Who’s The “Chore Trainer” In Your House?


The boys and I are very lucky to have Z in our lives. I tend to follow my Mom’s example when it comes to chores around the house. I lean towards doing things myself as it’s faster than getting the kids to do them. But every time I pick up an abandoned shoe or books left lying around, I cringe slightly at the missed opportunity to train the boys to do this themselves.

Z, on the other hand, sees the time investment in teaching the boys how to do chores as the way towards independence – for both the boys and us! Given my new discovery that it’s important to get kids involved in chores early – ideally when they are three or four – I am now an even bigger supporter of Z’s patience and training.

My Mom and I were talking about this recently. She’d been visiting a family where the children were ordered back outside to pick up their belongings. She confessed that she had done that kind of thing for us when we were younger as it was easier. She said that she always thought that we would reach a point where my brother, sister and I would volunteer to help. Except we didn’t. I remember doing the washing up after dinner but not much else. When I first went away to college, I’m embarrassed to say that I remember being asked by another student, “Did you have a cleaner at home or something?” because I’d left the kitchen in such a mess. I also remember being flummoxed by how to operate a washing machine.

We (OK, Z) started early. From the time they could walk, we had the boys help us pick up their toys and put them away. I can’t tell you how many times we sang “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere.” We always had to do it with them and often we had to get them focused back on the job, but we kept it up.

As they reached the age of 4 – 6, we changed tactics and often gave them a deadline to get everything tidied. Their competitive spirits loved trying to beat the buzzer and they charged around the place gleefully grabbing toys and shouting each other instructions.

In the last two years or so, Z has really stepped it up. We now have the following morning routine for the boys:

Between 6.00-7.00am:  The boys wake up and come and snuggle on the sofa with Z and read. (I’m usually working in our home office at this time but try to join them for a little snuggle time.)

7.00 am:  Breakfast – the boys now get their own. Z set it up so that their bowls and cereal are all on a low shelf in the kitchen. Milk and yoghurt can be easily reached in the fridge. Spoons are in a handy drawer.

7.30 am: After breakfast, the boys put away the cereal and milk and bring the dirty dishes into the kitchen. Then they get dressed (picking out their own clothes) and brush their teeth.

7.45 am: Time to unload the dishwasher.  Originally, we would do this with one of the boys on alternate mornings (Z had it noted on the calendar whose turn it was.) Each time I stood there and they handed me something out of the dishwasher to put away, I was conscious that I could do it much faster myself but I could also see the habit being formed. Whoever wasn’t on dishwasher duty, made the beds. In the last year, the boys started (on their own initiative) unloading the dishwasher together. M hands items to T and T puts them away (as he is tall enough to reach 90% of the places). Items that live in areas that are too high for T are left out for me to put away. Last month, Z introduced a new level. The boys now load the dishwasher with the dirty breakfast items. The beds continue to be made on alternate days by the boys – again this is marked on the calendar.

8.00 am: T is usually ready by this time and curled up reading again. M tends to be a bit more “in the moment” so often needs to be kept on track but usually manages to finish up in time for some extra reading time too.

8.15 am: The boys pack their backpacks with their homework and the packed lunches I’ve made.

8.20 am: We leave on our bikes for school.

Other chores include:

  • Laying the table for dinner
  • Taking their dirty dishes and utensils (and ours) to the kitchen after dinner
  • If they make a mess on the floor, they have to sweep/clean it up
  • T is responsible for taking out the trash

As always, there’s room for improvement. The other day, we asked M to help us with something around the house. He retorted “Why should I do that? It’s not my job.” Alarm bells went off. We immediately had a little chat with that young man about being part of the team. But it was a timely reminder of the potential attitude we could face down the track. Frankly, though, he doesn’t stand a chance against Z and his patience and systems!

Who’s the “chore trainer” in your house? What chores do your kids do?  Has your childhood chores (or lack of them) affected how you involve your kids in chores? I love hearing (and learning) from readers and their experiences so please do share.


4 Responses to Who’s The “Chore Trainer” In Your House?

  1. Julie Mozena says:

    Great column! I just had a conversation the other day w/someone who asked me if my kids do chores. I answered w/a resounding yes! His do as well, but another family he knows didn’t start their kids early, and now that the oldest is 13 they are trying to rope him in – ah, too late people! Our kids are in charge of the animals – food/water and poop patrol. They sometimes need reminding, but they do it cheerfully. They also do many of the chores that your kids do, but I like the dishwasher/bed making plan – we gotta try that!

  2. StephK says:

    My boys are three and six years old, so getting them to help out is a chore in itself. I tried the egg-timer method which actually worked pretty well, and it inspired me to create an app for Iphone that does this…only better.(yes, I created it–I’m not a company or a software developer, or anything like that, I’m just a mom who is tired of stepping on Legos!). You pick a reward before setting the timer (which plays music that gets faster and faster as time runs out), and if your child completed the task he can SHAKE! the phone and the reward will appear like magic. My kids just freak out–they love it! The app is called “Clean up your Room” and you can find it here: http://www.myatools.com/cleanupyourroom. Besides my beautiful children, this is definitely the best thing I ever made. My living room is clean in two minutes, every time.:)

    • Suzanne says:

      What a brilliant idea! My two boys can never resist a competition and this would totally appeal to that side of their nature. Even better that it’s helping young kids get the idea that they need to do chores early in life. Kudos to you for creating this app!


  3. […] Who’s The “Chore Trainer” in Your House? – outlines the chores routine for our kids […]

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