How We Manage Chores With 5 Kids
I am absolutely not blessed with natural patience. I have to work on it and pray for it daily. That being said there are some systems and process we’ve got in place at our house that keep me from losing my mind with 5 kids. These were not the result of a whim or single day, they took time and they happened after I nearly lost my mind. I wont get into the details, but I grew up not doing chores. I pushed my toys under my bed and that was about it. I had no reference for healthy chores and boundaries so I was totally ill prepared for setting boundaries and limits with my kids. One kid I may have been able to manage on my limited experience, but 5? NOPE! I was blessed in my early motherhood to have a few really great roll models walking along side of me. One of these mothers had a grace and patience that was just awe inspiring. She could kindly, but firmly, direct her children to clean up after themselves and be respectful. There was nothing oppressive about her manner and she worked with the kids to help them understand what the expectations were. She was truly amazing! I may as well give her a shout out by name here - Betsy Rowell you know you are an awesome mom!
From Betsy I learned that things don’t have to be perfect, it is the heart that matters. While I want me kids to know how to clean up after themselves, I’m not looking for adult level perfection, I’m looking for a helpful spirit. A two year old can help with chores, they just wont be able to attain the same degree of excellence as a ten year old or teenager. A one year old can even participate in chores, in fact starting the habit of a helpful mindset young makes it so much easier as they get older to maintain and enforce these practices. Accepting a varying degree of perfection based on age and skill is also a very good way to help keep a good attitude about chores. If I’m pecking at them for their lack of perfection their attitudes are very quickly going to drop and doing chores is going to become - well - a chore. I want their mindset to be that doing these things is just a part of being a family member. Sometimes I have to remind them to do things, or withhold privileges until they are done - I wont lie, but overall we aim for a good attitude not a perfect job. Making the bed is a simple task they can be done every single day to help build structure to your child’s day and begin them in the helping process. Our three year old doesn’t have to make his bed look perfect, he only has to put his blankets and stuffed animals back on his bed. He’s actually pretty good at smoothing out his sheets, because he is competitive with his older brothers. The older kiddos didn’t get that blanket smoothing part down until they were about 5. For our family this is the routine that we have established and what is currently working well for us. Give it a try, but don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work for you. Each family is different and you’ve got to find your own pace and rhythm. If you haven’t had good boundaries with chores in the past don’t expect things to change over night, just stick with it, have patience - find a mom who manages this well and ask her to coach you. Remember your goal is not perfection it is to develop a character trait of being helpful. If your kids are helpful and willing to learn there is nothing that can stop them in life! We’ve got a daily rotation. We do this mostly because the degree of excellence varies so much between the 4 of them that currently do big chores. J is horrible about cleaning the floors, but M does it with a great degree of excellence, so doing a rotation assures that I’m not constantly having to go behind everyone and touch up. If J does floors the day after M than it’s be cleaned well the day before and not at a level of messiness that overwhelms him. I do them the next day and little E sweeps up the piles. D is the next day and he’s alright if he’s not distracted, but if J went after him he’d be totally overwhelmed. Same thing applies with dishes in another way. J loves doing the dishes and is great at it, but D just really is not good at it. Our main tasks on our rotation are, floors (sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming all downstairs flooring), dishes (retrieve all dishes left in random places, rinse and load dishwasher, and unload when done), laundry (one load of everybodies laundry a day, wash/dry/sort/fold), playroom (putting away toys and wrapping up game controllers). Those tasks are not paid. No one gets any form of allowance for doing these things, helping out is just part of being a member of the family. Once a week they each have an extra hard chore to do that will earn them a little extra cash. They have the option to pay their siblings to do it for them as well and they know if they don’t do it not only will they not earn their money I’ll charge them $1 for me to do it. Those chores are based on everyone’s individual weaknesses and areas of mess. D is distracted in the bathroom so he gets to scrub the toilets inside and out. M is constantly bringing things into the car so she gets to clean out the van. J leaves toys in the yard so he has to go pick them up and put them away. E leaves toothpaste everywhere so he gets to wipe the counters and cabinets. On occasion if there are other tasks that need to be done, pantry needing cleaning and organizing, bedsheets needing to be changed out, etc I’ll offer up a bid system for them to earn a few extra dollars here and there. I know a lot of families that have each person have a day of the week that is their turn to do all their laundry. That’s another great method, but it wouldn’t work for our family. We have been doing a form of minimalism for some years now (I’ll be posting about that soon) and we simply don’t have enough clothes to go an entire week without washing individual laundry. Another reason I like our one load of everybody’s stuff is because I want to normalize serving each other. Doing just their own laundry would build a great character of taking care of yourself, but I want taking care of others to be the norm. These aren’t chores, they are tasks we do to help take care of and build our family. I’m probably going to add in some form of helping out cooking dinner soon too, but I haven’t fully fleshed that out yet. I’ll let you know when we establish a system and how it works. What works for your families?