On a recent Friday evening, I came home from a long day of work and to my surprise I saw my 5-year old daughter Zoey vacuuming our kitchen. I asked my wife what our little one was up to, but she was just as perplexed as I was. We’d been working with Zoey to do her chores every Saturday morning for the past year, but she’s never taken the initiative to do them on her own.
After Zoey finished vacuuming, she asked my wife and I to leave the kitchen while she put away the silverware. She told us that she wanted it to be a surprise.
We let this cleaning frenzy go on for another 15 minutes before we stopped her and asked, “Why are you doing your chores today, Zoey?”
“I love you. I want to help the Hill Family,” she said.
When those words came out of her mouth, my heart filled with such pride and love. Our little girl understood what it meant to be a part of our family. We don’t just express our love through words … we express it through action.
It’s Time to Do the Chores
Zoey wasn’t always this angelic. In the beginning, our requests to complete her chores were followed up by a round of crying, whining and pouting. “My arms are too tired” was my favorite response.
Through consistency, a partnership with my wife and adding in a little fun, we’ve been able to make Zoey’s chores a weekly Hill Family tradition.
Here are the 7 ways we set this chore tradition in motion:
1. Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse
Helping your kids learn the importance of contributing to the household responsibilities is a big deal. That’s why it’s important to be in lock step with your spouse on the chore rules and schedule. It takes teamwork and consistency from both parents to help make this life-changing tradition become a habit for your children.
Here are some of the things to discuss upfront with your spouse:
- What are the chores we feel are appropriate for our child?
- Which chores should we pay for and which ones should we not pay for?
- When is the best time and day to complete these chores?
2. Separate Everyday Responsibilities From Chores for Pay
My wife Nicole and I agreed that Zoey would have both “Family Chores” and “Money Chores”.
Family Chores are activities that Zoey does as a member of the family. Some of these chores include putting her dirty clothes in the hamper, setting the table before dinner and clearing dishes after meals.
Money Chores are contributions that go above and beyond her typical responsibilities. Zoey receives $1 for each of these chores. Some of the activities where Zoey gets cash include putting away the silverware, emptying the trash receptacles around the house and putting away her laundry (after Mom and Dad fold it).
3. Create a Consistent Schedule
After examining our busy weeks, we found that Saturday morning was the best time to complete the Money Chores with Zoey. We thought avoiding the weekdays for these important tasks would help the whole family’s sanity level.
We do our best to stay consistent with this schedule so it becomes the normal way of life for our little girl. Now, she wakes up on Saturday mornings and knows that it’s chore time!
Do we miss a couple of weeks here and there? Absolutely. But overall, the regular schedule has helped our girl succeed and truly bring a sense of harmony to our home.
As for the Family Chores, those do require a bit more support and gentle reminders from Nicole and I. We do our best to use non-confrontational communication techniques like those outlined in books like How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. We’re new parents so we’re still learning quite a bit in this department.
4. Be A Good Example
I learned this one from trial and error.
In the beginning, I would show Zoey how to put away the silverware and then I’d say, “Okay, you’ve got this!” Then, I would leave the room and do something else. That didn’t work. Minutes later, she’d get bored or frustrated and simply stop.
What I learned (maybe obvious to most) is that my girl just wants to be around me. She wants to spend time with her Dad. If her Dad says that chores are an important,then I should be doing chores too right alongside her.
When my girl is doing the silverware now, I’m doing the dishes. When I’m folding laundry, she’s putting away her laundry. This type of system shows her the importance of teamwork and family responsibility.
I guess we’re both learning!
5. Make it Fun
Chores don’t have to be boring! You can easily make it fun for your little ones with a little effort. Here are a couple of ways we make Zoey smile:
We ask Alexa to play Disney music and we both sing along while we’re cleaning the kitchen. If Zoey is in a great mood, she even lets me play some of my favorite music too ;)
“How quickly can you put away your socks and shirts Zoey? I’ll time you!” Gets 'em every time!
6. Provide an Emotional and Monetary Reward
Every time Zoey completes her set of Money Chores, I immediately do the following:
- Hand her $3 (for each chore she gets $1)
- Physically get down on her level and tell her how much I appreciate her hard work and contribution
- Give her a big hug
She’s a big fan of money (she must get that from her Dad). After piling up her savings over the last year, she’s been able to save up to buy some fun things like her own Moana DVD, tiny little toys called Num Noms and Mashems (what’s with this tiny toy craze BTW!?) and even her own color changing clothes.
Even more than the money, I think she loves the one-on-one love and attention she gets from her Dad. I’m usually working decently long hours with my job and traveling out-of-town on occasions. This is an opportunity for us to bond and for me to show her how much I love her.
7. Provide Age Appropriate Chores
A major key to household chore success is providing tasks that are simple enough to do, but are also helpful.
Here are some of the chores that Zoey and 3-year old brother Calvin have done that fall into the simple yet helpful category:
Age 3 (Family Chores)
- Wiping up spills
- Cleaning up toys
Age 3 (Money Chores)
- Putting folded clothes in drawers (with help)
- Wiping counters
Age 4 (Family Chores)
- Setting napkins and silverware on the table for dinner
- Putting dirty clothes in the hamper
Age 4 (Money Chores)
- Vacuuming cars (with help)
- Matching socks for laundry
Age 5 (Family Chores)
- Getting dressed without help
- Making the bed
Age 5 (Money Chores)
- Empty small garbage receptacles from around the house
- Raking leaves (with help)
6-Years Old and Beyond
My Zoey turns six-years old this week! I’m so proud of the little girl she’s become (I’m sure you can’t tell by now). As she grows older, I’m sure there will be lots of new tactics I have to learn. My “fun” tricks won’t always work, I know.
I’m planning on increasing her pay from $3 per week to $5 and slightly increasing the number and difficulty of the chores.
This plan might go completely sideways on me, but I’ve found the best way to learn is through trial and error. I hope my little girl sees my mistakes and watches me learn from them. Honestly, I think that will be the most valuable lesson of all.
What’s your experience with chores for your little kids?
How does the dynamic change when they get older?