At what age do you start teaching children responsibility and assigning them chores?
As for us, we start as soon as we see understanding in our children. An example of what is currently happening in our family is that our 18 month old daughter completely understands what it means to throw her diaper in the trash, so we tell her to throw her diaper in the trash. She also knows how to put plates on the table, put the silverware in the silverware drawer, help knead dough or stir things, and put her dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Our 3 year old son helps to empty the trash cans, picks up his toys, place his clothes in the laundry basket, helps to carry in wood (one piece at a time), helps to load the washer and unload the dryer, take dishes out of the dishwasher, washes the table, and can help in setting the table. Our five year old son can clean his room, make his bed, empty trash, carry in wood, dry and put the clean dishes away, help with laundry, help to cook, set the table, and vacuum. Our seven year old can clean bathrooms, clean her room, vacuum, set the table, help with the laundry, help cook, change diapers, sweep and mop, and help to bathe little ones. Our 9 year old son can clean the front room, clean the school room, sweep and mop, help with dishes, make pancakes and a few other foods, clean out the van, carry and stack wood, and various other things.
Now you may be asking how do you start teaching children chores?
As soon as the children are able we (my husband and I) have the children follow us around and watch us do our chores. Next, when they are about 3 or 4, we start working one on one with them. We will do the chore as they watch and then they will do the chore as we watch. Many days we will also sing a cute little ditty as we are teaching them how to clean. This continues for a long time until we feel that they are capable of handling a "zone" on their own, usually around 5. Then at around 5 we officially assign them a zone that they are responsible for cleaning and we give them a check list. They clean and then we check it with them. If it is not done properly, they redo it with our assistance. As the children get older and more mature in their cleaning responsibilities, they are assigned more work and sometimes different chores. It is our goal to equip our children to one day be able to take care of a home by the time they leave home. There is no better time and opportunity to teach the children these things then when they are little and all still living in the home. I also want them to be able to help others when given the opportunity.
Since the children have chores, what do I do?
I teach homeschool, take care of all of the laundry (with help of course), planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning the kitchen, bathing little ones (when my daughter is not eagerly volunteering because she loves this job), sweeping, mopping, and many other things that fill a moms day.
Does the training time ever stop?
No! Even my 9 and 7 year olds still need lots of training. I do not expect perfection, but I do expect them to do their work hardily as unto the Lord. Just recently I noticed areas that have been slipping. I have not been doing my job of checking my older children's zones and have just trusted them. They have been doing short-cuts and have found places to hide thing to make it look like they cleaned their zone. So, we go back to "boot camp" and watch me, I watch them, and then they do their job. If it is not up to standard then they have to redo their zone until I feel that they have done a thorough job as I have taught them. It is our rule that in order to play they must work first. However, many days when we get to the end of the day, the house is very messy. My husband and I have spent time talking about our plan of action. So far, we have decided to have "pick-up times" twice a day and a thorough clean once a day. During school in the morning, I have the kids take a 15 minute break and do a pick up. Then sometime in the afternoon, they do another pick-up. Lastly, at night they do a thorough clean up of their zones. The afternoons are usually filled with lots and lots of play for the big kids, while the morning is filled with lots of play for the little kids.
Cleaners-What I use?
Now you may be asking about my seven year old cleaning the bathroom and what kinds of cleaners she uses since cleaners are dangerous. We make our own cleaners out of safe products. Vinegar and baking soda are a staple in our home. They are safe for the environment and do not cause undo health risks. They also clean well and have been used for centuries. I will give our cleaning recipe in another post. It is far cheaper to make your own cleaners and a lot safer when you have little ones around. When it comes to products that could cause harm on my children I do not want to take a chance, so I just chose to keep it safe by using "green" cleaners.
Any other questions?
I write this post to hopefully be an encouragement to other moms who struggle with instituting chores with their children in the home. I am not claiming to have all of the answers. I still struggle many days as this has all been a learning process for me, but I would love to be a help to someone else out there. If anyone has any questions or tips when it comes to children and chores please feel free to leave a comment.