Kids and Chores - How Early Do You Teach Responsibility?

Adulting. The new word that’s buzzing in everyone’s social media feed. What is it? And why is there such an epidemic of those who don’t know how (or don’t want to) do it? I don’t have all the answers (I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination), but I think the issue begins when parents fail to teach their kids the life skills needed to be a grown up.

Making Cookies with Papa I am a huge advocate for teaching children independence. If we don’t teach our kids self-sufficiency, who will? And by starting small with simple chores (while they’re young and still willing to help!), we can provide them the opportunity to do things for themselves, instilling confidence and maturity as they grow.

How Early Do You Start?

Katrina and Serge were introduced to their first “chore chart” when they were three years and two years old respectively. But they were helping out around the house long before we started keeping track. We encouraged them to help us put their toys away at the end of the day as soon as they understood how to pick up one object and put it in another.

The first chart we used consisted of four household duties.

  1. Make Your Bed.

    Though they needed our help at the beginning, making beds was an easy chore to get the kids involved in. Katrina quickly caught on, and was able to do it by herself in no time. Serge was always eager to help straighten his pillows and line up the stuffed animals.

  2. Set the Table and Empty the Dishwasher.

    We always stored the kids’ dishes in a drawer accessible to them, making it easy to teach them how to set their places at the table. And once they learned how to empty their dishes out of the dishwasher, we moved on to plastic containers and lids, cutlery (no sharp knives of course!) and then on to everything else. What they can’t reach to put away they stack on the counter for us to do. We also taught them to clear their own dishes from the table after they were done eating.

  3. Get Dressed, Brush Teeth, Clothes in the Hamper.

    Every kid needs to learn the basics of personal care. Each of our kids was pretty adept at undressing themselves by the age of two, so I figured if they could get undressed, they could learn to get redressed. For some reason, though, to this day they still can’t remember to put their clothes in the hamper (but we’re working on it!). Brushing teeth is always fun, they use a timer (for the most part) to make sure they’ve cleaned all their pearly whites, and before bed, Gaby or I will get in there and give them a good once over and help them floss.

  4. Clean Up at the End of the Day.

    This, of course, is probably the one that we still struggle with the most. The end of the day, when everyone is tired, kids don’t want to get ready for bed, crankiness is kicking in. But, it’s their responsibility, and they need to get it done. If it doesn’t get cleaned up, it’s goes to the place of no return (our closet) for the prescribed length of time we’ve threatened. (It even came to the point at one time earlier this year that I took away all their toys save for one item each, which they were only allowed to trade in on a weekly basis. Cleaning up had never been so easy! They’ve since earned most of their toys back, but I’m not afraid to do it again if things start getting out of hand.)

Expanding Their Horizons

Dusting with the Norwex EnviroWandAs kids mature, you can add more age appropriate chores. Now, at ages five and four, Katrina and Serge’s responsibilities have grown to include:

  • putting away laundry
  • dusting
  • emptying the compost bucket
  • helping in the kitchen when we bake or preserve
  • pack their own lunches and snacks for school and preschool
  • collect garbage cans for emptying
  • unpacking groceries

Hunter, at two years old, now helps to clean up his toys, brushes his teeth, and will begin learning the other chores that his siblings learned at his age.

Ideas to Incorporate as They Age

As they continue to grow, Gaby and I will teach and add to their responsibilities as they’re ready for them. Things such as:

  • weeding and watering the garden
  • sweeping the floors
  • washing the table and counters
  • cleaning bathroom sinks and toilets (a much easier task now that we’ve switched to chemical-free cleaning with Norwex!)
  • sorting laundry

And as they reach their teen years, skills that will make them able to “adult” will be added to the list, including:

  • using and managing a budget
  • doing their own laundry from start to finish
  • ironing
  • meal planning
  • cooking
  • car maintenance
  • yard maintenance

Why Do We Choose to Teach Our Kids Chores?

Pitching in and doing your share is part of being a family. And along with teaching our kids to help out at home, we also want to encourage them to help others, and help out in our community. This, in turn, will encourage them to become selfless, mature, contributing members of society. (If you haven’t already, you really need to read “Why Good Moms Don’t Try to Raise Happy Kids” by Alexandra Armstrong over at Wife Sense. I love her wit and way of telling things like they are!)

We’d love to hear your ideas when it comes to using age appropriate chores to teach kids responsibility. Use the comment section below to let us know what you think.

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