Using chore charts and age appropriate chores
Chore charts. A quick search online will yield an almost limitless supply of colorful printables, ideas for positive rewards, and lists of age appropriate chores. However, even though there is plenty of information on the topic, most parents aren’t assigning chores.
Braun Research in reported in 2014 that while 82% percent of parents reported having done chores as children, only 28% required the same work of their own kids. Why?
Most parents want their children to contribute within the home, but it’s hard to take all the fancy chore chart ideas out there and form a workable system to make it happen on a consistent basis. Our kids are busy, we parents are even busier, and it’s often faster to do the housework ourselves or outsource it entirely.
However, giving our children the opportunity to contribute to their families through doing chores is important. It will teach them practical life skills, instill in them the value of hard work, and help prepare them for life in the “real world” once they leave home.
So how can parents make chore charts work?
Try these tips to set up a chore system that works for your family:
Get kids involved in the planning process.
As parents, we spend a lot of time calling the shots. However, when we can get our kids involved in problem-solving, they tend to be more willing to follow through on whatever decisions are made.
In regards to chores, brainstorm with your children what jobs around the house need to be done and which ones they would like to help with. Or, have them help you come up with a system to rotate chores among your children on a regular basis.
Smarter Parenting has a large selection of free printable chore charts to help you out. See them here. Pick out a chore chart together, and print it out to use. Try it out, and if you both don’t love it, try a different one. It may take some time to figure out what works for your family. The key is to let your kids have a voice in the process. Choose meaningful rewards. Figuring out meaningful rewards can be tricky, we recommend using the Finding a Meaningful Reason worksheet to help you out.
As much as we would like to think our children will be happy to help just for the joy of knowing they’re helping their family, kids respond better when they know they are getting something out of it. Let’s be honest—we’re the same way as adults. It’s human nature to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Work with your children to come up with meaningful positive rewards. It might be a weekly allowance, but it doesn’t have to be money. Other examples of rewards would be special privileges, like screen time, getting to choose a favorite dinner, or fun family outings.
You could even make pretend money especially for your family that kids can earn for doing jobs and then redeem at a family store of sorts. It could have toys, candy, or coupons for various privileges like staying up late, having a special date with Mom and Dad, or anything else you can dream up.
Start slow & keep chores age appropriate.
If your kids haven’t done many chores before, don’t slam them with a huge list on day one of implementing your new plan. Start with one or two chores, and slowly add to it as your kids become more responsible (and get used to working).
The following chart has ideas of age-appropriate chores for any child:
Teach them HOW to do the chores.
Remember that kids won’t automatically know how to clean something just because it’s written on a list. Make sure you take the time to teach them how to do their chores the way you’d like them done.
For toddlers and young children, it is often best just to let them watch you do work around the house and help in small ways. Let them put the pillow on their bed while you pull up the covers. Give them a damp cloth to wipe the counters while you clean the rest of the bathroom. While you clean, talk about what you’re doing. This way, your child gets the sense of accomplishment for helping with the work, and over time they will learn from your example how to do the job properly.
If your kids are older, it’s important to teach your child what it means to complete a chore. When you tell your child to clean the bathroom, what do you mean? In your mind, does this mean just wipe everything down? Or do you expect a full scrubbing including the tub and shower? Be specific. Consider creating a checklist for various chores, with a short list of what the child needs to do to complete it.
In all of your teaching, be sure to keep your expectations realistic to your kids’ ages. Avoid following behind them and redoing their work or nagging them repeatedly about that spot they missed. Let them do their best, and be content with less than perfect results. That doesn’t mean a child will never have to go back and fix a less-than-adequate job, but remember that learning to do chores well is a journey of more than one day.
Build it into your routine.
The hardest part about establishing a chore system—hands down—is making it a consistent habit. It’s hard to remember to check on kids’ progress each day and to pay out the positive reward on a regular basis. But the prettiest chart on your wall does you’re no good if you don’t actually use it.
When you’re trying to start new habits, one of the best ways to make it happen consistently is to attach it to something you’re already doing. Piggyback off of routines that are already in place.
Decide as a family when chores will happen. Will they happen first thing in the morning? If so, get in the habit of heading off to chores right after breakfast. Put a reminder by the kitchen table or in another spot you’ll see.
Or maybe you’ll have a work time and chore chart check off right after the kids get home from school and have an afternoon snack? Use snack time as a chance to reconnect as a family and then send the kids off with specific tasks to do.
Perhaps you’ll put the chore chart in the bathroom so that you can check it off each night when kids are brushing their teeth before bed. Whenever you do it, pick a time that works with your family schedule and do it consistently.
Make sure you also build in a regular time to reward your kids for doing their chores. There’s nothing that will kill the efficacy of a chore chart faster than a promised reward that goes unpaid.
Perhaps pick a weekly payday where kids can collect whatever reward you have set up in your system.
Offer “extra credit” chores.
Consider offering bonus chores for kids who want to earn extra money for something special. You could create a “work for hire” board with specific household chores and how much money you will pay for a job well done. This is a great way for kids to save up for souvenirs for an upcoming vacation, for Christmas gifts, or for a “must have” item they just can’t live without.
Working for the money to buy something special will help kids place a higher value on the item, and decide if it’s really worth all the work they are doing. This way, the answer to “Can we buy it, PLEEEEEASE?” can always be yes. “Yes, I’d be happy to hire you to do some jobs around the house to earn extra money to buy it yourself.”
The Bottom Line
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating a chore chart system. However, by using these tips, you’ll be able to work through the process of implementing age appropriate chores in a way that works for your personal family.
Smarter Parenting has vast selection of free chore charts in our website section. Find them at Resources: Chore Charts