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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seiler Kids' Chores

I was raised to work hard. My parents did not care whether I felt like helping out or not. There was work to be done, and we all had to help to get it done. I FIRMLY believe that contributed to my ability to work very hard as an adult. I don't have a lazy bone in my body. And I refuse to raise lazy children.
In a large family, there's plenty of work to do, but there's also plenty of helpers. Even if I had just two children, I would still raise my children to help significantly with the daily household management.
The Bible has PLENTY to say about hard work vs. laziness. Just Google it, and you will get a long list. For instance, Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” Because it's important to God, in the Seiler home, everyone must work, everyday. The only exception is Sundays, our day of rest, but even feeding animals still has to be done on Sundays.
As soon as a child is old enough to make a mess, that child is old enough to be taught to clean it up. One motto in our house is, "If you make a mess, you clean it up." When my children were toddlers, it would start with me sitting on the floor with them and singing Barney's clean-up song. I would take their hands and physically make them pick up a toy (with my hand over the top) and then we'd put it away together. We'd keep singing until it was all done. Over time, they were required to do it without mom's help. No fail, every child will resist clean-up time at one point or another. If a child refuses to obey my direction to clean-up, consequences must be administered. My children have cleaned-up while crying many times, but they must be taught at an early age to force themselves to do what they don't feel like doing - to have the ability to overrule themselves. That's just life! We, as adults, must do that all the time.
My older children love to have the younger children be their chore buddy. This is great, because not only do they bond, but the younger children are learning how to do chores from their older siblings. They learn teamwork.
At preschool age, my children's chores are mainly self-care and picking up toys. I have two preschoolers currently: Noah is 4 1/2, and Nathan is 3 1/2.
Once they hit about age five, they can graduate into bigger responsibilities, such as sorting laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and feeding animals. Right now, Luke, my 6 1/2 year old, is at this stage.
By age eight or so, you should really begin to feel the difference in your workload. When my older children spend the night somewhere else, I can feel the weight of their help at chore-time, when I have to pick up their slack. My older children are a significant help in the running of our house - there's no doubt! Joshua is my 8 1/2 year-old.
By age 10-12, you should feel confident that, if you were to be sick for a long time or in some way debilitated, your child could fill in for you with no problem. Maybe meals won't taste as great as yours after your many years of experience, but they could prepare SOMETHING! They could do laundry, dishes, clean bathrooms, care for pets, etc. with little-to-no guidance from you. I am confident that, if something were to happen to me, Hannah, my 12-year-old could run the show, and even care for her younger siblings, with no problem.
SO, HOW DO YOU ASSIGN CHORES? Just like with menu planning, I've utilized many different methods in the past. One of my favorite resources is Teri Maxwell's "Manager of Their Chores."
In this resources, Teri shows how to assess the needs of your house. You must start by creating a master list of everything that needs to be done, and how often. From there, I simply count up the items on the list and divide it by the number of people helping (which, in our house, is everyone but Dad, because he works). Then, I choose that number of chores for each person. I try to assign chores to the youngest child who is capable of doing them, and move up from there. I take into account how much each age can handle. It must be do-able. I want them to feel successful and the pride of contributing to our home.
HOW LONG DO CHORES TAKE? Hannah is quite efficient in completing her chores. She's also my only girl. Boys, I have found, are very easily distracted during chore time. In my opinion, it should not take more than 30 minutes. If I find a child is being sluggish in completing their chores, I set a timer. They hate that, because they know if they do not beat the timer, there will be consequences. But I tell them that slow work is disobedient. I ask them, "If you were hired to work for someone and you did this kind of work, do you think you deserve to be paid?" I do not tolerate slow work. I also don't tolerate being in the wrong place when you're supposed to be working. I have a few different consequences for not beating the timer. For some, that might be extra chores. For others, it might be another form of Biblical consequences. It just depends on the situation and the child. Incidentally, any child who is mean to a sibling, especially during chore time, is often given the consequence to complete that sibling's chores for them.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU DO CHORES? Because all six of us are home all day together, our home gets un-tidy pretty fast. We do chores twice a day, in addition to a quick tidy before bed. So we have morning chores, which must be completed before 9:00am, when we start school. We also do chores again at 1:00pm, because the house is often un-tidy by then, and the dogs need more water, and there's dishes piled in the sink, and laundry to be rotated.
WHAT DO YOUR CHORE LISTS LOOK LIKE? Currently, I have distributed our chores by rooms or major groups. For instance, one child may be in charge of keeping the living room tidy, which includes straightening the books on the bookshelves, and putting away DVDs and Wii games that get left out. Another child may have kitchen, which includes dishes, but also wiping counter-tops and the dining table, and putting away stray toys that end up on the kitchen floor. It does not matter who made the mess. If that room is your jurisdiction, you clean it. My children know they are to never say, "But I didn't make this mess!" I tell them, "I have to clean up many messes I do not create. That is not important." Children with the laundry chore round up all the laundry in the house each morning and sort it in the floor of the laundry room. If they are old enough, they start the first load. In our house, we have so much laundry, I help in a big way get the laundry done. Not even Hannah can keep a handle on all of it all by herself. Every child has personal chores, which include getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair, making bed, tidying their bedroom EVERY MORNING, and spending time with Jesus. On our chore list, non-reading children are given pictures, which I get from Google Images, so they can read their chore list without my assistance. Here is our chore list for this month that I just prepared this week:
HOW LONG DO CHILDREN HAVE THE SAME CHORES? Right now, I rotate the chores monthly between the three older children. Noah & Nathan's chores never change at this point. Noah turns 5 in May, so he will graduate into greater responsibilities at that time.
DO YOU PAY THEM FOR THEIR CHORES? We do not pay for chores. In our opinion, as long as you live in this house, you must contribute to the house. We do, however, occasionally have extra tasks that need done, and we may give money for that. For instance, reorganizing the DVD drawers, making sure the right DVDs are in their cases, or maybe cleaning out the junk drawer, or whatever odd jobs need to be done. When odd jobs are piling up, I make a list on the white board, and write next to them how much I will pay a child to do that task. Then my older children come along and write their initials next to a job they promise to do, and they earn the extra money. (A side note, they are required to give the first 10% of all their earned money to God.)
WHAT ARE MY EXPECTATIONS FOR QUALITY OF CHORES? I do not expect my children to be able to do chores as well as I would do them. In fact, I'm pretty confident in many instances it would be easier to do some chores myself. However, that doesn't teach my children anything. So although it can be more work for me, especially in the beginning when a child is learning a new skill, it will pay off later. When a child receives a new chore, it is only fair that that child is trained how to do it, and what my expectations are. I expect that they give excellence in everything they do, as if they were doing it for God Himself. You know what your child is capable of, but we must push them slightly past what they think they can do. If I review chores (which I do just about every morning and afternoon) to see the quality of work done, and I feel a child didn't do their best, I bring them back to do it again. If I feel they need further training of my expectations, I bring them back to teach them. For instance, one of my boys, for some reason, believes a room is clean if the floor has nothing on it. However, he fails to look ABOVE the floor, on the tables, or couches, desks, dressers, beds, to pick up items out-of-place. So I call him back. I say, "The floor looks very tidy. Way to go! But do you think this room looks really tidy yet? What is still out-of-place?"
So that's how our home is ran like a well-oiled machine. I have people tell me all the time, "Your house is always so neat. With all these kids, how is that possible? I can't even keep my house clean, and I only have one." Now you know my secret. It's called "TEAMWORK!"
A NOTE FOR MOMS OF LITTLE ONES: I know it's a lot of work all on you right now. But trust me, your time will come when your children are old enough to participate. Hang in there! There's light at the end of the tunnel.

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