Someone recently solicited advice on chores. Oh my! I fear I'm the LAST person to give advice on this one. It's only been in the past year or so (with children ages 8, 6.5, 4, and 1.5 years) that I've seriously attempted this daunting task.
I would read blogs or magazines or books about getting kids to do chores and snidely laugh my ass off. Get them to do chores? Are you f*cking kidding me?! I can't get my Aspie to eat, toilet, or dress without hours-long tantrums, and you think I'm gonna get her to help with the dishes or laundry?!? Same problem with these articles that I had with that first ill-fated preschool....include her in more daily activities of life, my ass. Just didn't fit my reality. Not even close. And, I just didn't feel right about making the others do it if she wasn't capable. Like I need that headache.
So, for a year or better now, I've tried a few systems. I did a system for awhile where they could opt to do chores or not. If they did opt to do them, then they earned stickers. 5 stickers got them a grab bag (a brown lunch sack that I filled with a piece of candy; a quarter; a little toy; a homemade coupon for a fun activity, like a jack-o-lantern manicure by mom or the like; a printable paper doll set or maze or the like). The middle two LOVED it; the eldest, in typical fashion, could've given a shit.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
I also tried chore bucks. Same result.
I tried adding tokens for chores to build onto our regular token jar. Same result. (And I'll post about the token system later.)http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
I triple <3 the "Love and Logic" series, and I use a lot of those strategies generally. I plan to use a LOT of those techniques when the kids are a bit older...having a family meeting to map out the chores it takes to run our household, set a deadline, pay not for their own but for doing someone else's, etc. For now, I like the control of telling them what to do when with limited choice.
So, for now, this is what we do.
I follow an AWESOME blog of an amazing lady who homeschools 7 and has great ideas for managing a houseful. Jessica Fischer at Life As Mom. Definitely worth a look: she's revolutionized meals and housekeeping around here. Thank GOD!
She uses a "high-five" with her kids, including this super cute printable. That printable bombed over here; it's for babies, didn't you know?!? But the concept rocks.
Basically, I have five tasks that I like/need them to do every morning and every evening so that I don't lose my shit while trying to get two on the bus, one to preschool, and keep a baby quiet. You'll use whatever five are meaningful to you, of course, but these are what I use.
Morning High 5
(1) make bed (meaning pull the sheets roughly up to the pillow)
(2) put jammies on pillow
(3) get dressed
(4) lay out tomorrow's clothes
(5) brush teeth.
Evening High 5
(1) unpack backpack and hang on hook (which includes taking lunchbox to sink)
(2) put shoes in bin
(3) finish homework by 6:30
(4) do a kitchen chore
(5) clean up "spots" (their "spot" on the couch and seat at the table where they dump and dump and dump all their junk, leave their laundry, spill their crumbs...you know the "spot").
No allowance for these High 5s; they are just the basic price of admission to get free room and board around here. But, if the kids don't do them or don't get them done in a timely fashion (before 8 am when bus panic starts or before 7 pm when my desire to get them to bed intensifies exponentially), they lose a privilege (screen time at the next available opportunity, book and songs, whatever is meaningful to the particular offender).
For the kitchen chore in the evening high 5 and for any extra chore a child wants to do, I give a sticker. Looks a little something like this. Although 4A's are in a notebook because she's terrified that her troop mates will see it at Girl Scout meetings, which I hold in our home, and think she's a baby. Kids can put stickers on, you can put them on...who gives a shit really as long as the chores are accomplished, right?
Kitchen chores around here look like this:
(1) spray and wipe counters (we use Method antibacterial spray, but you could do wter and white vinegar for little ones)
(2) spray and wipe table
(3) sweep or dustbuster the kitchen floor (or hold dustpan while someone else sweeps)
(4) empty trash and recycle (this is kind of a drag; they like to do it, but it requires a lot of help from me)
(5) wash pots and pans (this is a huge favorite of theirs)
(6) pack lunches (4A won't let anyone pack hers because she's afraid the smell of Doritos or bologna that the others like will transfer to her food)
(7) wipe the trashcan down
And, sometimes, when they're looking for something different, I'll assign them something I noticed was super dirty or something on my never-ending to-do list for the week. Some examples of these are dusting the banister, wiping fingerprints off the bathroom door jam, cleaning his or her chair at the kitchen table, wiping off the washer or dryer doors, wiping down the front of the dishwasher or oven or fridge. The key for us is variety. When I've tried to make a list of chores they need to be responsible for in a week, it's a mess; I spend too much time reminding, and they spend too much time whining. Neither is fun.
We try to have homework done before 6:30, and then we do these kitchen chores right before we go up for baths or showers at 7. If we're in a super rush, we'll do "one wipe" chores, meaning I assign them something they can accomplish with just one Clorox wipe. They LOVE these. I've also had them run each other's baths, give the baby her bottle, read to a younger sibling, entertain the baby while I make supper, fill a diapers or wipes stash...anything it takes to make my life more manageable. And, on Saturdays, we don't do chores. Everyone needs some R&R.
For each sticker, the kid earns a certain amount of money. BUT, on payday, they give 1/2 the money back to us for their savings account. I've taken way too many kids to Target way too many times and watched them get the thing they had money for but not what they actually wanted, so this is my attempt to help them learn the power of saving. And, we don't have a set pay schedule; we usually try to do it before a family trip to the mall or Target. And, 4C almost always uses her money to buy presents for friends. It's about the sweetest thing imaginable, and I have no idea where she got the idea or why she does it, but I LOVE that about her!
I must say that two solid months into it now, it's working like solid gold. The chores are a part of our daily routine, I'm not getting a single complaint about doing them, often times they're looking to do more, and I find them much more willing to pitch in generally.
And, here's a little unsolicited advice...try not to care too much if they don't do it right, and BY ALL MEANS, don't redo what they've done, even if they've half-assed it. If it's something you really care about, either do it with them the first few times to show them how you want it done or just don't let them do that particular task. Who needs the aggravation? I am a purposefully non-fastidious housekeeper, and I intentionally chose to let a LOT of things go. If that's not your style, then limit the types of chores that you give them. The whole goal here is to get them helping and get you chilling. Whatever it takes, my friend; don't turn this into a chore for you or them.