Fed up of doing all the housework yourself? So how do you get the rest of the family to help with the household chores?
STEP 1 - stop with the chores
The word Chore that is. Words are important... which is why we don't use the word CHORE in our house. No one wants to help with chores, no one wants to do chores, chores, it just sound so Blah!
Don't take my word for it, let's look at what the dictionary has to say... Note #3...
Now let's compare that to the word job. I know some people don't like job either, but when we compare the two, job sounds more important, more impressive.
Don't you think?
You can of course, make up a title, make it fun. Little kids generally love helping mommy so call them, "Mommy's Little Helper" or whatever lights them up. Helping mommy with her jobs gives off a much better vibe than helping mommy with her chores (groan!)
Be direct and clear with what you want doing and how to do it. One complaint I hear from dads is that "they are not mind readers" in other words, they want a straight, no fuss, no nonsense instruction. Think like a sergeant major as you delegate the jobs.
And to add to that, let perfectionism go! And if the job gets done, it doesn't really matter how it gets accomplished.
step 2 - every family member can help
One thing I want to mention is that toddlers are not too young to start helping out around the house, in fact it is a PERFECT time to introduce housework to them!
In a Montessori classroom there is a whole section of the curriculum called Practical Life and it is usually the first work that a Montessori child is introduced to. In a classroom this is shelf work, meaning that the child takes the activity off the shelf, does the work and returns it to the shelf.
But at home... Practical Life is exactly that, kids learning how to help around the home in a practical way.
And there are lots of things a young child can be helping you with. I have seen a lot of lists of chores for specific ages. Don't be assigning a job because of their age, assign a job that is suitable for their abilities. At the bottom of the post you can get a free checklist to help you find the right jobs for your kids.
You are the parent, you know your child the best. You know what they can and can't do, what frustrates them and what they find easy. Some jobs progress naturally, maybe they start by folding table napkins and towels and progress onto T-shirts or helping in the kitchen by washing veg and eventually they can chop the veg too.
And no it's not mean or child labour. Children are learning all kinds of sills as they do Practical Life activities. Matching, folding, pouring, cutting, cleaning, caring for themselves and caring for others.
It also gives them a sense of belonging and care of their environment.
One thing to keep in mind is that they do need child sized equipment to do the job but these can be picked up cheaply at the dollar store/Daiso. More info about raising an independent child here and why the child's environment is so important.
By asking them to help on a regular basis (or rather, expecting them to) you can observe how they are doing and you will know when they are ready to tackle something a bit more challenging.
Age appropriate lists are not going to help your child, YOU are the one that can help your child, it just takes the patience to watch as they work.
Step 3 - rewards charts
Should you use a reward or chore chart?
Again, I believe this depends on the child, some kids love them, some don't give a flying hoot! What does YOUR child like?
A daily list of jobs is a great way to get the new routine going or to act as a reminder - we are all busy so it is easy to forget.
Laura, one of my old clients, had 2 small boys at the time and she has job magnets for them, the job is in picture form on the magnet. When they have done 25 jobs, they got to choose a new book from the special basket.
The genius bit behind this is, the boys would have been getting the books anyway! But by using this system she is getting them used to helping around the home from an early age.
Some kids love to be motivated with a streak (AKA the Jerry Seinfeld strategy) checking off a box every day that they have done a job for others a chart is an utter waste of time and energy. What works for your kid(s)? It might be what works for one won't work for the other. Kids are fun like that!
step 4 - should you pay your kids to do housework?
Everyone has different takes on this, this is what I think…
I don't get paid to keep the house in order so I don't think anyone else in the family should either. We all pitch in and help because as a family we are a team, we all live in the house, we all have a responsibility to take care of it.
That said, if I ask Ebi-kun to do a job which is outside his usual weekly jobs I will offer to pay him and at a rate that we both think is fair for the job in hand. This way he gets to learn about earning money and valuing it too. I sometimes get my son to do work for my business, when he does, I pay him the same that I would pay my VA.
When I was a kid, I had horses and my dad created this insane list of jobs to do and what he would pay me to do them. It was crazy and if I did everything on the list it would have taken me hours each week. The most I could earn from doing all of the jobs was £8.20 ($11 ish) and this was back in the 80's.
Most of my friends earned £10 a week for taking out the rubbish and keeping their room tidy!
I earned £5 for baby-sitting the kids up the road for a few hours in the evening, the kids would be in bed and I would watch a film, so you can imagine what kind of resistance I had for doing hard labour when I could be making more money, sat on my butt!
And I didn't actually mind doing the horse related jobs as I was horse mad, it was the other jobs such as scrubbing the garage floor weekly and cleaning HIS tack for 20p that I objected to.
Teaching kids about money is important but one thing I have learned over the last few years is that the money stories we learn as kids, we carry with us as adults. Worth keeping in mind when paying (or not) kids for doing jobs.
step 5 - fix your attitude to housework
I hate housework. There, I said it.
But... what I discovered was that if I did the housework with a grumpy-ass attitude, not only did the job feel like a major grind, the rest of the family resisted doing it too. Because ... who wants to do something that everyone hates?
What did I do?
Changed the way I thought about it, I started thinking of it as my way to thank the house for keeping us safe and warm. I started playing up-beat fun music. Created games as I cleaned and even though I still don't LOVE housework, it doesn't feel like such a drag anymore.
AND, bonus points! The rest of the family just suck it up and get it done too.
Now I'm not saying that no-one ever moans about hanging the laundry out or doing the dishes, of course we do, we are not saints! But that little tweak of changing perspective makes it so much more tolerable.
BONUS - Divided and conquer
If you have ever joined my kitchen bootcamp, Clear The Clutter or any of my other challenges, you will know I love to break things down into manageable, bite-sized steps. Housework is no different.
We all have different homes with different needs so I'm not going to suggest you do it the same way as we do. You need to find your own groove.
I really don't like spending my weekend cleaning. But I also don't want to spend 3 hours midweek doing it either. So what works for me is to do a small job each day.
Monday and Friday - tidy up, dust and vacuum (more often in hay-fever season)
Tuesday - Food prep for the week and clean kitchen
Wednesday - Change bedsheets and other big jobs that need doing
Thursday - Bathrooms and toilets
Laundry - gets done as and when, we air dry our clothes so much of it depends on the weather.
Me and my teen share the jobs and bang them out first thing before settling down to work and homeschool.
My husband pitches in with things too, taking the rubbish out, sorting the recycling, cleaning the aircon filters etc. But they tend to be jobs he can do at the weekend or when he has time off because he leaves early and gets back late.
A quick recap:
1. Language matters, choose your words carefully as you assign jobs around the home.
2. Every family member can help, it's just a matter of finding the right job for the person.
3. Decide if charts and rewards are the way you want to go for your family.
4. Payment. What should your kids get paid for and how much?
5. Attitude, reframe from the grumpy to be grateful for having a home to clean.
Bonus: Divide and conquer, break jobs into bite sized pieces and share out between the family.