“What I found to be true is we teach kids very little by doing it all. For every age, beginning in toddlerhood, there are chores that can be done, help that can be given, and a system of give and take to be exchanged. There is an internal reward system for accomplishment that comes with, or without, the incentive of M&M’s, money, or Robux. Trust me, I am all for incentives but there is still a feeling of accomplishment without them.
Lessons Learned From Chores
I have children right now that range from age 10 to 25, so I’ve been doing this a long time. I don’t pretend to know it all, and I know every child is different. I know personally, I don’t have two who are alike. However, I do feel that chores help all kids retain life skills, increase self esteem, and learn to help others.
I was speaking to a group of moms recently and one of them mentioned she doesn’t make her kids do chores because she wants them to focus on academics and their sports teams. She said it’s not that she is against chores, it’s just, ‘They are so busy there really isn’t time for them to do them.’ Now, I completely understand and respect that this is how she conducts her home and her children, since we all facilitate our homes the way we see fit. What works for some doesn’t work for another, and I can appreciate it, but it did get me thinking about what if I didn’t give my own children chores.
That vision was short-lived. I had 30 seconds of mom guilt and then reality came back to me. Kids do not just learn in school and academics are really not, if I’m being honest, the most important to us in our home. Sure, I want my kids to excel in school, but I more so want them to be well-rounded, competent, kind adults who don’t look like a deer in headlights when they begin their 18 and over lives and are asked to help, share, clean, or teach something academia didn’t show them how to do. I want them to not just make a bed in the morning, but learn to put the one-way fitted sheet on too. I want them to know this is a family unit and the adult(s) in this house are not here to slave the ship. I want them to understand that team work really does make the dream work. We should not always be left to our own devices without instruction or support along the way. Chores initiate so many skills the classroom just can’t, nor do I feel it’s a classroom responsibility.
The Simple Switch
Yes, I have totally organized a color coded chore chart and left it up to them to put a nice ‘X’ in the box once they finished a task. I also have assigned the chores to each of them on different days based on fairness and ability. Guess what? This didn’t work for us. They would argue and complain about who had ‘harder’ chores and who had ‘more.’ Clearly this way was less than productive and stressful. They were marking things with an ‘X’ they had not done yet, or meant to do but never got to. We were a hot mess over here. I knew I had to change something and then it hit me. Stop delegating everything. Let them figure it out. They were 9 and 10 years old. Let them discuss, learn, grow, and be responsible for their own chores. What happened next was amazing!
So what did I do? I kept the same organized dry erase chore chart and erased the entire color coded beautiful mess. I told them each to pick a different color dry erase marker for the week. We discussed all the different chores they were already familiar with and new ones they could do.
The instructions were simple. Every day, there needs to be a minimum of four chores written by each of them in their color of choice after the chore is completed. They also could not repeat a chore written by their sibling on the same day, but they would get credit for working together to get a chore done. THAT WAS IT!
The Amazing Results
This was a game changer for our home folks!
This has been not only effective but also motivational! They are much more independently efficient getting their chores done this way. For example, my daughter knows she has dance class most days after school, and our no excuse policy has helped her understand that getting up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to unload the dishwasher is worth it to her so she doesn’t have to do it after dance when she may be tired. I have overheard my kids discussing who will do what and who will take on a certain chore on a certain day. They have worked in unison to get dinner cleared and the dishes done.
I have found my kids are more cognizant of messes when they know it’s a mess they will need to clean. They are negotiating the night before or the morning of, about who is going to do a particular chore to make it fair and complete.
I’m not going to say they love doing chores. I mean, who really does? What I am saying though, is they realize the responsibility is in their hands and it’s something they just have to get done. There is little to no complaining, there is no blame to pass if they don’t do their part, and there is an acceptance of being accountable and responsible that was much more challenging before the ball was put in their court, so to speak.
I simply realized they don’t need us to micromanage them all the time. They will figure it out. I promise. If they can learn how to do a TikTok or fine coordinate their fingers to play a video game, they most definitely can learn how to perform the life skills they will always need. I know how hard it is to let go sometimes and watch them need us less, really I do. My mama heart both breaks and expands as they grow. I also know the world will not cater to them the same way we do or once did. The way to help them now is simple, prepare them for later.
- Communicate the expectation.
- Answer their questions.
- Clarify when needed.
- Let them learn through repetition.
In the meantime, you get to watch them turn from a seed to a sprout, then to a bud, and before you know it that beautiful flower that grew…has been watered by you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tia Hawkins from Virginia Beach, VA. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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