Are you trying to establish a successful chore routine for your family? It can be tough! Especially with little kids. With eight kids (lots of difficult, sleepless postpartum periods) and a hectic homeschool schedule, I totally understand!
Our daily chore routine has taken a whole lot of trial and error. However, we’ve finally settled on a great routine that has worked well for our family, for over five years now.
Our attitudes are better and we are really so much more productive when we have a predictable, consistent schedule. And it’s so much easier to feel peace in a clean house, so we do all of the basic cleaning in the morning before we start school (we homeschool around the kitchen table).
I hope that what I’ve learned can be of help to you!
Find your children’s motivator
My kids still don’t love cleaning. Who does? But they do clean because we discovered the one thing that motivates them: food!
Your children might not be motivated by meals. Find the one thing that motivates your children and build your chore routine and schedule around it.
I’ll never suggest monetary payment for chores because I so vehemently disagree with it in principle, but I can think of several other good motivators for kids not motivated by meals.
Related Reading: Why you should NOT pay your children for doing chores
When I was a kid, my mom used a large laundry basket as a ‘jail’ for possessions that we left out. The jail, with our possessions, lived in her locked closet until Friday afternoons, when she would allow us kids to earn the items back by completing a chore.
The problem with that system was that we kids would pick up the only the items we needed and leave the rest to live in ‘jail’ indefinitely. Even when my mom threatened to empty the jail into the trash bin, we often didn’t care. This method would work well for kids motivated by possessions, though.
You could withhold the wifi password. You could create a punch card to earn privileges. You may have to try several different ways to find the thing that motivates your child. I will advise you to choose a simple method that requires only minimal input for you, in order to be successful long-term.
Create a schedule based on your preferred motivator and be consistent
At our house ‘morning chores’ come before breakfast. Whoever has not completed their morning chore doesn’t come to breakfast, plain and simple. If any of them decide to dawdle (or read, which is my kids’ biggest temptation) and not to get dressed and complete their chore by 7 AM, they miss breakfast and have to continue working until they are finished, at which time they jump back into the schedule. If it’s after 7:30 and breakfast is cleaned up, they just miss out altogether.
School work (in addition to morning chores and the things that are required before school) must be completed before lunch, with the same caveat: no lunch if things are not complete. Dinner requirements (instrument practice along with previous requirements) plus a quick clean must happen before dinner.
The quick clean consists of me calling out quick assignments while setting the timer for a 15-minute ‘quick clean’. I might just call out a room for people to pick up, it might be emptying the mudroom of coats and boots, but everyone pitches in because dinner is nearly ready.
We still have bad days, but building our schedule around meals has really helped to motivate my children to stay diligently on task.
I should add that we do give them grace. My youngest sleeps a little longer in the mornings, as she should, so I frequently give her a chore that can be completed after breakfast. Or if we’re out late the night before, I let everyone sleep in, and when I wake them (late) I let them know that we’ve moved the schedule back an hour, or dissolved it altogether for a special field trip or family outing. The key is to be consistent with your schedule and let your kids know when it has changed, so they know what to expect.
Kids behave so much better when they know and understand the schedule and can predict what will come next.
Build your schedule around whatever motivation you choose, and as you consistently stick to that schedule, your kids will need less and less nagging. All I have to do, after 5+ years of following our schedule, is yell out “5 minutes”, and my kids know that breakfast will be on the table in 5 minutes and exactly what needs to be completed. They usually jump into frantic action at that point (after having lollygagged the previous 25 minutes away) and slide into their places at the table just as the breakfast prayer begins, but I’m okay with that.
I never need to argue or nag, because my kids know exactly what is expected, due to our consistent chore routine.
Create simple but explicit cleaning checklists
Because I have eight kids and can’t oversee everything all at once, it is critical to make sure explicit checklists accompany each chore. You will want to give your child age-appropriate chores and build some sort of rotation into your schedule, if possible, to stave off boredom and for maximum benefit to your child.
All of my lists have a box next to each item that should be checked off, and end with a return and report box, meaning that the child has to come find me and report that he/she has finished, so I can quickly check their work. As much as I seriously dislike checking everybody’s work all the time, it is tons easier than having to nag and harass. Expectations have to be laid out very clearly, though, because my cleanliness standards and my kids’ cleanliness standards are practically on different planets.
My kids are expected to complete their own personal responsibilities (make bed, clean room, dress and complete hygiene requirements) plus one chore each morning. The kids rotate (on a weekly basis) through the following chores: tidy and dust, bathrooms, floors, closets and laundry. The bedroom cleaning, morning chore and hygiene only take about 1/2 hr each morning, and my kids usually complete them pretty well and make it to breakfast.
For optimal success, be sure that each chore is appropriate for the age and abilities of your child.
Everyone has a dish chore following each meal, which we also rotate through. We rarely use our dishwasher, because I believe in The Saving Nature of Family Work. Our dish chore checklists are included in the free printables below.
It has been proven that kids who perform ‘family chores’ that benefit the entire family in addition to ‘self-chores’ that just benefit themselves, such as cleaning their own bedroom or picking up their own mess, grow up happier and more successful. They feel needed and valued by their families, which increases their self-esteem. Kids tend to strive to reach expectations, and those of whom much is expected will return great things!
Everyone also has a farm chore: milking, gathering eggs, feeding and watering, taking table scraps to the animals, and cleaning. I haven’t included those printables, but we do use checklists for those chores as well.
I like to print and laminate these checklists, then tape them someplace inconspicuous in the room in which they apply. For example, I have printed the ‘bedroom cleaning checklist’ for each of my kids’ bedrooms, laminated them, and taped them to the inside of a closet door. I tape the printed and laminated bathroom checklists inside the vanity cabinet doors.
Feel free to print and use my checklists ‘as is’ or to copy and paste them into a doc and customize them for your own needs.
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What is your daily chore routine?