Years ago, chores were a way of life. Some people laugh when they talk about how families needed so many children in order to work the fields and keep the house running. While it's true that chores were a necessity in that age, it's also true that they instilled a firm work ethic in that generation. A common complaint nowadays is that children and young adults are lazy, and when they move into the work world they don't want to have to labor. In an effort to make life "fun" and to allow children to be kids, parents have limited children's responsibilities, yet in doing so have deprived them of learning the value of hard work and pride in doing a good job.|
Having a large families is a lot of work. I think you would be hard-pressed to find any parent with 4 or more kids who says it's a walk in the park. Especially when your children are little, the amount of work can be daunting. On the flip side, as your children grow and get older, you also have more hands to help. Chores are an important, but the play a key and vital role in keeping a large family running smoothly. As with any family, you are going to have messes and there will be days it feels like you've just shovelled the walk, only to find another foot of snow has fallen. But, overall, when everyone pitches in, the household runs smoother and everyone is happier.
Establishing a schedule of duties is one of the best ways to help motivate children to help out and keep them focused. It also helps you. Instead of each member asking, "what should I do next, mom", they have a list pre-prepared they can refer to. This type of schedule is often referred to as a chore chart.
The name is a bit misleading, since many people create such charts not only for chores, but things a child should do daily, like brush their teeth and use good manners. The name is not what is important, but the idea that giving a child set goals a day will help foster responsibility, as well as give you that much-needed help.
You can find many websites and books that have suggestions on how best to implement a chore system into your family. I have reviewed many, and while helpful, the main problem is that these recommendations usually are intended for "normal" families with 2-3 kids. I had to laugh when one site talked a child helping with laundry. They said that the chore should be schedule 1-2 times a week. Well, most large families I know run their washer 3-4 days a week, and many 7 days straight!
The conventional way to do a chore chart is make a list of things that need to be done on a daily basis around the house, then dividing it between the family members. Of course, different children can do different tasks as different ages. However, you will find that even your 2 year old can be quite helpful and have responsibilities.
While it is helpful to assign children a variety of tasks, as mentioned before, the dynamic of a large family is different. In a small family with less traffic through rooms, it's possible to clean areas every other day, or even once a week. However, in a large family household, most rooms need to be tidied every day. As a result, it's sometimes easier to assign a whole room to a child, rather than individual tasks throughout the house. Yan even prepare a separate list detailing what needs to be done in that particular room.
Chore charts are not only helpful for children, but adults too. In my house, my husband has a true desire to help out, but is often hindered by the fact that he is not sure what needs to be done and when. Making a list for him helps both of us, since he is able to chip in and do a more efficient job, and I don't have to worry that he's puttering around in the yard when the bathroom door needs fixing. Of course, making a list for yourself can ease stress, especially on those days when you are overwhelmed with so much stuff to do. It is a good starting point, and allows you to focus on one thing at a time, which is often the best way to tackle a project.
The key to establishing a chore system in your house really depends on your individual needs. What works for one family may not for another. On mega-family of 20+ kids separated their children into teams, each of which was responsible for a zone. A zone included a couple of rooms and miscellaneous tasks like yard work, etc. They utilized a chart to keep things organized. A much different system than you would find in most organization sites, but one that worked well for this super-sized family.
Don't be limited to a set list of chores that have to be done daily. Some systems suggest a quick tidy of each room daily, with a focus on a deep clean of one different room per week. The key is not to find a system that works best for you. Remember, even the best system may not be 100% perfect. Don't be afraid to tweak and adjust it until it works right for you and your family.
To Pay or Not to Pay....
Some parents feel chores are a daily obligation that should be done as a household duty. Other families prefer to motivate and reward their children by giving them a weekly allowance. Some families take a middle road, requiring children to do set tasks, but offering payment for extra chores. Whatever method you prefer, it's always important to be consistent and to verbally tell a child that they have done a good job. Money's good, but parental praise is something that is not only appreciated, but needed.
If you are thinking of an allowance, the question is always, how much is enough? It was suggested that you give a child 50 cents for each year of age. Therefore, an 8 year old would receive $4 a week, a 12 year old $6 week. Some people prefer a "per chore" payment, giving out a dime or quarter for each task accomplished. Another option is to give a set amount per day. A full day of chores is worth $1, which would give the child the opportunity to make up to $7 a week. The key thing in awarding allowance is that you make sure your child completes what is asked of him/her. Remember, it's not a handout, it is money earned. It is a real way to begin instilling the idea of getting paid for a hard day's work.
Creating your chore chart
With the computer age and the internet, it's super easy to prepare a chart for your children or yourself. Any word processor program can create a grid. There are many websites, computer packages, and software that can even do it for you. Some are free, others pay. Whatever you choose, make sure you pick something that will work best of you.
Something that I have found very helpful is to create charts not only with word descriptions of tasks, but also pictures. Say, if the chore was to mop the floor, you would have a small picture of a bucket next to it. This is especially helpful for small children who cannot read, since it allows them to view and understand chores, even if an adult is not around. However, I truly believe it is also helpful for older children and adults. Pictures make it a bit more fun, and it does allow you to glance at the chart and quickly know what next needs to be done. There are quite a few companies and websites that offer clipart for this very purpose.
While it's neat and great to get all technical and generate a computerized chart with fancy graphics and such, truth is you can produce one just as easily with pen and paper. For a fun and thought-provoking project, sit down with your kids and have everyone create their own chore charts. Talk as a family as to what needs to be done, and then as a group decide who does what.
As with anything in life, implementing a chore system into your family will take some time. As when you start a new job and have to learn how things are done, the same is true for scheduled chores. Your children may take some time to figure out how to do their chores in a manner which works for them best. Be prepared to give it a few weeks. Keep an eye on things, and be ready to adjust things if need be. Over a period of a few months, as things settle down, you will hopefully see a big improvement in how your family runs. Good luck!
Want some help and inspiration in creating a chore system? Don't have a clue how to do it and want a few systems to help get you started? We've reviewed several systems and have posted a few of our favorites below.
- LOK Chorechart Generator - After I initially wrote this article, I challenged my husband to create a chorechart generator for me. The result was a handy little utility that combines small icons/pictures and wording. Although it has some limitations, it works well, and we use it all the time for a variety of things (I even make charts for Jim). It's also become a very popular feature of this site among large and small families alike.
- DLTK.com has one of the neatest online generators for kid chore charts I've found. Simply fill-in the information and a chart is generated. You can choose from a large array of fun top graphics. Be sure to check out this article on some fun and unique ideas for chore and potty-training charts.
- Alenka's Printables - Basic pre-formated chore chart templates. You print them out, fill in the info, and go!
- My Messy House - Need some help in setting up a chore schedule for yourself? This site offers great "per room" charts, with a mind of general daily cleaning, and tackling major cleaning of one room each day. There are lists to print, plus other helpful information (all links will open in a different page).
- If you still find that creating your own chore chart is the best way to go, and want to incorporate graphics, there are many sites that offer free or low-cost graphics. Check out the LOK Links page and check out the sites listed there (you need to scroll down the page a bit). Many offer household graphics, and particularly household chores, which can be easily used in a chart.