In our new Intentional Motherhood series I am answering reader questions about motherhood. I certainly don’t presume to have all the answers. But I love it when fellow moms share with me how they do things so I thought I’d do the same for DoSayGive readers. I hope this series will inspire and encourage in some way. And I hope you’ll share your tips, too!
Today I am answering questions related to chores and responsibilities.
Q: How do you teach your children chores and responsibility?
I think it really comes down to instilling good habits. The daily “chores” my children do (making beds, tidying rooms, keeping bathroom counters clean, clearing the dinner table) are really habits that will serve them the rest of their lives. Perhaps we shouldn’t even call these things “chores” because they are things all responsible, civilized people should do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of my children to grow up to be the slovenly college roommate. Or worse: the completely unhelpful spouse!
While I believe it’s important for all children to learn these good habits, with four children it is also essential that my children do them. My mom says that my girls do way more than I did as a child. I tell her it’s because they have to: I work from home and have a baby!
Yes, for those that asked, I have a wonderful housekeeper/sitter several days a week to help me. (DoSayGive is a growing brand and I don’t pretend to “do it all.”) But I still make my girls do the chores above because it is a) good for them and b) gives my housekeeper more time to do other things!
What chores do your girls do?
Daily chores include making beds and emptying the dishwasher before school (they divide up the top, bottom, and utensils) and tidying up rooms before bed. Recently I have made them start putting away their own folded clothes. Now that they have ownership over their drawers they keep them much neater!
They don’t get paid for these chores. My husband and I think it is just part of being a member of a family. (See question below about allowances.) But if they are trying to earn extra money for something we will let them do a big project like scrub the baseboards or clean the interior windows – if it is something we truly need done.
Tip: when children tell you they are bored, without skipping a beat, respond with: “Perfect, I have just the thing for you to do.” Then proceed to give them something off your mental chore list;).
And while I run a tight ship, please know there are certainly days when my children run out of time before school and neglect some of these things. On those days, I’ll usually gladly make their beds and (not so) gladly empty the dishwasher. I remember how my mom would beautifully make my bed when I neglected to.
My girls have very sweet and helpful hearts so I don’t think I run the risk of making them lazy by stepping in every once in awhile. But if they started to make a habit of it, then I would change my tune!
When did you start chores?
My older girls are 6, 9, and 11 but started training many of these habits when my children were pretty young (3ish). I think because of this my children are not surprised by what’s expected of them. They may not love doing these things, but there’s not a lot of pushback.
Tip: Children don’t innately know how to tidy up. You have to show them how to do things properly. Sometimes you have to practice with them for weeks or months – even years. But the effort and patience will be worth it!
For example, as soon as children move into a big boy or girl bed children can start learning how to make their bed (tap into their excitement about the big move!). At first you will need to show them how to make a bed and do it with them. Encourage all efforts. Then when they start doing it independently you may have to go back and say, “You worked so hard making your bed; let me show you how to smooth out the wrinkles” or “Look the sheet got caught at the bottom, let’s pull it up.”
Yes, you can do it quicker and better on your own. But there is wisdom in teaching them to do it themselves. Stick with it mama!
This post has more ideas for chores for little ones and a simple chore chart for those just starting out.
What about teaching responsibility to little ones?
In addition to the habits above, I think toys are a good way to teach responsibility. A toddler can learn how to “clean up, clean up” while you sing a little melody. Pre-schoolers can be taught how to properly take care for their toys by keeping them clean and organized. Older children/tweens can learn by working to repay for broken toys or tablets. The money management system I talk about below deals with how to do that.
Something I have learned through my motherhood years is that it is much easier to teach a child to care for their toys if they aren’t piling up everywhere. If you find your children are not taking care of their toys, try reducing the number of toys they have either through toy rotation or just plain donation. (See this post on being the editor of your own home.) Older children who know better, and still do not care for their toys, should probably have them all taken away for awhile.
Tip: Children learn from us. If we are chunking toys carelessly into bins during a clean up session then they will do the same. (Guilty of this.) But if we teach them to carefully place their belongings in their place they will learn to treat their things with respect as well.
Q: Do you give your children an allowance?
We use the same system we’ve used for years and I still recommend it to moms. It is more of a money-management system than an allowance system because we don’t pay children for their daily chores. I like it because if you get off a few weeks or even few months you can always get back on it. This system can start at age 3 and it goes to age 18. I wrote about it here.
Have a motherhood question? Comment below and I will try to answer it in an upcoming Q&A.
What are your tips on teaching chores and responsibilities to children? I know y’all have so much wisdom to share!
Read last week’s post on routines here. I answered more reader questions in the comments section so be sure to look at those, too.
Photos: Audrie Dollins