It’s hard to find a parenting expert that doesn’t embrace the idea of chores for children. They can help kids develop a sense of responsibility, perseverance, patience and a strong work ethic. For Christian parents, it’s a great way to also train your kids to put Colossians 3:23-24 into practice in everything they do. (“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”)
Unfortunately, life can be crazy in a home with young children. Creating, assigning and monitoring chores can seem overwhelming to an already exhausted parent. As a result, many parents give up on assigning chores and their kids miss out on important character training. Fortunately, there are some chore “hacks” you can use to make things easier for both kids and parents.
- Make some chores standard procedure. Keep it simple. Have some chores everyone is supposed to complete every day to keep your home running smoothly. These should be simple things like making the bed (whatever that means to you), putting away clothes after they are worn (whether it’s hanging up to wear one more time or putting them in the clothes hamper or wash room), putting their dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher after they eat, and putting things back where they found them when they are finished using them. Children can be given a graphic or written check list to help them remember. Consequences for not completing these tasks should also be standard and given automatically at the end of the day or the beginning of the next day.
- Consider handing out other chores on an “as assigned” basis. This worked best for our family, especially as our daughter’s schedule got busier. Every day I asked her to do several things to help me around the house. How many tasks she was given and what they were could be adjusted to the circumstances of the day. I tried to give her at least one or two things to do for me every day unless she was sick or something major was happening. This method freed me from having to remember and monitor every chore on some list. I just needed to make sure she had completed each chore as given.
- Have family work days. My mother used to declare most Saturday mornings as “clean the house day”. No one could run off to other things until the house was spotless. She sent us scurrying to perform various cleaning tasks around the house. She was assured of immediate compliance, because we wanted to be finished as quickly as possible!
- Make a chore chart. This one may be too much trouble if you aren’t a list maker by nature. For those who are, a quick glance at the chart can tell you who has completed which chores for the day. Don’t forget to spot check completed chores from time to time to make sure they were done well.
- Allow your kids to claim chores. As strange as it may sound, some kids love to vacuum, while other kids hate it. My mother rarely cooked a meal in the summer, because I offered to cook to get out of weeding the garden. Occasionally, kids should be expected to do something they hate as a chore for growth purposes, but allowing them to pick a few favorites can make them more compliant and the results a little better.
- Don’t be afraid to work on attitudes, too. Those verses in Colossians and the ever popular “Do everything without complaining” verses (Philippians 2:14-16) have been quoted to whining children for probably almost two thousand years now for a reason. Chores aren’t just about the task. They are also a way to work on attitudes. We have a saying in our house, “Sometimes you just have to clean the toilets.” There are chores and perhaps things God gives us to do that we just don’t want to do. The reality is that to live the life God wants us to live, we have to do them any way. Doing them with a good attitude and compliant heart works best for everyone involved. Helping your kids develop good attitudes and compliant hearts when they are young will help them when they are older and have more freedom.
Chores are a part of life. God also sometimes asks us to do things for Him that can feel like chores. Training your kids by giving them chores in childhood can help them grow to be who God wants them to be. It really is worth your time and effort.