Having kids equals chaos. Chaos puts the work in housework. Of course we all love our children dearly, but who knew they’d be so messy? When you have children, you can never count on how long your house will actually stay clean after you’ve cleaned it. A day? An hour? Less? Cleaning up after your kids does not have to take on a life of its own. By making a clean and organized home a priority for the entire family and by setting and sticking to household standards, you can avoid feeling more like Maid than Mom.
Children as young as two can learn to be organized. Household chores are not just for older children. Toddlers can learn to put away their toys, brush the dog, put their dirty clothes in the hamper and help to unload groceries. Always thank your child when they’ve completed a chore and praise them for doing it and doing it well (when deserved). The traditional chore chart on the fridge is a great parenting tool for positive reinforcement. Reward your child with a sticker on his chore chart next to the chore they’ve completed, when they get X number of stickers, they get a reward – a new book or toy, their favorite dinner, a trip to the movies, etc. The chore chart system can be tweaked and customized for your family to suite each child in the house.
Older children need regular household chores. Studies have shown that children who have chores at home get better grades, are more social and more confident than children who do not have chores. Children need a certain amount of responsibility and need to learn to be accountable for their actions. Requiring your children to do household chores will help them to be more well rounded (and organized!) as they grow. Older children can make their beds, keep their room organized and clean, dust and vacuum, wash dishes, feed pets, and water plants.
Your older children may be more apt to take their chores seriously if there are dollar signs involved. Base your child’s allowance on what you can afford, how many chores your child does and how well they do them. For instance, you can pay according to age (so an 8 year old would receive $8 per week). Or come up with a pricing system that works for you. Luckily, my 3 year old is quite happy with stickers.
When it’s possible, allow your child to choose chores that they like to do. Their response will be better because they will enjoy what they’re doing. My eight-year old loves to dust. I let her turn her music up a bit, hand her a damp rag and she goes to town. It’s a different story when it comes time for her to clear the table after dinner though, that’s like pulling teeth – without pain killers!
Do your children fight over who does what chores? Rotate chores from week to week so that your child isn’t stuck doing something he/she hates every week: This week Susie dusts and vacuums and Johnny takes out the trash and feeds the dog, next week it’s Susie’s turn to take out the trash and feed the dog and Johnny’s turn to dust and vacuum. Try not to base household chores on gender. There’s nothing wrong with your son having to wash dishes or do laundry and there’s nothing wrong with your daughter taking out the trash or washing the car. No housework is strictly for girls or strictly for boys. It may be helpful to remind your husband of that too. If rotating chores doesn’t work to stop bickering, try writing chores down on little pieces of paper and having your children pick their chores from a hat.
If your children don’t have chores, it’s not too late to start. Hold a family meeting and explain that you need their help to maintain the house and that effective immediately everyone is going to start pitching in. Introduce chore charts and allowance/reward systems and explain to each child what chores they’ll be responsible for, when each chore needs to be completed and if necessary, how to do it. Be sure to have consequences ready for chores that aren’t done and explain them in advance. In our house, if one chore is neglected or refused, it’s a done deal – no allowance, no negotiations. It may take a few weeks to get your family in full swing, but it will come together – I promise.
You are Mom, not Maid. You can ask for help and get it! Your children may not thank you for it now, but later on it will pay off for them – and for you! Make housework a part of your children’s routine and make yourself less stressed. Sit down and supervise for awhile …you knew you had kids for a reason.