Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Chore System That Works

When I posted my goal update last week, I had 2 different individuals ask for more details on how we do chores and allowance at our house. While I'm not sure if our system will be useful to any other family, I am more than happy to share what works for us.

I want to preface this by saying that we felt a need to make a change because I was always nagging and reminding.  "Did you remember to feed the cats?" "Have you folded and put away your pajamas?"  "Why haven't you brushed your teeth?!  We need to start school in ten minutes!"

Brian and I wanted to create a chores system that had the kids taking more initiative for their own work.

What we found to be most effective was to give each child a list of  requirements (based on their age and ability) and also give them a time deadline.  For example, Owen (7) is responsible to make his bed, get dressed, brush his teeth, help straighten the boys' room, and spot clean the bathroom every morning.  He can do this in any order he wants (and he can even do other leisure things as well) as long as his responsibilities are done by 9 am when we start school.

Other morning chores which were assigned to different children  include tidying and sweeping the laundry room (which also serves as an entrance to our house), walking and feeding the dog, feeding the cats, and unloading the dishwasher. Everything must be completed by 9 am (10 am on the weekends). 

Giving the initiative to complete their own work over to my children leaves me free to handle my own responsibilities or read a book to Alaine or take a shower because I know that the work will be completed and I'm not needed as a nagging reminder.

To ensure that each child knows what is expected of them, we have posted small charts in inconspicuous places around the house.  For example, on the inside of the bathroom cabinet is the bathroom checklist.  Owen rarely refers to it now, but it's there if he needs it. It is also there if another child needs to be a substitute.  When Owen was sick with a virus last month, Maddie was able to step in and clean the bathroom for him by following the checklist.

If a child has not completed their responsibilities by the set time, if they repeatedly do a poor job, or if they complain about what they are given to do,  a certain percentage is taken from their allowance.  It's only had to happen twice because my kids take that dock in pay very seriously!

We made the decision years ago to pay our kids an allowance starting when they turn four.  While we believe that everyone must contribute to the family and that working together is a part of living together, we also believe that teaching children to handle money at a young age is a valuable skill.  Allowance is not a freebie in our house.  It is something that must be earned.

At dinner time, we have a separate set of chores.   Because the two oldest (11 and 9) take care of the dog in the afternoon before dinner, they are excused from setting the table.  Owen (7) and Ben (5) do that together, each with specific tasks. Clearing the table is on rotation-- Gavin on Mondays, Maddie on Tuesdays, etc.  Table clearing used to be a group effort, but it seemed like one child always got stuck with the bulk of the work.  It wasn't intentional, but one kid often lingered at the table.  Another needed to use the bathroom after every meal. Another talked while working.  And before we knew it, the table was 75% cleared by one child.  By rotating days, the table gets cleared regardless of the worker's style. 

One last note: Last summer, we instituted a little School of Home Skills into our weekly routine. It was one of the best things we could have done for training our kids in valuable life skills. It might be time for a  refresher course this summer.


  1. I think I'll be purchasing that book you recommended too!!

  2. I like the time limit, Tim and I will talk about adding that to the kids' morning chores.


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