My husband and I have five daughters, and we have done chores 100 different ways in almost 20 years of parenting. Sticker charts, rotations, weekly chores, monthly chores, allowance, no allowance. But regardless of the method, our kids have learned that they are a working part of the family. We love each other, and we serve each other. Sometimes they feel like it, and sometimes they don’t. But we are committed to training up hard-working, responsible adults who believe that serving others is a way of life.
Train their hearts to think of others
It didn’t take long for us as parents to realize that our little darlings were prone to self-centeredness. When our girls learned to talk, their first words were, “No,” “Mine,” and “I do it myself.” Parenting takes purposefulness to train their hearts to think of others and not just themselves. So, start as early as is age appropriate, teaching concepts like being a helper, thank you, and “you before me.” Teaching your children to do chores is part of teaching them to be others-focused, happy helpers and ultimately, adults who have a heart to serve others.
Make chores a part of the rhythm of life
Set the expectation that your family works together as a team. And get into a routine. It is much easier if chores are a daily process, rather than expecting them to help you dig out of a mountain of laundry or clean up a playroom that hasn’t been cleaned up in a month. Make a daily or weekly schedule, put reminders on your phone if you need to and just make it a part of the regular rhythm of life.
Orderliness doesn’t come naturally to every child. But any child can be taught to keep a room tidy. It’s hard work on the parent’s part, but keep the goal in mind. You’re training a future responsible adult, perhaps a wife and mom someday–or an unusually helpful husband.
Start with laundry
Let’s just start with laundry. I had a friend recently tell me that having my children do their own laundry was “genius.” While I’m not sure “genius” is the right adjective, I realize that it has saved this working momma thousands of hours of housework and trained my daughters to take care of their own clothes.
First, every child should have their own laundry basket in their closet or their bedroom. Don’t mix your children’s laundry. In some seasons, I preferred to have a laundry day where we ran laundry from morning to night, but we got it all done on one day. In other seasons, I had each girl pick a day of the week that was their laundry day. Regardless, do laundry at least weekly. Don’t wait until you “need” to do laundry. That is a slippery slope and kids can define “need” very broadly.
Take one basket into the laundry room at a time. Teach your child at an early age (like two!) how to sort darks and lights. Each child will run a dark load and a light load. At first, you might be the one putting the detergent into the machine and making sure the settings are right. But again, with all the chemical free, natural laundry options these days, your kids might find that part fun as well.
When the laundry comes out of the dryer, remove it from the laundry room, dump it on the couch or the living room floor or their bed and start making like piles of underwear, socks, etc. Your preschoolers will think this is fun! Teaching your children how to fold a t-shirt is a great motor skills exercise. Again, it may not come naturally, but trust me, if your kid can operate an iPad, they can fold a t-shirt. If you find that your little humans take forever to get the folding done, set a timer, make it a game, play music in the room, etc.
Manage Your Expectations
I have to admit, not all of my children’s drawers were perfectly organized and tidy when they were young. Choose your battles. Know what they are each individually capable of and remember that “done is better than perfect.” Be careful not to micromanage or you may both decide that it’s “just easier for mom to do it.”
Show Your Appreciation
Be sure to take notice of a job well done. But even when it’s not done perfectly, show appreciation for their effort. Notice what they did do well. Thank them for sticking with the job and helping to make your home orderly. Say things like, “You’re such a hard worker.” Or, “I’m so proud of how you take care of your clothes. Thank you.”
As your kids get older and busier, and their clothes get bigger and stinkier, you may need to help them by finding the day in their week that’s best to do their laundry. You may need to teach your softball player how to stain treat her white pants and take care of her uniforms. But by this time, trust me, doing their own laundry will be a part of their weekly rhythm, and it won’t be a big deal.