By Dr. Gwen Smith
Life at home can be so much more pleasurable when everyone pulls his or her own weight and you are not feeling stressed out over a continuously messy and disorganized home. From as early as four (even younger) your child can be taught age-appropriate chores. They can pick up their toys when they are done playing with them; they can put their clothes in the appropriate location such as a hamper; they can remove their utensils from the table and place them in the dishwasher; they can sort their clothes, be taught how to load a washing machine and dry their clothes, they can be taught how to hang the clothes up after drying and they can be taught to clean up after themselves.
Years ago when my husband and I got married, we had six children in the household! I tried to play super mom taking care of everything the first couple of weeks, however, I could not last. As a professional and a mom, I was continuously drained each Sunday (our laundry day) with little time to plan and prepare for my week. As far as preparing the meals on that day, I could hardly find time and energy to do that. It took me just a little while and I knew that things had to change immediately.
I gathered the children together and announced that we were going to have chores for each person; everyone was going to be assigned. They were not thrilled. However, they were allowed to pick their chores according to age and preference. They rotated some weeks. Every single child, except for the youngest ones who were five at the time, did his or her own laundry. We set up a chart to track the chores and the kids were responsible for checking them off. Allowances were paid on the basis of completion so they learned to earn money instead of having it handed to them. If a chore was neglected, another child could pick up that chore and be paid the allowance that was forfeited by their sibling. We did not have trouble finding someone to pick up the slack! They loved getting the extra dollars.
Initially the plan did not work as well because there was no accountability of time, and also, sometimes areas were not cleaned as well as they should. We placed a timeline when the work should get done and a spent some time modeling and training on what was expected for the areas to be acceptable as clean. Eventually the process flowed like a well-oiled machine and everyone made their contribution to their home.
They learned the value of contributing to community, and they also learned to earn as they kept up with the responsibilities they were assigned. And for those who lost income because they neglected their duties, they also learned a valuable lesson: if you don’t work you don’t get paid.
What a fantastic lesson they have all carried successfully into adulthood!
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