Let’s face it: Getting the household chores done is not on the top of anyone’s fun list. Even adults sometimes have trouble tackling the day to day tasks that keep a home running.
So, why should we expect our kids to do them? Off the top of my head, I can think of several reasons.
Kids love feeling proud of themselves. Ask a 3-year-old to help you sweep the kitchen floor with a fun kid-sized broom (my son also has a kid-sized dust pan and brush) and show him the clean floor afterwards and you will surly see a huge smile.
I asked my 5-year-old to pull out the weeds that had grown in some cracks and she went to work like her life depended on it. When I told her to step back and look at how much nicer the patio looked from her hard work, she was thrilled and asked me what else she could do to help.
Growing up, my parents expected us to wash the cars if we wanted to drive them, which we did. We had the cleanest cars in the neighborhood.
Rewards for a job well done are confidence builders and help to get the job done. I’m not talking about financial reward, however but more about that later. I am not a huge fan of paying kids to do the day-to-day things that need to keep a house running. Setting the dinner table, taking out the trash, making your bed, keeping your room clean and cleaning up after yourself are all things that everyone should do without being told and without expecting money in return.
However, when these things are done on a regular basis without nagging, then a reward of more books at bedtime, more time with Mom or Dad or a trip to their favorite park is a great way of saying, “I appreciate what you do to keep the house looking nice." Another reward I use with my kids is allowing them to make a decision. Sometimes it is deciding what’s for dinner the next night, and other times it is deciding the weekend activities.
Obviously chores teach responsibility, but taking it a bit further, chores teach responsibility towards the family. We all live together under the same roof and, when we keep the things under that roof clean and organized, we not only help ourselves but we also help everyone else living in the house.
I was looking at the massive pile of clean clothes in my room the other day and talking out loud about how long it was going to take to put it all away when my daughter, possibly knowing my delay in getting it put away would delay her play time with me, offered to help me. I accepted her offer and together we got the work done. Through chores, kids can learn they are responsible for their space and also that when you pull together to help those around you everyone gets done faster. Also, it is just plain nice.
So now you are convinced, I hope, that chores are great for kids of all ages. Now let’s talk about the bigger jobs that may demand a little more sweat and thus a little more reward.
This is where I think, at a certain age, a one-time financial reward or an allowance is a good idea. I think when to start an allowance is kid-specific but a financial reward for a job well done can not only bring the dream of buying something, but can also be a lesson in financial responsibility.
My daughter has her own wallet and decided to spend some of her money recently. We took a walk down to and, ironically, she chose a kid-sized broom. We had a great teaching moment when she gave a ten dollar bill to the cashier and was handed several one dollar bills back.
She said, “Wow, when I want more money I just go buy something and I’ll get more dollar bills back!" That led into a lesson on making change. Later that day ,she saw a book at she wanted only to find she didn’t have enough money to buy it. I reminded her that she decided to get the broom and the book would have to wait until next time. Needless to say she has been asking for special jobs to do to earn more money to get that book.
My point is that, while she is too young for an allowance in my opinion she, isn’t too young for a financial reward for a special job well done, such as helping me clean out the garage, organizing the toy closet or sorting through old clothes for donation.
Chores are a bore, but I make it very matter-of-fact in our house, explaining certain things need to get done every day and, if they do not, then we don’t get to do all of the really fun things.
In the end, it all needs to get done, so you can either do it all yourself or start setting up a chore chart (Mom and Dad included) that shares the responsibility of maintaining a house.