Saturday, October 25, 2008

Helping Around the House

Chores which I like to think of more as just helping around the house, are a part of my children's lives as much as they are a part of mine and Johns. In order for a family to function there are things that need to be done. The dishes must be cleaned, the clothes washed, the trash taken out, and the floor swept. Of course these are just to name a few, but the point is that a home needs to be kept up in order for things to run smoothly. If dishes were not washed then what would you eat on? Same with washing clothes. If the trash wasn't taken out, it would smell and most certainly attract bugs and rodents.

Now I know that I don't need to tell any of you this , but I did have to explain this at some point to all of my children. As a family we work together to help keep our home clean and tidy. This is something that John and I fully believe in---- children need to learn at an early age that contributing to the family by helping out is important and the responsible thing to do. And just like I don't get paid for washing my kids clothes, my children do not get paid for their everyday chores.

But how many chores do they do? Oh--- they do their fair share, and by that I mean, they do chores before school and after and before bed. Now you can say that is alot of chores, but my argument would be, what do you consider a chore? Is fixing your bed in the morning a chore? If so you can count that as one. Is putting away your pajamas and hanging up your towel after your shower considered a chore? If so, add two more to the list. Is cleaning up the breakfast dishes you helped to make also considered a chore? If so add another one. I'm sure you get the point.

But what is cool about our family is that, we have a routine and so chores are not that big of a deal. Take the morning for instance. When we get up for school there are certain expectations--- everyday, like straighten the living room, unload the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, pack lunches, feed the dogs, and take out the trash above and beyond the normal fixing the bed stuff. When it is done simultaneously and cooperatively by all of the older kids it only takes 10 minutes or so when they work together. That's all. And by them doing this, it allows me to help pack their lunches, fix hair, pretest them before school if they have a big test, and discuss appointments for the day. Most mornings things go really well because the kids work together and they end up having at least 15 minutes of free time.

Only two years ago, I used to have my boys do boy chores meaning just trash and yardwork stuff and my girls do women's work like dishes and sweeping and such. Phooey!

How wrong was I and what exactly was I hoping to teach my kids back then? That my boys should never help their wives in the kitchen when they get married because it is women's work? Or that my daughters should not grow up to help their husbands in the yard because it is a mans job? How silly, since John and I are not that way. I am so glad that something clicked inside of me because I realized how important it is to teach my kids to learn to do all chores around the house so that one day they can be out on their own and they won't be calling me to ask how to prune a bush or wash a load of clothes. They will be able to do whatever needs to be done around the house because they will know how to do it and it won't even be a big deal doing it because they will be used to doing it as part of their everyday routine.

Here is Caleb sweeping up his cereal spill. Accidents are not a big deal--- they happen, but if you make a mess you clean it up--- this starts around age five in our home, but of course at that age there is alot of supervision with the clean-up. Oh, and I do not expect my kids to clean up glass until they are 10 and up and they know to run and put on shoes if something breaks before they start sweeping it up.

Recently I had to sit down with all of my kids and explain how I was tired of my van being a trash can. Yes I had had it with the trash all over the floor and yes I raised my voice. The kids had to clean out my car and I let them all know that if everything wasn't taken out of the van each and every time we got home from going somewhere and I found it on the floor, computer would be taken away from everyone for a week. This may sound unfair since the older kids don't necessarily do this, but there is no reason that they cannot take a second out of their life to remind a sibling to grab their paper or candy wrapper or jacket up off the floor as everyone is getting out. It is called looking out for one another and holding each other accountable. Actually, it has worked out beautifully and I have only had one piece of trash left on the floor in almost two weeks and that time I gave grace because it only happened that once in which my opinion made it deserving of grace.

One day Rachel didn't want to do her chore and she decided to tell me how unfair it was that she had to vacuum while Annalyn only had to fold a load of clothes. Of course she didn't realize that Annalyn would also be helping to set the table--- making it fair, but really that wasn't her business anyway. For arguing with me, she got another chore and her face was priceless so I grabbed the camera so that I could take her picture and later show her her sour-puss face. We later laughed at it when we were going through the pictures and she did apologize. Laughter is so healing and does the spirit wonders, by the way.

Sveta has pretty basic chores, but she does them well. She usually always makes juice from concentrate--- this time I had to show her how to measure the powder for lemonade. She likes being able to say that she made the drink for our meal.

Adam has really changed this year. For the most part (except mowing the lawn) he is always very helpful with little to no lip service--- a huge change from last year. However, I am not saying that he enjoys it--- just look at his face.
Adam and Caleb wash dishes too, just like Julia has learned to mow the lawn.

I praise them often for being such awesome role models for their younger brothers. And speaking of younger brothers, even Jonny has little chores like helping carry in groceries, putting away shoes or jackets, and picking up toys around the house.


  1. Johnny also likes helping at Grandpa's. His favorite things to do are testing (with supervision)the chemical balance in the pool and bringing in the 5 gallon jugs of water. He puts the jug on its side and rolls it into the kitchen. It makes him feel like the strongest kid in the world.

  2. I agree whole heartedly with the "chores". My children do them aswell. They are responsible for there own rooms aswell as helping my husband and I in the house and yard. Even little Jack has to pick up and put away his cars himself.
    I think I will have to try your way with the car, its always left to me to clean and get everything out of on the weekends.

  3. Our kids get a bit upset when I don't make things 'even'. They do not like it when I point out that Brian is bigger and can reach to do the fun things, or Honor is smaller and can not do other things. It will balance out. My kids were handicapped a bit from our having a maid. The maid could not stand to leave work done at 'kid-level' quality, and I could never get her to just leave things for the kids to do. Since I've quit to stay home, the kids are learning to do more of their own work, and have progressed well. I do not demand perfection from a 7 or 5yo, but grade on readiness to help. I am also willing to let clutter and other messes 'slide' (for now).. I think it is a valuable lesson. They ask where a certain toy is and I can ask back, did you put it away? No? hmm? They ask if they can get something else out. I ask, do you have room to play with it, or is the last toy still out? hmm? Rather than give them the answers, they have to see for themselves why having a messy room is bad, and how nice it is to have a neat and organized room. I also see that they are gaining pride in their work with this 'before' and 'after' process, and that they like the freedom of being responsible for their own spaces. Yes.. that means we sometimes live in total chaos, but I'm ok with that as long as I see them learning. We're getting there.

  4. We work very similar around here. Although I don't have too many "big" boys yet like you do!

  5. We all help around here too. When our boys were young they traded areas once a week. 1 did bathrooms, 1 did living room, 1 did kitchen and 1 did laundry. I helped each one and then we traded. They are all very helpful husbands.:)
    When the girls came, it was interesting teaching them, starting at older ages that we all chip in and help and it isn't a punishment. It can be fun!
    (we are still working on that sometimes)
    BUT.... I have to say, they are doing awesome. I do things differently with them, as we have some different needs. And then, as of right now, we are way down in the help area because Erika doesn't have feet right now and Sarah has a cast on her arm AND her leg.... Anna has more to do. But.... Erika can still help with some things and believe it or not, Sarah made a double bed all week and alphabetized the DVD cabinet and polished the furniture! Yea. :)

    The biggest thing we struggle with is the car, and making sure clothes get put away properly.

    (I struggle with that one myself)
    Sometimes it is easier when I'm tired to put it on the chair for tomorrow) Then, tomorrow comes and it is still there. Yikes. Bad example. :(

    Saturdays the girlies do dishes after breakfast, make beds etc. then do clean up outside. Picking up trash, cleaning the goat barn, and making sure sticks from trees etc. are put on the wood pile.
    (this was a HUGE struggle for Sarah when she first came. She thought she was being punished) When she saw all of us working together and having fun, she changed her feelings about it, and now it is no problem. :)

  6. Chores are an important part of being a family! How do you bond as a group without working together for the good of all?-You can't! My kids get their own laundry basket for their 3rd birthday, and their first chore-taking the laundry to the washer every morning. They feel like big kids, and we all thank them for their hard work!

  7. I grew up with a lot of responsibility and chores (as an only child) since my mom ran the EKG dept. at our local hospital. I cleaned and cooked but was not expected to do yardwork but for snow shoveling. My dad had had a heart attack before I was even born so we did not want him shoveling snow. My daughter was raised with chores and expected to do them too. I firmly believe in them and what you are doing with your children. So many people are helpless when they graduate from college and have their first apartment if they did not grow up learning from chores.

  8. Someday, the boys' wives will thank you!
    I think it's so important for chidren to learn to help out. I grew up the oldest of 3 girls and my parents were business owners--meaning long hours! We did all the chores and didn't know if they were boy or girl chores. Just did them. Ted had to learn stuff too. His mom and dad did this future wife a huge favor because there is no question of who does what--we just get it done. Between crazy work hours (me--the nurse) and kids' activities, time is valuable. And I do have to say--Ted is an awesome cook!

  9. You have such a gift not only for mothering, but for organization and execution!! I am sooo envious.

  10. Ah yes! My house would not function without each & every child having chores, even Emma & Will. (of course, seeing how they are only two, they only have to try to put their toys away, but you know what I mean)
    I am glad you feel the same way and boys can do "women's work" and vice versa. Here too!

  11. I would love to know how responsibilities are handled when they are "forgotten". I find myself reminding my children to do things that they know are expected. This gets old very quickly, and I know there is a better way. I really enjoy reading your blog. You inspire me to be a better mom.

  12. Thanks for the inspiration Christine. J has chores. A couple every day that are done "as we go through the day" (wiping the table, trash). On Saturday she has 4 additional chores that she can do in 20/30 minutes (and has) but she chooses to take 9 or more hours. Any ideas how to speed up a radical kid? (the phrase "please do it slower doesn't work").

  13. It is so awesome that you get such cooperation from the kids. I feel much less overwelmed when my family pitches in alongside me. It feels like, "hey, we really can do this!"


I find your comments so inspiring! Thanks for visiting our family blog, and sharing your thoughts.