Chores for children


January 28, 2014 by talkaboutyork

Every morning at the school gate I see several harried parents, usually mothers, who look as though they can use a stiff drink, despite it being 8.30am. I overhear their conversations with their children and they sound remarkably like the ones we have:

‘Well why didn’t you put your book in your book bag?’

‘I thought you said your swim kit was at school!’

‘Well whose shoes are you wearing if not yours?’

We look at each other and smile empathetic smiles and feel a warmth in the pits of our stomaches (and no it’s not from the hot porridge we had for breakfast, because who has time to eat before getting the kids to school?). It’s because we know we aren’t alone.

Each of us has had to say the EXACT same things that morning in a bid to get them to do some basic life chores:

‘Get dressed.’ ‘Clean your teeth.’ ‘Eat your breakfast.’  ‘Put your plate in the dishwasher.’  ‘Stop hitting your brother/sister.’ ‘Could you just get on with it.’  ‘You should have completed that last night.’  ‘No it’s not my job to run up four flights of stairs to find your missing homework.’

A while ago it reached a point in our house where I had to write a list of house rules – things that the children had to do earn some pocket money – because I just couldn’t face repeating myself every, single, sodding day. I really didn’t think the list was onerous – and I never viewed them as chores, rather part of life that we all have to do. It went as follows:

– get up and get dressed

– open your blind and turn off your light

– pull your duvet straight, flush the loo, bring any dirty clothes downstairs

– eat your breakfast and put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher

– clean your teeth

– ensure you have everything you need ready for school

That’s not a lot for an 8 and 10 year old to do, I don’t think. Yet my children seem to believe that I am the world’s ‘Meanest mum’ (I am just waiting for the sash and tiara to round this title off nicely).

But then I saw this:

Children's chores


I realised that we are pretty far removed from this list of chores. My children do occasionally pack or unpack the dishwasher, normally in payment for buying a new xbox avatar or something. They occasionally help me sort out the socks and they do help put the groceries away, which usually ends up with them opening all the snacks and eating them before they can make it to the cupboard. And in moments of madness I have let them get to work with Mr Sheen and a dusting cloth. But I find sticky residue on everything and a small whole in the ozone layer above our house when I do. They have baked cookies and the younger of the two has even prepared some meals with my help. They have set the table from time to time, but it is more a scattering-of-random-cutlery-across-the-table-with-no-plates type of affair. And very occasionally they help daddy build flat pack furniture or weed the garden.

Yet these are all novelty occasions rather than par for the course. I remember having a roster of chores when we were growing up. My absolute worst week was dog feeding/dog poop scooping off the lawn week. I would have happily traded dish washing and kitchen cleaning week a billion times over to avoid doing that. I even remember having to clean huge floor to ceiling glass windows in our sitting room using newspaper (but we were teens by then).

I think getting kids to do chores like these are invaluable life skills. I know they have a ridiculously busy week at school and are exhausted so I fully understand why they probably wouldn’t want to hoover the rugs or clean the bathrooms on their return. But I think they need to learn how to do it.

In fact, thinking back, they used to do almost all of these things – under supervision – when they were younger, because they wanted to help. Some how as the tweens have approached, this desire to help mum seems to have been replaced with Little Lord Fauntleroy tendencies.

They are so going to hate me for it, but I feel that the house rules will need to be revisited to include some of these items. Perhaps then I will be able to arrive at school all calm and serene knowing that my children have already prepared that evening’s dinner and that they have sewed their own name tapes on their new school clothing.

Or not. But I can dream.

So what chores do your children do? Is the list above too much? Bang on? And I’d love to hear from anyone who can make doing these chores a regular (nag free) habit for their kids.


6 thoughts on “Chores for children

  1. Oh God my boys don’t really do any “chores” as such. They tidy their room every two weeks because I threaten them that otherwise the cleaner will throw their toys in the bin. They occasionally take their dishes from the table to the sink….er, that’s it. I know I should make them do stuff, but frankly just getting them through the day, eg. to school on time and with their teeth cleaned and uniform on is effort enough!

    On the upside, I was brought up with a maid and never learned how to do any of that stuff….but I had to learn it when I moved away from home, and although I’m not a domestic goddess I’m not a complete slob either. They’ll learn……

  2. washknight says:

    Well our son has to lay the table for dinner and collect up and stray cups and glasses etc after dinner for the dishwasher. He also does the curtains. As far as daily chores go that is about it I think. Reading your post does make me think whether he should be doing a little more…. lol. He is 9 by the way.

  3. My sons think I am an alien who has supplanted their real mum and that is why I make them do things such as lay the table, feed the dogs, pick up doggy doo, make beds and ensure that they have done all their own homework…id like to think everything goes like clockwork but we’re usually running late, things get forgotten and I land up doing it all anyway…perhaps the aliens would like to give me back my real sons soon…

  4. emily says:

    It is difficult to motivate kids to contribute to every day life but really important i think. I’m trying to make laying the table, clearing table and stacking the dishwasher a part of every meal, bedroom tidy is done less. Interestingly when it comes to more ‘dangerous’ chores (eg. chopping wood- as have a log burner) both boys (10/11), under supervision of dad are more than happy to oblige, in fact they are really good at it now!! Happy days the house may be a mess but we are warm! love the list above 🙂

  5. I LOVE this list. I am a big fan of making kids contribute their share at home, as I am not their slave. The 4yo tidies up her room, clears the table and helps setting it and is eager to help preparing meals (not that much help though ;-)). The 16 months old is good at putting away Legos. And scattering them all around the lounge again if I am not quick enough.
    When I grew up, I wasn’t allowed playdates on Fridays, as I had to clean the house. A whole 4 bedroom house from the age of 12. I am not going to do the same to my kids – but a little bit of appreciation for what I do for them won’t hurt.

  6. It would be much better in our house if everyone did help and it is always hard to get to school [expesially on a Monday]

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