4 Moms Teach Children to Work

moms of many manageWelcome to this weeks edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage.  This week we’re talking about teaching your children to do their chores.

Be sure to read how the other 4 Moms tackle this adventure:

KimC at Life in a Shoe
Connie at Smockity Frocks
Headmistress at The Common Room

Teaching children to do their chores is all about teaching children to work.  And teaching children to work is all about diligence and self-control and that task is life-long.

It’s not rocket science to give a child a cloth and have them dust beside you while you explain what you’re doing.  It’s not hard to teach a child how to run a vacuum, mop a floor or wipe out the sinks.  (I have posted  specifics of how we train our children to do household tasks and what tasks are appropriate for what ages)   The challenge with chore training is to get them to accomplish their assigned tasks quickly, cheerfully and completely.

The first 2-3 years of our children’s lives we’re working on teaching them NOT to do things that they shouldn’t and then we spend the next 8-10 years teaching them to diligently DO the things that they should.  At least it seems so in our house.

Teaching self control and diligence is a monumental task and while a few of our children can be relied upon to accomplish their responsibilities with diligence, it hasn’t happened overnight.  Galatians 6 says,

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Keep on, keeping on, the reward for perseverance in this area will bring  a lifetime of benefit to your child.  An employer can easily train an employee to accomplish a task, but they are not able to change the character of a lazy person.

There are two main principles we use when it comes to training diligence in chores.

Be clear. Explain precisely to your children what you expect of them and the amount of time that you expect it to take.

For children who can read, checklists are invaluable.  Simply list all the things that the child should do in order to complete the chore.  Depending upon the age/maturity of the child you may list more  or less specific steps.   (i.e. A young child’s list may include the particular steps for making their bed and putting their pajamas away.  For an older child you may simply write clean bedroom.)

We allot 30 minutes for chores every morning and set a timer when we begin.  When the timer goes off, it’s time for me to check how everyone did.  Having a deadline prevents the idler from idling, or at least alerts you to the fact that the child is not being diligent.

Be consistent. For quality, consistent results check chores every. single. day.  In the beginning you may find it helpful to look at their checklist and to explain your standard more thoroughly.  You may find that there are things that you should add to the checklist and there may be things to remove.  If a portion of their responsibility is unacceptable have them fix it right away and/or require them to redo their chore during what would otherwise be free time.

I can’t emphasize how important it is to check those chores every single day.  Knowing that they will be required to give an account for their work is one of the most effective way to help them build good work habits.

Over the years we’ve also discovered some tricks that have helped us and our children to achieve a high standard of work consistently.

1. Plan strategically. Scheduling chore time immediately before a meal or snack can work wonders on helping children accomplish their tasks on time.   Our kids tend to be motivated by food, but you could schedule chores immediately before anything that the child values and see improved speed.

Of course, our ultimate goal is that our children would do their work with the vision of bringing honor and glory to God, but sometimes food helps us get started along that road (and hunger is a God ordained motivation for work).

2. Be positive. One of the signs that you have your child’s heart is that they desire to please you, so giving them plenty of positive feedback during this training is vital.

Here are a couple of ways we’ve done this:

  • Praise, praise, praise – This is obvious, but often as the children are learning to work hard there is a lot of correction that needs to be communicated.  Don’t neglect communicating the correction, just couch it in lots of praise.
  • Delay instruction – If there is something that the child didn’t do up to your standard (but you can see that they did attempt to do it),  simply praise them for their effort and then BEFORE they do that task the next day give them instruction on how to get it up to your standard.
  • Reward a job well done – Often this is a natural result of their diligence and I simply point it out.  “Thank you kids for your hard work this week in keeping the house clean.  Because of your help we have time to….. (go to the park, make cookies, etc.)”  Sometimes we make an effort to point out and reward those who are excelling  “Several of you children have been doing an amazing job on chores so you all are going to stay up late and play a game with Mom and Dad.

3. Work together. Children generally love the opportunity to work alongside their parents, so doing housework while your children are is a bonus.  Now that my children are older and all portions of the house have been assigned to someone, it would be my preference to sit down and get some of my planning or computer work started, but I’ve found that chores generally go more smoothly if I’m up and working alongside the children.

I generally work on laundry, do a bit of deep cleaning or help those whose area seems to be in the most need. The children LOVE it when I decide to do some deep cleaning in their area and inevitably talk my ear off.  It’s just another opportunity to build relationships with these special people God has entrusted to my care.

4. Did I mention that you should check their work every. single. day? :)

5. Have patience – I do not always demonstrate diligence and self-control and remembering that helps me to be more patient when my children fail.

They will fail and I will fail, but it is reacting to that failure (as well as to success) in a way that brings honor and glory to God that is our goal and our purpose in life.

Be sure to visit the other moms of many to read their thoughts and ideas:
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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9 Responses to 4 Moms Teach Children to Work
  1. pam
    December 30, 2010 | 8:49 am

    You know I use to have a friend who had her kids alot of chores and I thought man those kids are always doing chores. Then I had four kids and realized how much work it is to have our children do those chores. I so agree with everything you said. Our children need to know how to run a household when they get older or even on the days that mom can not

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  2. Rachel
    December 30, 2010 | 9:23 am

    You make excellent points. One of my favorites is the idea of being clear. So often I’ll just tell my kids to do something, and not give clear expectations, and then get frustrated that it wasn’t done how I wanted it. And I didn’t tell them! So thank you for reminding me.

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  3. Aron
    December 30, 2010 | 9:25 am

    This is very similar to what we do. Except we have chore time after each meal. Helps me remember as well as them. at first it felt like a lot, but we homeschool, so we are here more and I consider it part of their education. With #6 on the way, there is no way I could do it all alone.

    Currently I have 3 independent chore do-ers, and 2 in training. When we all work together, it is amazing how fast we can whip the house into shape :D

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  4. Samantha
    December 30, 2010 | 10:39 am

    With 6 kids, I need to let go of my type A and let them do A LOT more than I do! Thanks!

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  5. Rebecca Burgener
    December 30, 2010 | 10:57 am

    I struggle most with consistency, like checking daily if chores are completed. Thank you, All 4 Moms, for this encouragement.

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  6. meg
    December 30, 2010 | 11:49 am

    The idea of delayed instruction is brilliant. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Jamie (@va_grown)
    December 30, 2010 | 11:50 am

    I find that working parallel with them keeps me in a position to check their work, instruct and praise as we go. But mine are younger (6, 4, and 3) and need the supervision anyway. It’s great to point out that it’s a bonding time as well! I find doing chores together to be an excellent time to talk about having a servant’s heart, serving our families, expressing gratitude by our care, and serving cheerfully. Those important teaching moments and conversations just seem to naturally flow out of the work you’re doing together!

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  8. Tina Greer
    December 31, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    We are so grateful to you for all the hard work you put into helping me be the mommy God is wanting. Although there is so much room for improvement, you are always there to lend a helping hand. You are such a blessing to our family and I am convinced it would be very difficult without your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am hoping to be able to meet you at the Cross Country meets in the fall. Happy New Year and I pray we can be on the journey of teaching our children THE WAYS God has before us in the new year. :-)

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you for your encouragement. It would be wonderful to meet you!

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