Do you ever feel like getting your children to do their chores well is an impossible task? It has taken years of fine tuning our chore charts and procedures to come up with a plan that works for our family. Granted, we are in the ‘sweet spot’ of life—our five children are currently between the ages of 8 and 16—but finding ways to effectively engage children in household chores is never easy.
UNDERSTANDING THE PURPOSE BEHIND OUR CHORES
To begin with, the very word ‘chore’ has such a negative connotation to it. Even the definition “an unpleasant but necessary task” fails to inspire. So, the first step is to change our terminology—using words like job or service might remove a bit of the stigma, but, in the end, everyone knows we are still talking about work that needs to be done.
How then, do we get our kids on board? I’ve found helping them understand the purpose behind the work and how it benefits themselves and others is the key to cooperation. We try to instill a sense of service, teamwork, and ownership in our kids. When they feel like the work they do matters, their attitude changes. They begin to take pride in our home, desire to care for it, and make it a clean and welcoming place for people to visit—or live.
More importantly, we teach them that when each of us does our part to keep up the home, we are serving one another. When a child does a load of laundry to completion, they are performing an act of love and service to their family. They are demonstrating that they don’t want their siblings or parents to go out into the world in stinky, soiled clothing. They are helping each of us to look and feel our best. When another child refills the ice cube trays, they are preparing for the moment their sibling will come in hot and thirsty from playing outside. What a gift an ice-cold cup of water will be! When the kids take turns cleaning the bathrooms, they are removing the germs, dirt, and soap scum that make a bathroom unclean and potentially unsafe.
A BIBLICAL VIEW OF CHORES
Every chore is an opportunity to love each other, and the attitude with which our children perform it reveals how much love is in their hearts for our family—and for the Lord. Our theme verse for chores is: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
When we love someone, we would do anything for them. Jesus loved us and gave His very life for us. Can we take out the garbage or dust a few shelves for Him?
Whoever said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” may have not been as far off as we’d like to think. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure…” (NIV). As our children learn to serve with grateful—even joyful—hearts, we will begin to see the transformation of souls submitted to Christ.
Also, by encouraging our children to do hard or unenjoyable things now in service to their family, they will be equipped later to go out into the world and do the even harder work of serving those who care nothing for them. Continuing in Philippians 2:15, Paul says, “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain” (NIV). They may not fully understand now, but doing chores builds character, compassion, and Christ-likeness in our kids. We do our sons and daughters a disservice when we deprive them of the opportunity to work and serve the family.
Proverbs 14:23 states, “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Don’t let your kids talk you out of doing their chores. They will reap both an earthly and heavenly reward for their diligence.
SETTING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Practically speaking, we have come up with a somewhat elaborate but effective set of daily and weekend chores for our kids to do. The daily jobs rotate weekly; the weekend jobs rotate monthly. We also have kitchen helper teams for after dinner clean-up. Our system isn’t perfect, but it has worked well for our family. We have set clear expectations, and everyone’s responsibilities are posted in the kitchen for them to see and follow.
When someone doesn’t do their part, they shouldn’t be surprised when there are consequences. For example, they know that if the work isn’t done before dinner on Saturday, we will not have family movie night, which we all look forward to each week. They also know that if it’s their turn to make dinner (on rotation, since both their dad and I work full time), it should be ready by 5:00 p.m. or they will have a hangry mob on their hands. The goal is to give our kids structure and accountability, with the hope that they will make good decisions and effort as they work.
SHOWING APPRECIATION FOR CHORES
Showing appreciation for each other’s contributions is a great motivator for doing chores. While we may have to correct their effort or results, we also know it is important to praise them when they have done a good job (or the best job they could for their age, ability, etc.). Everyone knows to thank the person who made dinner for them when we sit down to a meal, and it is especially sweet when a sibling gives a specific compliment to their brother or sister on the meal they prepared. Just this evening, my 14-year-old son told his 8-year-old sister that she had made the best taco meat he’d ever tasted and she beamed with pride.
Our homes are the training ground for our children’s future as adults. It is here that they learn about valuing work, dealing with different personalities, handling conflicts, showing mercy, being kind, and serving others. It is hard work for us, as parents, to get our kids excited about their daily chores, but, in our experience, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.
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