Do you and your children smile while doing chores?
Do you whistle while you work?
Is everyone happy and helpful in maintaining the home?
Stock photos on Google Images can be so staged and fake, right?
Reality may be more like your kids’ bedrooms look like a bomb went off and your emotional fuse exploding.
This is SUCH a common problem. It can’t be addressed in one article, or be applied to every situation. However, I’ll offer some general principles that work well and can be helpful in informing your approach.
Here are the basics of setting up family rules. I’ll model this by suggesting only 3 rules.
- The fewer the rules, the better.
- Rules should be adapted and evolve as children grow. For example, here’s how a rule about cleaning their room would change over the years and a child’s maturation grows.
- Preschooler: pick up their toys each day and make bed (with your help), and put dirty clothes in laundry basket.
- School Aged Child: pick up their toys, vacuum carpet (or sweep floor), make bed and change out sheets every week, and put dirty cloths in laundry and put clean clothes away.
- Adolescent: pick up floor, sweep or vacuum, make bed and do their own laundry.
May I speak up from experience as well? On the “clean your bedroom and do laundry” issue, I have raised a few teenagers (five, to be exact) and some kids were less sparkling clean than others. They weren’t bothered by wearing wrinkly, stained clothes or living in a bedroom mess. Their bedroom became a battleground and I wasn’t ready to die on that hill.
There were other issues and rules that were much more important to me, and essential to their safety (such as curfew and electronic use). I had to decide that if I needed to stand my ground, it had to be what really counted. If I have too many rules and go Dolores Umbridge on everything, it makes every rule something for my teen to resist and our relationship to break apart. During rough times when I needed to back off and focus on our relationship, I just said, “Just keep your door closed so we don’t have to see it. So long as cockroaches and rodents are not roaming your room to eat leftover crumbs, you can live as you wish.” I figured that natural consequences (set by the world) rather than logical (set by me) would be a better teacher, navigator, and motivator. If their friends gave them negative feedback so much the better!
3. Children should also become more involved in creating the rules, rewards, and consequences as they grow. When there is “buy in” and more power given to kids, it is so much easier for everyone to feel validated and part of a team. It’s also surprising how kids can come up with brilliant ideas and solutions to problems that might not have occurred to a parent.
There are several categories of rules and I can’t cover them all (each family can decide what they want to prioritize). Categories can be:
- Electronic use
- School and homework
- Household chores, bedroom clean up and laundry, etc.
- Curfew and time home for dinner and bedtime
- Personal hygiene and dress, grooming, etc.
- Safety with drugs, alcohol, dating, social media, and healthy sexuality. Of course these would be ongoing subjects, introduced early in a very general way, and becoming more specific and relevant as the child becomes a preteen and teen.
- Respect for others and property, honesty, individual value, etc.
Rules can part of a weekly family meeting. If discussed weekly, these can be addressed in smaller segments so as to not overwhelm the family. Just talk about one topic or issue at a time. Celebrate successes and problem solve together. Calendaring weekly in a family meeting is essential so everyone is on the same page, the family can coordinate activities, and kids can know what is expected for the week.
Here’s a pdf of how to establish general family rules.
This a more detailed list from a Christian-oriented family. I wouldn’t post this one but discuss it since it’s too much. If you have family rules posted, they should be a short list. This one example:
A posted chore chart is easy to rotate responsibilities each week. Kids can be paired up to do household chores if they work better with a sibling. If it takes longer and they just end up arguing, working alone or with a parent is just fine. I like to have daily chores done by dinnertime and weekly chores get done whenever the child chooses, just so it’s done before the weekend and before they go out on the weekend to hangout with friends.
Here’s another nice worksheet that may be helpful for your family.
I’m not a fan of paying kids for their chores, such as an allowance, but there are several ways to give kids money to help them learn financial literacy and responsibly. One way is to offer extra jobs (more involved than regular chores) for money:
You may also reframe the negative perception of chores by re-naming them. The word “job” or “chore” feels heavy, like a chore or hardship. How about “Family Contribution, “Helping Time,” or “Home Improvement Time”? I once asked my brother in law how he enjoyed his job. He said, “It’s called ‘work’ for a reason. It isn’t called ‘play.’ It’s really hard.” So your own attitude and the words you use make all the difference. Rather than saying, “Go do that job” why not say, “Come help me get this done.” I highly suggest watching this video https://www.byutv.org/player/7657cf0a-c3bb-4e1d-852a-4be61c6398f8/real-families-real-answers-effective-parenting
Finally, keep the big picture in mind. The long view is to remember we are guiding and teaching our children to become responsible citizens, to be wise stewards of our communities, earth, and natural resources. And to be good workers to keep our economy strong. The home setting is a microcosm for where to learn the small, essential skills in daily living. We are the world in a nutshell, where we grow and nurture our kids. And that’s no small chore.