Few things do more for a child’s sense of confidence and responsibility than learning to do household chores thoroughly, consistently, cheerfully, and without being reminded. Our kids all realize that their contribution to family life is important. They know that we depend on them to help keep our home looking good and running smoothly. And they’ve learned to work hard, usually without complaining. This work ethic will serve them well when they are grown. Below is a description of how we divide and rotate chore assignments in our family, as well as the reasoning behind these decisions:
These are the things the children do each day to keep their personal things in order, like making their beds, straightening their rooms, or folding and putting away their clean laundry. The children do not get paid for doing these things, nor do we give them an allowance. They are simply expected to do them consistently and cheerfully, in gratitude for the privilege of living in this house. Younger children are partnered with older children, who make certain their beds get made and clothes hung up satisfactorily.
These are those things that must be done daily or even several times daily—like washing clothes, wiping down counters, sweeping floors, gathering trash, loading the dishwasher, or cooking meals—which benefit the entire family. We do not pay the children to do these chores, either.
These are those deep-cleaning tasks that we normally do only once a week, like dusting furniture, mopping floors, scrubbing bathrooms, washing windows, or mowing lawns. These are big jobs done by the older children. They do great work. We pay them for it and pay them well, knowing that the more they earn, the more they save for college (see Finances for how our family handles spending/ saving). For middle ones who are interested in earning money, I find other jobs that need to be done less frequently, such as cleaning baseboards, raking leaves, or washing cars.
Assigning and Rotating Chores
Every child from three years-old and up is assigned one daily task to do before or after every meal every day for an entire year. New assignments are made each January according to the child’s maturity and ability. Younger children get the job of setting the table or sorting clean silverware, Middle kids get to clear the table, load or empty dishwashers, help with meal prep, or gather and take out trash. Older kids get such jobs as sweeping up after meals, wiping down the table tops and counters, or sorting and doing laundry.
The yearly rotation serves several purposes:
- It makes it easier to tailor assigned chores to each child’s age and capabilities.
- It eliminates all arguments along the lines of, “I did it yesterday, it’s her turn today.”
- It allows the child to become proficient in one area before moving on to another.
- It ensures that, by the time each child is grown and ready to leave home, he/she will have rotated through and become comfortable doing all tasks associated with keeping house: cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.
Of course, there are many other options for rotating chore assignments. One reason the yearly shuffle works for us is that we have so many kids, each one could have a single job. In smaller families, each family member will have more to chores to do, though each individual chore should take less time (It’s faster to load three plates, cups, and forks into the dishwasher than 15 of each!)