CHORES – It Doesn’t Have to be a Dirty Word


With school starting, we are easing back into our non-summer routine and that means a reinstatement of the dirty word…CHORES!  It’s not like we’ve had a summer of no chores, but our summer chores are geared around the gardens, yard and the animals.   When it’s not summer, then our chores are more household oriented.

Recently I was contacted by a good friend who said she wants her girls to do more around the house but she didn’t know how to get started with assigning chores and which jobs would be appropriate for her daughters’ ages.    She knew our boys had daily chores so she was asking advice on how to do it effectively and successfully.

I’ve tried many different techniques over the years.  A few years back, we did away with any sort of reward system or games for chore time.  It got to be a lot of work for me to develop systems and then maintain them.  So, we simplified things and here’s what we told our boys: “In belonging to this family, you are a team player.  That means you have an important job to make sure our family is successful.  Everyone has to cooperate and participate for this to happen.  So, everyone will be expected to help our family by doing certain chores everyday or at least most days.  If everyone accomplishes this, then our team wins!”  Obviously, every family needs to approach this differently but with three boys who love sports, the team aspect was appropriate.

Erin Turner

Quinn folding socks.

So, step one is to make it clear what you are expecting of the kids: to do daily chores.  If they are older, you may hear complaining and whining, don’t give up!  Reinforce they are not on this earth to be served!  Rather, they are part of a family who works together to accomplish a goal.

Okay, once the kids are ready for chores then you need to teach them what needs to be done.  Do NOT assume they know how to sweep or mop or clean mirrors!  Show them how a job needs to be done and how you expect it to look afterward.  This is one aspect which I had overlooked for awhile and it was getting frustrating to go and survey their completed tasks only to find it unsatisfactory.  Once I began saying things like, “The family room should not have any pillows or blankets or toys on the floor when it is clean” or “The bathroom mirrors shouldn’t have streaks when it is clean” then I began seeing success!  Be very clear on what your expectation of the chore is!

If your kids have tried their very best to accomplish a task but it still doesn’t meet your standards, don’t say anything negative!  Give them positive reinforcement, you don’t want them to give up or get frustrated.  But if they are doing an intentionally bad job, then I make sure they repeat the chore until it is done appropriately.  My oldest son is the king of saying, “I can’t do this job very well, so next time, have Logan do it because he is better at it.”  At first he made a good argument, but then I caught on and now when he does a bad job just to get out of it next time, he knows he is going to own that chore until he does it perfectly! Ha!

Most of my tweaking of our chore system has had to do with HOW I tell them what jobs need to be completed.  The boys admitted they didn’t like my just telling them so I began writing chores on tags and hanging them on little hooks in the hallway.  Last year the boys told me they didn’t like that so I discovered a new method which has worked like a dream!

photo 1

This magnetic white board hangs on our refrigerator and the boys simply erase a chore once it’s completed.

At Target, I found a white board Menu Planner.  It had the list of days down the side and three columns across the middle.  I put stickers over the breakfast, lunch and dinner and just wrote the boys’ names on the stickers.  This way they know what chores for what day need to be completed.  When a chore is done, the boy just wipes it off.  This little board is magnetic so it hangs right on our refrigerator.  It is very visible and accessible.

Now, I’m sure you’re curious about the chores I assign each boy.  I usually give 3 chores daily one of those always is a farm chore but the other two are generally household chores.  Now, if there is a difficult chore then I will assign two boys to that chore.  But the chores change day to day depending on what needs to be accomplished.  I don’t assign chores on the weekends or on their birthdays!

Below is a list of different chores I assign.  Feel free to use them, adjust them or add to them.  These are all age appropriate for our kids.  Obviously, the ages of your children will determine what level and how many chores they do each day!

-Empty wastebaskets

-Unload and Load dishwasher

-Wash baseboard trim

-Vacuum (I just give a few rooms to each boy)

-Clean their bathroom including mirrors

-Sweep and/or mop floors

-Sweep front porch and sidewalks

-Put away toys

-Change sheets on their bed

-Put away clean laundry

-Sort clean socks

-Dust rooms

-Fill sugar or flour containers from bulk bins

-Wash windows (especially on garage doors)

-Shovel snow off of driveway and sidewalk

-Wipe down kitchen cupboards

Ethan Dusting

Ethan dusting.

When my boys starting participating in these household chores, it gave me so much more time plus it reduced my stress level significantly!

We do not give an allowance or reward for these chores.  These are necessary tasks which need to be done by all who live and eat in this house.  We do compliment the kids on their completion of their chores but that is the only reward they get.  On the flip side, we NEVER use chores as a punishment.  So, if there needs to be a consequence given for bad behavior, we will not give them a chore to do as punishment.  Too often this is done and kids begin associating punishment with chores!  This is NOT effective so don’t be tempted because it will backfire!

Kids need responsibility and they need to learn independence.  By giving them a share in the household maintenance, you are accomplishing a multitude of good things:

1)      Showing trust in your kids

2)      Giving them responsibility

3)      Teaching them accountability

4)      Giving them a sense of belonging to a family

5)      Teaching them good work ethics

6)      Providing them with a sense of accomplishment

7)      Teaching them lifelong skills

8)      Grooming them to be good spouses who can help around the house

9)      By doing chores around the house, they learn a better appreciation of the jobs parents do to maintain a household.

10)   The kids also take better care of your house and respect their belongings when they are ultimately responsible for them.

11)   Kids doing chores frees up a lot of time for doing FUN family activities!

12)   And it wouldn’t be one of my blogs, if I didn’t mention the amount of money you will save by NOT hiring a maid/cleaning service!

Kids doing chores is a win-win for everyone. So, as you slide back into your school year routine be sure to include daily chores as part of it.  Start slow but be consistent.  You will see the rewards not only in your clean house but in watching your kids blossom into independent and responsible helpers. GO TEAM CLEAN!!


 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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