linen cupboard with everything beautifully folded- a sense of making something beautiful and orderly and right, despite the chaos of the rest of life.)
God, sorry to wax so domestic. I just think women sometimes have a tendency to beat ourselves up twice: not only do we do the lion’s share of the chores but we then fret about having done so.
Philippa Bull-Diamond says
In the dishwasher not in the sink ! Start now or they never will !
8yo has been putting all her clean washing away for approx 2 yrs for £1 a week ✅
Cathy Jackson says
The best way I’ve found to motivate kids to do chores is to have them first watch the video “Chore Day” by Three Beat Slide (available for free on YouTube). The video humorously covers most common household tasks such as doing the laundry, dusting shelves, putting toys away, vacuuming, doing the dishes, etc., and is guaranteed to put a smile on their face (and yours too)! You may even find yourself singing their song as you do your own chores!
My boys are 11 and 9 now and def agree kids should do chores. Especially boys. As we raise girls to expect equality in the work place we got to raise boys to expect equality in the home.