In our home everyone contributes to the work of maintaining the house. We call them houseworks. I’m a stay at home mom but with three kids there’s always PLENTY of things to be done.
In the last six months we’ve chipped away at teaching the boys new tasks and including Alice in more “real” jobs, things which actually help clean up. The jobs aren’t tied to any rewards – they don’t earn treats, or money, or special prizes for doing things that are expected of them. Sometimes we’ll say certain houseworks need to be completed before they can have screen time but that’s about the only carrot stick situation we offer up.
Now that we’ve established that expectation and had a few years of working at it, things are running pretty smoothly. Yes, the boys will sometimes whine or complain about the work but we just answer with a simple “These are jobs which need to be done around the house. It might not be fun but it’s a way to contribute to the family and we know you can do it.” Sometimes the kids will refuse to do a job in the moment and that’s fine, we just leave them to it and eventually the work gets done.
Here’s our current list of things the kids each know how to do without assistance.
Alice (three years old)
Self Care Items:
Put dirty clothes into the clothing hamper
Hang coats and put shoes in the shoe bin.
Tidy floor of bedroom, putting books into basket and taking toys to the playroom.
Pick out pajamas to wear at night, pick out and lay out clothes to wear in the morning, self dress with minimal help.
Clear own dishes from the table after meals and put them next to the sink.
Set the table with dishes, napkins and silverware. Some items I have to get out of cupboard but she knows the proper placement of everything on the table.
Spray and wipe the kitchen table clean.
Mop the kitchen floor with water (a grown up helps them to get the mop head wet and set on the handle correctly).
Refill KCup pod holder (putting away supplies when finished).
Fold washcloths from the clean laundry pile (we use small square washcloths instead of paper towels for a lot of kitchen tasks).
Dust with a long handled swiffer duster
Spray windows and mirrors with a spray bottle of water and wipe dry with a wash cloth.
General clean up of all the “stuff” that messes up the house. We have open bins and baskets for toys and books making it easy for things to be picked off the floor and put away.
Graham and Miles (six years old)
All of the above plus
Refill napkin dispenser
Unload dishwasher and put everything away in it’s proper place
Help with clearing the table after dinner and putting leftovers into Tupperware and into the fridge.
Sweep up the kitchen floor.
Refill the toilet paper baskets in our three bathrooms.
Transfer laundry – pulling the bins from the bedrooms, dumping laundry in laundry room, putting bins back.
Match socks and fold from clean laundry pile
Clear the stairs taking everything upstairs that has accumulated on the staircase.
Clean the kids’ bathroom (clear counters, wipe out sink and counter, clean mirror, put everything back where it belongs).
They sometimes help with trash gathering on our trash days.
Bringing in some groceries from the car (I don’t do this one as much as they probably could).
Last week the boys came home from school and wanted screen time. I reminded them we don’t have screen time on Thursdays and Graham sweetly responded “What if we do houseworks Mommy? Can we have screen time then?” Since I wasn’t planning to ask them to work around the house it was too hard to say no.
“That sounds like a great idea Graham!” And off they went. Even Alice got in on the action when she saw her brothers motivate around the house cleaning up.
Miles cleaned the kids’ bathroom.
Graham unloaded the dishwasher while Alice refilled the KCup coffee pods and put the supplies away.
To implement this system in your home start when everyone is calm and you’re not in a rush. Talk about how you’re going to teach them a new job (or work) they can do to help out with the house.
I typically wait until there’s a job needing to be done on a weekend and then take one kid and walk them through the steps of doing a job. I’ll talk about what I’m doing it as I’m doing it. Sometimes I’ll start showing them the technique I want them to do then I turn it over to them to finish the job and I’ll stand back and let them work. For the most part I try to let them do the job however they want to do it and only correct them if what they’re doing isn’t going to give the right result. (If they want to wipe the mirror in circles instead of up and down that’s fine as long as the end result is clean with no spots.)
Then we step back and I talk through how the finished job looks “Now you can see the mirror has no splashes of tooth paste, the trash is in the bin, and the counter tops are clean and tidy.” The next time it comes around to doing the job I give them the tools they need and leave them be. Then when they say they’re done I come back for an “inspection” and we talk about anything that was missed. After a couple rounds they will be able to do a new job all by themselves complete with no corrections.
We don’t do house works every day but we try to keep them involved in the process. It keeps them busy, helps show them all the things needing to be done around the house, gives them work they can be proud of completing, and helps me out with all the tasks that need to happen in a week.