Q&A: Chores

From Lana:
I would like to know your kids chore list.=)

I think it's important for kids to learn how to work and be responsible. I also think it's sometimes a major pain do it! We've used lots of different systems through the years. For several years we've used a ticket system where they earn tickets for each chore they complete and then use them to buy prizes once a week. They also have to give me a ticket for every thirty minutes of time on the computer. They get tickets taken away for bad behavior.

Back in February, I wrote this in my weekly email about our chores:

Want to know a secret? It doesn’t really matter what system you use to get your kids to do their chores. What matters is that you change it every once in a while. We’ve had good results with the system I worked out at the beginning of the school year, where we wrote down the chores for each day and then let the three older kids choose which ones they wanted to do. We even broke down the dishes into four separate chores – emptying the dishwasher, clearing off and wiping counters and tables, filling up the dishwasher, and sweeping. It worked well because no one had too much of the chores and each day was something different. Joey might have lots of kitchen duties one day and then none the next. After a few months, the kids (with the exception of Lillian, as usual) were not as motivated, so I changed it up a bit, re-working a few of the chores and adding two “Help, Mom!” boxes. If they had an extra tough job, they could use one of their “help moms.” If not, then they’d earn extra tickets for the empty boxes. The chore charts were posted on our bulletin board and filled in each week, then exchanged on Monday for tickets the kids could use towards prizes and privileges. It worked for a few months pretty well.

But lately, all but Lillian have been balking, “forgetting,” or pouting their way through their chores. When that happens, it’s tempting to push harder with the system you’ve got, but I’ve found that it works best to change it significantly. A new system sometimes gets motivation going again. So now, we have zones. Lillian has empty dishwasher, kitchen garbage, feeding the cats and cleaning their litter, and dinner helper. Joey has the great room, kitchen pick-up (non-food items like backpacks, socks, shoes, etc.), and the front room, and Michael has the mudroom and the downstairs family room. Then we all – including either mom or dad – are in charge of cleaning the kitchen after meals. It’s been working great the last two weeks, and it has simplified things somewhat. I’m sure that by the time summer hits, though, it will be time for a new system again, this time one that incorporates Sarah and Allison a bit more.

We did indeed change the schedule at the beginning of the summer, one where we broke up the work into three time periods during the day. In the morning, they were to work on their talents (reading for Michael and the twins, piano for Joey, piano and violin for Lillian), then go outside to pull weeds or move wood for thirty minutes. By this time, Harmony was usually down for her morning nap, so I went with them. Mid-day, all but Lillian worked to clean up their rooms and the family room before lunch. Lillian made lunch during that time. Then in the evening, we cleaned up the main floor of the house while I prepared dinner.

It worked, but since there weren't specific assignments and personal responsibility, it was a lot more work for me to keep up with everyone. So several weeks ago, we switched it up again, going back to zones. We now have two main times for chores, the first of the day and then just before dinner. Depending on what activities we're doing that day or when we get back, sometimes we do it later or earlier. Each child has a zone they are in charge of, so if I simply say, "Go take care of your zone," they know where and what to do.

My chore list for each child:

10-year-old girl: Own room, Practices violin and piano, feeds cats, 30 minutes outside work, helps make lunch, Zone: great room pick up, dinner dishes twice a week

Joey, age 8.5: own room, 40 minutes outside work (wanted to do this rather than practice piano), Zone: family room, dinner dishes twice a week.

Michael, age 7: own room, 30 minutes outside work, reading, Zone: Mud room, empty dishwashers, dinner dishes once a week (with help).

Allison and Sarah, age 5: own room, help as assigned, some outside work.

We're not perfect at it and I have one child that hates any kind of work and is very vocal about it, not to mention sitting around moaning about doing it for two hours rather than taking the ten minutes it would take to do the job. We do the outside work about three days a week now rather than all five. Assigning the zones has helped a ton. If each of the three oldest picks up their zone, the house automatically looks clean. It's wonderful.

The prize bin is full of books, videos, science kits, art supplies, and even occasionally a candy bar. We tend to put things in the prize bin that we come across on good sales and that we know some of our kids will like. Sometimes, a child will fall in love with something at the store, and if it's reasonable, we'll buy it and put it in the prize bin. At the beginning of the summer, my husband and I found a microscope on sale. We were excited, because we knew that such a prize would translate into at least three weeks of good behavior from Joey. Last week, Allison used her tickets to buy some sidewalk chalk and she and Sarah spent the next day wearing that chalk down to nubs (after Sarah spent time playing with the hose, so ignore her funny hair):

We also have the kids give us tickets for certain experiences. A few weeks ago, DH announced he would take anyone who earned thirty tickets out to see the new Harry Potter movie. Lillian earned those tickets through extra chores, then earned twenty more so she could go out to Tucano's for lunch beforehand. (By the way, the movie was a disappointment. Too depressing)

We keep track of it all on a bulletin board in the hallway near the kitchen. The tickets go in both the pockets and on the pushpins because I set up the pockets back when we only had three kids using the system.
We also do Family Work Day every Saturday.

What tips and tricks do you have for chores?


Thanks so much I learned a lot, hopefully this will help when Sammy is older, I have another question though, how early did you start having your kids help? Like as soon as they could or by 2 or 3 just wondering.
April J. said…
I know my kids need to start learning to do chores, and being responsible. Thanks for sharing this!
I agree it is so important to teach your kids to work--and a pain. But it is so very much worth it. Any frustration you experience when they are small will pay off when they are older. :-)
I really like your ticket idea. Maybe that will give me the motivation I need to really get chores going with the kids. Did you make the tickets? I always feel like chore charts are so much work, but I know the kids really need to learn how to do chores, so I just need to suck it up and do it!
Jacki said…
Thanks for sharing! I have magnets for my children with their jobs printed on them. They flip their magnet over when they do it. If they flip all their magnets over - they earn their screen time for the next day. I just blogged about it because of you! I like how simple the magnets are and they can easily be modified if I want to change them.
The Depews said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Depews said…
I am also curious at what age you guys started. My kiddos are far too young now, but we have them do some things everyday - like put their shoes and clothes up, and help pick up toys before bedtime. They love to help and are just so proud of themselves.
* said…
Great idea. Sounds like it works well, I might just try and adapt it for my own family.
Erin said…
I love this idea! I made my own corkboard center and would love to see the calendar you have posted on the left side of the board! I laminated chore charts for my kids so they could check off when done with dry-erase markers. I also laminated the tickets. (Got a laminator for $12 at Aldi. ;) I love a good deal!)
I also love the Family Work Day idea and made a list of weekly chores for our family to do on Saturdays.
I am going to laminate my menu planner also - the kids love knowing what to expect for dinner. :)
Thanks so much - this is exactly what we were looking for!! :)

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