Many moms find it hard to delegate chores to their children and spouses, as they often feel like they only have so many hours to spend with their families and don’t want to waste precious time bickering about who is doing what. The result, regrettably, is mothers who are saddled with the bulk of the housework on top of other work obligations outside the home, and family members who do very little to help around the house.
I was chatting on the subject with my husband the other day and I asked him how chores worked in his home when he was growing up. He said that he was responsible for dusting and vacuuming the entire basement, stairs and upstairs hallway before he could go anywhere or do anything with his friends. So his routine, every Saturday, was to rise early, complete his tasks and then head out to meet his friends. His siblings would complain when he left the house and they were still there, but his parents would quickly point out that he had fulfilled his end of the bargain – work for freedom! Now as an adult, he still demonstrates this same work ethic, so our biggest struggle currently is making sure our kids are doing their share.
Often, it is easier for moms to do tasks on their own as they can be perfectionists who want things taken care of properly, but they need to remember that without regular chores, children will not learn responsibility. Parents need to equip them for the future, and that doesn’t just mean private music lessons and a great education. Kids need to learn essential life skills so they can be self-reliant and prepared to take care of their own family one day. They also need to see both parents involved in housework, so they learn that it’s everyone’s duty to pitch in, not just mom’s.
Start simply by delegating and making chores a habit for all family members, then find ways to keep them motivated. Children should begin young by doing simple tasks such as putting away toys and progress to more difficult jobs as they grow. Look at this list of age-appropriate chores to see what the average child is capable of doing and increase your child’s responsibilities over the years. For Dad, make sure he is handling his fair share of the cleaning so it’s not one-sided. Parents can sit down together and map out a schedule that works best for both parties. Use colour coordinated chore charts to assign chores to teens and kids as well.
For motivation, look at family members’ personalities for clues. It won’t take long because moms know their children well. For example, my daughter loves creating and sharing stories with friends on the family iPad, so I give her time to do so when she completes the tasks I have set out for her. If she hasn’t unpacked her backpack, loaded her dishes in the dishwasher, helped to set the table and tidied up her room, then she doesn’t get time to do what she loves. For my son, outside play time is his biggest motivator, so he needs to take care of his chores before heading out with friends.
But how do we keep our children inspired to do their chores for the long haul? Keep re-assessing their wants and adjust accordingly. Use incentives and rewards from time to time and praise them for a job well done. And remember, we are training our children for the future, so delegate and share the workload to set them up for success.