I did some research online first to see what professionals and psychologist had to say about when to start chores, how many chores to give, what ages can do what and the debate over allowance. So I concluded on this:
1. We made them more independent. I used to have the girls do chores together and the boys do chores together. This turned out to be a pretty BAD idea now at this age. There was constant tattling and arguing over who wasn't doing enough and their fair share in the duo. So I switched chores now so that each child does them independently. This has worked out AWESOME! Chore time is much more peaceful!
2. We killed the gender roles. I used to give the girls the same chores everyday and the boys the other chores. Girls always did dishes, boy always took out trash. At the young ages, I wanted them to master their chore so I didn't have to continue to check their work. Although this seemed easier, it was a disservice to my kids. They were bored with the same chores everyday and it was a disservice to their being by not teaching them how to do a broad spectrum of chores. If I'm training them to become complete and capable adults one day but not teaching them how to cook AND take out the trash equally, then I'm not doing my job. So I divided the chores up so that every kid has every chore to do at least 1 day a week. They have loved this! Each day they have something different to do so they like the diversity. And although, up front, I have more work to do with training them in all these areas, I'm quickly discovering that it's worth it!
I don't have a fancy or complicated chart where they mark off what they did. They HAVE to do their chores within 30 minutes everyday. I expect them to do them and then every Sunday I'll pay them, just like in the real world of jobs (except it's Fridays you get paid). I also don't let them "pick" their chores. They have to learn how to do all of them. And, of course, I don't discriminate chores based on gender.
3. We increased their allowance. Previously, now don't laugh, but I was giving them each a penny for every chore they did. They didn't know any better and they were super happy with it so it served its purpose. But now that they are older, I had to be more fair. Of all the reports and studied I read about allowance, I concluded that a fair allowance was beneficial. Fair meaning, $1 per each year they have been alive. My 8 year old get $8 per week minus the $3 she owes us to care for her guinea pig, so she receives $5 per week. Then we have them take out $.50 to save and $.50 for charity each week. Our plans for that is that at the end of the year they can use their "saved" money to buy family and friends Christmas presents and their "charity" money to buy gifts for children from the Christmas Bureau. This teaches them about savings, taxes and helping the poor.
4. We explained that chores are non-negotiable. Then, once they agreed to the list and signed it, they had to do the chores. We talked about the meaning of "the house takes care of you, so let's take care of the house." But the biggest motivator I've found for having them keep their rooms (especially) clean is that I tell them that if they don't keep it clean then mice, rats, snakes and spider will want to come live in their messy rooms. No one wants that, so it's been a very useful tool so far! :) Don't judge me! LOL!
5. I added a "Chef's Assistant" for each night!!! This is much less like a chore to them and more like a reward. Now, I love to cook but I hate having someone constantly interrupting me and asking me questions in the kitchen. It makes me lose focus and I get frustrated. But I have learned that it's very valuable to teach my kids to cook so I just suck it up and try to be present and enjoy the moment. But here's why it's always been so painful...I would let all 4 help me cook! What the heck was I thinking?! Apparently I wasn't because I was so distracted with 4 kids constantly spitting questions at me. I realized that if I just have 1 child per night help, then they actually will learn more and I get that great one-on-one time with them that I rarely get with having 4 kids. This has been so rewarding!
PLUS, at the dinner table the one who helped me cook kept praising the food that "they" cooked and convincing the others to try it. They also are learning just how much work goes into preparing a meal and that you need to be grateful for the cook. It's been a win-win in the Tidwell household! And like the old saying goes, "if you want to eat, you better learn how to cook"!
6. We also have additional chores they can do to earn more money. They are chores they don't HAVE to do but can choose to do if they are looking for ways to earn more. They are learning that if you work hard and go above and beyond, then you can make more money to buy what you want. You don't have to expect others to get things for you. Chores and allowance are a great way to teach children about finance. As a child, I never learned how to manage my finances. My CPA husband learned these great lessons from his parents and he's amazing with our money. The only debt we have is our home and I think that's extremely impressive...I owe it all to him!
7. We're teaching them the value of hard work. They learn that if they just do a little bit each day then nothing piles up into a huge task and the house is always comfortable. Not only that, but when they accomplish something that they thought they would fail at, they build their self-esteem. Self-esteem is not built by parents constantly praising their child for things unpraise worthy, instead it's build by a child struggling with a task and then finally overcoming that task. Give them challenges so that they can eventually accomplish them and feel that wonderful sense of pride - that's how self-esteem and confidence is built!
8. We're not saying it's easy. What about the lazy child? Most of us have one of those. The child who takes 6 hours to make their bed. Or the child who does everything half-way. Well, that child will take more work in my experience, a lot more!!! I have 2 of those children and it is very frustrating. However, after years (yes, I said years) of standing behind them while they work and saying things like this "stay on task", "stay focused", "don't stop moving, just keep working and it will be done faster than you think", "go super-hero speed", "I'm setting the timer and if it's not done then your TV privileges are being taken away", they are finally getting it! But the real motivator...you cannot have a playdate this afternoon or do anything fun until the chores are done.
We do try to make it fun. For those 30 minutes I turn up the dance music and we have at it! Music can change any mood in a quick moment!
So here is our chore chart. They color key is at the bottom of the chart and shows who does what on what days. Both my girls can read so they help me remind the boys of what their chores are.
In the mornings, they can't come down for breakfast until their floors are picked up and their beds made. Since I am a recovering perfectionist I have learned not to expect it to be perfect, it will only set them up for failure and discourage them. So I know the beds won't look like a magazine cover and everything might not be put in the right place, but if I can walk in the room without stepping on toys or clothes, then it's a success!
Then, an hour after they have arrived home from school and have had their snack and relax time, they have 30 minutes of chores. And they get it all done in that time! You'll be surprised at how much your children can accomplish!
Obviously this works for my family of 4 children but may not work for your family of 1 child or children on the spectrum or with disabilities. I am not a psychologist so please use this as inspiration and not gospel. :) I hope it helps you to share the responsibilities so that you get a break and your children learn great lessons in hard work, cleanliness and financial responsibility. And, as with everything you implement into your family dynamic, personalize it to work for you and your family. There's never a "1 size fits all" approach to parenting. Enjoy and happy cleaning!