No Stinkin' Chore Chart | Giftie Etcetera: No Stinkin' Chore Chart

Friday, January 24, 2014

No Stinkin' Chore Chart

My kids are home from school due to the weather today. We live in a swampy, semi-tropical climate, so we don't get snow. Instead, we get icy overpasses every mile or so, shutting Louisiana down anytime there is precipitation and a temperature under 32 degrees. 

So far this morning, Loki (age 5) demanded lunch then burst into to tears, refusing to eat it, because he was "not hungry! I told you I am not hungry!" {eye roll}

Ander (age 7) pushed me to the point that I yelled, "try me! Just try me. Roll your eyes one more time, and you will be scrubbing the floors, Cinderella." (I can't figure out where he gets that eye roll thing from. Hmm...)

No worries, though. They won't make a mess or destroy all my hard work cleaning and organizing that happened during the rest of the week. Yes, you read that correctly. They will not make a mess.

How can that be?

Well, I was determined that my children would not take after me (*cough* exceptforthateyerollattitudething *cough*). When I moved away to boarding school, at age 15, I didn't know how to clean a room, do my laundry, or cook a basic meal. I ruined all my clothes the first week of school. My kids needed to learn home ec skills, and I figured that was best done starting early and often.

So, from the time they could throw blocks back into a box (maybe around 9 months old), they had to at least help pick up toys. At first, it was a fun game. Eventually, two things happened. First, they got good at cleaning up after themselves. Second, they never complained about chores because they just assumed chores are what people do.

Here are some of the house rules that we follow. The kids probably don't even realize these are rules. I am really consistent about this, so they think this is what all kids do.

1. Never transition from one activity to the next without erasing the evidence of the first activity

This rule works because it is simple, has a natural consequence of delaying doing the next thing and a natural reward of keeping the house mess from getting overwhelming, and is a habit.

Since they pick up a toy before playing with something else or clean up after brushing their teeth before putting on jammies, they never (okay, almost never) leave a mess behind. I simply remind them. "Oh, sorry, you can't watch a cartoon until you pick up your blocks." Often, I don't have to even do that because it has become such a habit.

As a bonus, my kids almost never have to clean their bedrooms unless we have company. The rooms just stay fairly neat. If things get a little out of control, we will make them clean the rooms before it gets overwhelming.

2. Split up the obligations at meals

Mom cooks and puts away leftovers. Dad clears the table of salt, pepper, and any extras, like butter. Dad also wipes down the table. The kids scrape the plates into the trash can and put them in the sink. It's automatic at this point.

When the kids see that everyone is contributing and the family is all working together, they feel like things are fair. Fairness goes a long way towards avoiding fights.

3. Do daily chores together

The seven year old unloads and loads the dishwasher, relines trash cans, and cleans out the dryer lint filter. The five year old unloads silverware, gathers shoes from all over the house, brings clothes from all hampers into main hamper, loads the washer and dryer (after Mom sorts), and gathers all trash cans on trash day. They must do these chores before playing.

These chores are expected, but it does make it easier if Mom and Dad are doing our chores at the same time. Forcing myself to be a good example has really changed my own attitude towards chores.

4. Extra chores are reserved for earning money or as punishment.

I actually keep a list of occasional and unusual chore ideas, like cleaning out the microwave or cleaning baseboards in a certain room, in my planner.

The kids can earn a dollar on Saturdays by asking to do and completing one of these chores. Notice that they have to take the initiative. 

Since they are above and beyond the normal chores, the kids seem to think of it as a job and take it very seriously. These chores are purely optional, unless, of course, someone mouths off or is mean to others. Then they must be done before any playing can be done.

My favorite consequence is to have them scrub one square of kitchen floor tile, on their hands and knees, for each word they speak after being told to quit being mouthy. (That, people, is brilliance. Shuts them right up.)

5. Kids are in charge of their stuff, which can be found on their kitchen chair.

Anything on the kitchen chair before dinner must be picked up before you eat.

In my house, as soon as my kids could toddle, I'd bring them their socks, open the drawer, and teach them to put their socks away. Now that they are older, I fold the laundry, but I just put it on their kitchen chairs and they have to put it away before sitting down for supper. If a spare toy gets left out, I do not put it away. I put it on their kitchen chair. When I get done processing their school bags, the bags go on their kitchen chair and must be hung up before they can eat.

That's pretty much it. If my husband and I were as disciplined as I am with the kids, our house would be perfectly neat. 

My hope, of course, is that the kids will grow up without having to struggle to be neat. I'm already seeing it. Their rooms are constantly neater than mine and struggles over chores rarely happen in my house. It's so much more pleasant than constantly demanding that kids clean up.

We don't have a chore chart, because our routines and habits take care of chores. You only need to write it down if you need to remember to do it - and my kids remember internally. They are carefully trained. Hopefully, their habits will serve them well.



Anonymous said...

This is brilliant!! I have a 5yo and a 1yo. Can you please tell me more about the chores for a 5yo? How to start it? From monday till friday she is at school from 8:45am till 3:30pm. How to manage that with the chores? When back home after school, just before 4pm, the time just seems to disappear!! And soon is bed time. Help, please??

Giftie Etcetera said...

When Loki (5) walks in the door (right at about 4 p.m., BTW), he does his chores immediately while I go through his school bag. Note that he only has some quick chores. At 4, that meant putting shoes nicely in a row in the living room and grabbing laundry from all the rooms for the main laundry basket. It took about 5 minutes. It teaches him the habit, but he doesn't spend all afternoon doing chores (which would be unfair). Now, I've added unloading the silverware.

Also, start transitioning between activities with clean up time now. I bet the 5 year old does it at school anyway.

Walk in the house - do chores and hang up school bag before having snack.

After snack - clean crumbs off table, put snack bowl in sink

After playing with blocks - pick up all blocks and return to their home in room

You see how we do it? I promise they already know from school! :)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, simply brilliant.

KellySG said...

Love this post! I'm trying to instill these things in my 3 yo. He is at the age where he loves having "jobs". Number 5 is genius- Will be implementing tomorrow.

donnamcbroomtheriot said...

Brilliance! Bravo! I laugh when I read your posts because you remind me so much of my younger self. Great job! Donna

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of things going on their chair. I would need a very big chair!

Unknown said...

This is brilliant! My son is 26. Think it's too late? :-)

Brianna said...

Your future daughters-in-law will absolutely cherish you!!