Chore charts were created as a tool for teaching kids the responsibility of “hard labor” starting in the home. I’m slightly giggling here as the voice of past generations had far different chores than what we find on our list today. When our oldest kids turned 10 years old, we introduced a chore chart to help with household chores including laundry.
Committing to the chore chart introduces a whole new family dynamic. You find out quickly which parent is the accountable one. I’m sure you can guess that it was my husband. Although it was my idea, I didn’t realize how complications arise through various means of motivation. At first, we started by using a few dollars as a reward. The birth of the cell phone quickly became our new money especially when the begging started. We thought paying monthly for a cell phone would be motivation enough.
As you can guess, the chore chart became a contentious puzzle to solve in our house. The kids attempted chores most days but becoming teens didn’t help. It grew harder and harder to enforce chores. Ideally, the kids would complete their chores without being asked and do it right the first time. We trained the kids on each chore and told them our expectations so we would not have to remind them every day. HA!
My husband and I clashed on parenting styles, as our personalities are completely opposite. Sound familiar? I read advice here and there and continued experimenting on methods of motivation for our kids. I worried everyday chores were too much. I suggested we move chores to every OTHER day, but my husband insisted it was about routine. Tension mounted daily when he would arrive home from work and not all the chores were done. Nicely put, his personality fully commits, and for me, being random and impulsive didn’t help. For some reason, I had to “feel like” doing dishes before I started. What an oxymoron thought. Who feels like doing the dishes?
With fragments of hope remaining to keep chores alive, I pulled out my mom’s bag of tricks. Growing up, we didn’t have a chart in my family but were expected to do certain chores. My mom would ask once. If I didn’t jump up, then she started doing it herself. That never ended well so I’d run to help. Mom would continue helping and the chore was done quickly. Nice! My mom would then thank me for helping her when, in reality, she was helping me.
Flash forward: to keep the peace, I took it up a notch. I started giving my kids a “friendly reminder” before their dad got home. Calling it “friendly” seemed to soften the blow and occasionally I helped them with their chores. I couldn’t help them every time because then it became expected and my husband would accuse me of giving in. My theory: I wanted to be an example for them like my mom was for me. I also made sure to tell them how much I appreciated their help with chores hoping they would learn that teamwork makes life better. Then – the fairy dust must have landed because very soon they started thanking me! My only reply “Teamwork!”
As adults, most of us just do what is needed to run the house without thinking. That’s called maturity. In hindsight, I learned something about the chore chart. It was a list that could have helped me while teaching the kids. The chart is a fancy list that is about routine, responsibility and teamwork but is also about a sense of accomplishment. The daily routine was about consistency and just getting the job done without thinking about it. When the chores were complete, there was an immediate feeling of satisfaction for us all. Today, I make my own list of chores for the time of day that I have the most energy to complete them. My husband is the hero as he taught us all that there is nothing left but rest (or play) after the work is complete.