From the day a child can walk – without falling over – they start to help pick things up, put away dishes and do anything a little person is able to do. From about aged 2 or 3 (depending on the child) they are given specific “responsibilities.”
Changing the term form “Chores” to “Responsibilities” changed the whole attitude and feel in our home. The little ones may need to feed an animal whilst the older ones have either more responsiblities or more demanding ones. The children love having responsibilities and will become quite upset if someone does one of theirs. It makes them feel needed, rooted and that they have a place within the home.
When our children turn 13 we have a evening to celebrate their “pre-adulthood” and with this comes greater responsibility. So at present our 14 year old is responsible for the washing. Well, I ensure it is washed and hung up and then it’s up to her. She need to bring it in, fold it and put it away. I love how she’s begun putting on CDs so the little ones all want to listen and then she gets them to all fold the washing with her. This is great as it teaches her to not let the washing (or anything in life for that matter) pile up and how much hard work it takes to truly be responsible for something as well as many other life lessons. She also has a number of other responsibilities such as washing the breakfast dishes and clearing the kitchen after supper.
The other children have responsibilities such feeding animals, making beds, putting clothes away, putting dishes away. Sometimes children require some direction and help such as I may need to place their duvet at the bottom of their bed neatly so they can pull it up to make their bed. Other times they may need to be given a more specific task such as – pick up all the red blocks. Often children become overwhelmed when given a task too big and therefore their reluctance to help is actually that they don’t really know where to start.
For these responsibilities our children are not remunerated. We all have a part to play and a role to fill to be apart of the family. This is also a chance to train them in loving others. If someone is sick or away we step in and help each other out. If however they are asked to do something that I would usually employ someone else to do such as mow the lawn we will show our appreciation by giving them some money towards something they are saving up for.
We do also try to make it fun. So we’ll often play Amazing Race where I give them tasks to complete in a set time (these can range from washing dishes, to scrubbing a wall, to peeling and freezing bananas.) If the task is completed they get a small prize – raisins, a snack, or such and the next clue. If it isn’t completed in time once it is completed they need to run around the house, miss the treat and then get the next clue. I find they don’t cope with more than 5 activities in a game so after the 4th or 5th task they get a grand prize – an ice-cream (or my favourite: to watch a DVD – in the middle of the day – and I get to have a quiet cup of coffee:)
Another game we play is the “Post Box Game.” I put some tasks into a box. The children then need to sneak up and get a clue and do the task without me seeing them. I obviously know where they are but pretend to not hear them and then I suddenly turn around or jump out at them. We all have great fun with this and yes the chores get done too. Otherwise music is good on a whole. Listening to worship songs or stories helps them to not dwell on the fact that they are doing chores. Oh yes and we also sometimes have everyone folding washing while I read to them.
This may not work for every family but for us it’s been a great balance and an opportunity to teach our children about responsibility, love, running a home and what being a family is all about.