Perhaps there is a reason why the word ‘chore’ rhymes with ‘bore’. The very mention of the word can send the best of us scrambling with shouts that we are “busy!”.
The fact is that chores are a necessary part of life and experts say there are huge benefits to starting them early on. Helping out at home can teach children important skills that will assist them throughout their lives while instilling a sense of responsibility, motivation and work ethic. Sharing the load at home can also make things a little less hectic for busy parents.
It can be daunting to implement a chore routine in your home if you’re not sure which tasks are right for your kids, or how to keep track of each person’s duties on a long-term basis. This guide should help to take a bit of the guesswork out of chores and make them a somewhat pleasant experience for the household.
Which chores are right for my child?
Not all chores are created equal. We wouldn’t ask our four-year-old to mow the lawn, for example. It is important to choose tasks that are suited to your child’s age and abilities. This will help to ensure chores are completed to a decent standard and kids are happy and safe while they are bustling around doing them. Here’s a list of age-appropriate chores, with help from the Australian Government’s Raising Children Network, that you may like to integrate into your home:
Ages 4 –5:
•Pick up toys and books
•Make the bed
•Bring dishes to the sink
•Help to feed family pets
•Set the dinner table
•Help to do the groceries and put them away
•Sort clean laundry into piles for each person
Ages 6 – 11:
•Vacuum or sweep the floor
•Put away clean dishes
•Help with some basic cooking, under supervision
•Take out the rubbish
•Hang out clean clothes and fold laundry
•Water the garden and indoor plants
•Help to do the groceries and put them away
Ages 12 – 18:
•All of the above, but with less supervision
•Cleaning the bathroom or toilet
•Stack the dishwasher
•Mow the lawn
•Walk the dog
* When choosing chores for teenagers, think of the skills you would like them to learn!
While it is all well and good to have a list of chores at the ready, is there a simple way to get your kids happily involved? There are a few tips and tricks available to make the experience easier for everyone.
Write things down
Make things simple by listing each family member’s chores, preferably in an area everyone can see it (like a whiteboard on the fridge). This makes it harder for things to be forgotten and less room for error. It is also easy to check off each item as it’s completed.
Pick your timing
Try not to make things harder for yourself – chores are meant to be helpful, after all. Mornings are often hectic for many families as everyone rushes around getting ready for school and work. It may be easier to leave most chores for quieter moments in the afternoon or evening. Conversely, kids may like to finish their chores in the morning on school holidays, so they can make the most of the rest of their day. Parents may also like to ensure children finish their chores before they can play with electronic devices or watch television. This helps the child learn that responsibilities should be met before they can have free time.
Play to their strengths
Start things off on the right foot by getting everyone in the family involved when chores are being planned. Ask your children whether they have any preferences when it comes to their chores and try to facilitate their requests. Do you have a green thumb in the family? They may enjoy watering the garden. Is one of your children particularly fond of the family pet? They may like to be responsible for daily feeding duties. It could also be helpful to discuss with your child the type of rewards or incentives they may like to receive for doing their chores, if you decide to go this way. You will find more on rewards further down.
Help them out
It is a great idea for parents to help children with their chores when they’re initially learning about each task and what is required. This helps the child learn to do the chore correctly, and eventually by themselves. It is also a great bonding opportunity. Try to show an interest in what your child is doing and praise them as they successfully master a new skill – they will be keener to continue doing it and more likely to remain optimistic when faced with future challenges.
Many experts suggest parents should avoid using chores as punishment. Instead, parents may wish to adopt a reward system to foster positive reinforcement and help children learn along the way.
A reward chart can help children track their chores as they complete each one and it also provides them with a clear, visual incentive to continue doing their tasks daily. Rewards can come in many different forms. It’s also important to remember that children do not need to be rewarded for EVERY chore they do. A tally system is easier to implement and execute – for example, a child may get to choose a show for the family to watch on television once they have five stars on their chart.
Giving pocket money to children helps them learn about money management – whether they are spending or saving it. Pocket money can also open up an important conversation about what money is used for and why saving can be a good option. It is up to you how much money you may wish to give your child. Parents may like to consider what their budget will allow, what the pocket money will be used for and the types of chores their children will be doing when they decide upon a sum. The most important thing is consistency; if your child is doing regular chores and knows how much pocket money they will earn and when, they can start to plan ahead and get into the habit of working for money.
Caitlin Francis is a Digital Media Officer at Cairns Catholic Education