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Your Children And Chores: Removing The Conflict

The great power struggle of household chores can be contained with these steps. Set aside some time to create one simple tool, and chores can happen with far fewer conflicts. Really.

Chores. Just the word brings up resentment and rebellion in children and frustration in the parents. Why, why, why is it so hard for the children to just put the towels in the washer or unload the dishwasher or run the vacuum cleaner? What is the issue? Just do it, for heaven's sake!

The issue is pretty straightforward: they really don't see the mess. Honestly. They don't view the socks on the floor or the unmade bed or the unrinsed dishes in the sink as a problem. You may realize that homes run more smoothly when clutter is contained and dirt is washed away, but your children do not have the cognitive ability to see this. They really do not. They are not able to anticipate the future. So while you see the next meal that will require a clean kitchen to prepare, or baseball uniforms that must be clean for the game on Saturday they see... well, nothing. Nothing at all.

Your job is to help them to realize that too much clutter and dirt is unacceptable just as you teach them other things. You teach them to brush their teeth even when they don't want to. Why do you do this? Because it is good. They take baths for the same reason. Household chores fall into this category. We keep our homes clean and tidy because it is healthier and less stressful to live this way.

The problem:

I find that most parents begin by simply doling out chores to their children arbitrarily. In other words, one day you decide that your child should do something that you have never required of them before. Many parents also neglect to teach how the chores should be done, which means the child will always do it wrong. Always. And your child knows this. They feel that they're being set up to fail.

Most parents also forget to underscore the benefits of doing household chores, meaning that your children have no motivation at all. They simply know that their parents are frustrated with them. They have no idea what is expected of them, and yet they have somehow failed. Let a few years go by in this manner and neither parent nor child knows how to fix this. That is why you create a simple tool kit for chores. If you follow the instructions,you could very quickly see a difference.

The solution:

  • Begin by sitting down alone and making a list of the chores that must be done to keep your home clean to your level of comfort. Be realistic. Be honest. Give this some thought, and write this list down. You will need it in step three.

  • Next, divide this list into daily chores, weekly chores, monthly chores, and occasional (or quarterly) chores. Again, don't do this in a hurry. Put some thought to it. Be real.

  • Purchase, or dig out of your old school supply stash, an index card storage box and a pack of multi colored index cards. Each color will represent one category of chores. Daily can be blue, weekly green, monthly yellow, quarterly pink. Do you see where I'm going with this?

  • Write each chore on one color coded card complete with simple instructions for what the expectation is. You could include a picture of how things look when it is correctly done.

  • Each day, set on the kitchen counter or table all the daily chore cards and enough of the weekly chore cards so everyone gets one. Monthly chore cards are divided so that everyone does one of these each week or whatever it takes to get them all done.

  • Invite everyone to come each day and choose however many cards it takes to make sure all are taken. You choose last. You get to do the chores no one else wants to do. That's because you are the grownup. Let everyone know that these chores must be done by the end of the day, or whatever time you choose. Then walk away with your chore cards and stop talking. Do your chores and put your cards back in the box when you have completed them.

  • You may, for awhile, reserve the right to inspect the work before the others can put their cards back in the box. But once their cards are back in the box they are done.

Embrace the start up process. It is a bit time and thought consuming but, if you will commit to this, in two short weeks everyone will be in the habit of picking up their cards, doing the chores and putting the cards back. You see, what you are doing is eliminating the arguments. You are no longer nagging.You are laying out what it takes to keep your home functioning properly. You are, essentially, taking yourself out of the chore assignment equation. The expectations are clear; discussions are irrelevant.

It helps to begin with the home set up the way you want it. Perhaps take some time this summer to go through toys and clothes and knick-knacks and throw away things that are not useful. Clean the house until you are satisfied. Decide how many tee shirts and pants, socks and underwear each person needs and then get rid of extras. Any plastic toy that your child received through a drive through window can be thrown away immediately. Simplify the stuff and you simplify the chores.

Your children absolutely should be doing household chores. It builds responsibility and gives them the sense that they are needed in the family. These goals are only accomplished, however, if you are teaching these things intentionally. Stop yelling. Start assigning. This system works.

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