“You were right!” my friend shared.
Seeing the clueless look on my face, she went on to explain that her four kids could do more housework than she originally thought. She had recently started working outside the home and needed help with daily chores, and I had told her that her kids were now old enough to help out.
Whatever your reason is-- to teach life skills, responsibility, time management, living in community, or you and your partner can no longer do everything-- assigning household responsibilities to your children is beneficial for everyone!
Be creative when assigning age-appropriate chores to your children, but keep these four things in mind.
Safety. Making their own lunch is a great chore; however, when your child is younger it should not include operating a stove or using sharp utensils. Similarly, mowing the lawn may be a great chore for a teen but inappropriate and dangerous for a younger child.
Mental and Physical Maturity. Is your child tall enough to put dishes on the kitchen counter? Is he or she strong enough to use the vacuum cleaner on the stairway? Are the directions simple to understand? If the answer is "no," then you should wait until your child is strong enough and old enough before assigning those chores.
Supervision. Have your child help you with a specific chore until he or she gets the hang of it. Once that happens, your child can do it alone. Plan to inspect the work. If things are not right, you have several options: ask your child to do it over, work alongside your child to complete the chore, assign the task to an older child, do it yourself, or consider lowering your expectations.
Valuables. Dusting furniture is a perfect chore for younger children. But having them dust the cabinet containing irreplaceable items might not be such a wonderful idea. Dust that cabinet yourself, while allowing younger children to dust something else, like a bare tabletop.
My kids are now grown and living on their own, but when they were younger, they were responsible for making their beds and straightening their rooms daily. Once a week they dusted and vacuumed their rooms and did their own laundry. We divided up dusting and vacuuming the common rooms and cleaning the bathroom on a weekly basis.
Other responsibilities included feeding and cleaning up after family pets, emptying the garbage, and seasonal jobs like weed pulling, snow shoveling, carrying in wood for the wood stove, and when they were older, lawn mowing.
And every evening after dinner, each child was responsible for carrying his or her plate to the kitchen counter. One child would put food away, wipe off the table, and sweep the floor with a broom. Another would clean off the kitchen counters and stove and load the dishwasher. These are just some examples of the opportunities for your kids to help out around the house while learning what it takes to care for a home.
Read my follow-up article on assigning a reward system and paying allowance for these chores.