My kids do chores without complaining, yours can too

I have a big house.  I also have three kids.  I could easily spend every moment of every day cleaning my house.  I don’t particularly think that sounds fun.  As a matter of fact, I rather dislike cleaning.  A few years ago I came up with a solution that also teaches my kids some responsibility.

I divided up our downstairs into three areas: kitchen, family room, dining room/breakfast area.

teach your kids how to do chores without complaining

Then each child was assigned one of those areas for a week.  At the end of the day their area is supposed to be clean, I’ll go into more detail on that in just a moment.  I’ll admit some areas are harder than others, but at the end of the week we rotate to a new area.  So no one person has an unfair share of the chores for too long.

Cleaning the Kitchen

divide your house into zones for chores

I started this when Princess was 7.  At that point all of my kids were familiar with loading and unloading the dishwasher, and knew how to sweep and mop.  Our kitchen is easily the hardest area to be in.  We have five people in our family, four of whom are home for most meals, so we produce a lot of dishes.  We also get our counters dirty ALL THE TIME.

Here is what I expect:

  • Counters cleaned and wiped down.  Extraneous items on the counter put away properly
  • Dishes loaded and unloaded in the dishwasher.  By the end of the day, the sink should be empty.
  • Floor swept at least a couple of times a week, more often in dirty seasons (spring and fall)
  • Floor mopped once a week
  • Once you turn 10, you are also responsible for hand-washing pots and pans, as well as any dishes that are hand-washed.  For this, they receive an extra 50 cents allowance that week.

Cleaning the Family Room

This is the second most difficult area.  We are in our family room all the time, and I’ll confess we eat our meals there most of the time because it’s the only time we really watch TV.

Here is what I expect:

  • Couch cleared off of everything
  • Dishes left in the family room put in the dishwasher, if the dishwasher is running put them in the sink
  • Floor cleared off.  This is important because my boys like to play with Legos and their figures on the floor here.
  • Vacuum the floor.  The main carpet area is a rather old and stained carpet.  Every now and then Jeff threatens to get rid of the thing, but then he realizes how much mess the kids make, and they’d just ruin the new carpet.
  • Sweep the area around the carpet as needed
  • Once a week mop the tile floor.  I’ll be honest this gets skipped more than I want to admit.

Cleaning the Dining Room

chores and responsibility for kids
I had plans to use this picture, because I like it, but you notice my son didn’t stay super still, and he’s blurry

I’ll admit our dining room is mainly used for playing games and eating with friends who come over.  Because it’s relatively clean, I’ve added in what was the breakfast nook, but has become the game area of our kitchen.  That part can easily become a cesspool because our family has a bad habit of just dumping stuff in that room.

Here is what I expect in this room:

  • Dining room table cleared off
  • Nothing on the cordenza
  • Games put away properly
  • Cubbies cleared off on top
  • floor empty in game area
  • Area swept as needed
  • Once a week mop the floor

About a year ago I added a new feature: cleaning a bathroom

Of all the chores I dislike, cleaning bathrooms is top of the list.  I detest it.  So, a year or so ago I set the kids to cleaning bathrooms.  The first several weeks I cleaned the bathroom next to them, and now they do it all on their own, I just check it afterwards.

To make this easier, I have set up a few things:

  1. Each bathroom has its own complete set of cleaning supplies.
  2. Each bathroom has a small trash can that is easily emptied.
  3. Each bathroom has somewhere to store toilet paper.

Yes this means I have bought several toilet brushes, and toilet cleaners*.  I rather like this because it means we don’t carry a dripping wet toilet brush to the next bathroom.  That is really gross.

What does a clean bathroom mean?

  • inside and outside of toilet is cleaned (ewwwww)
  • sink is clean
  • trash can is emptied
  • nothing on the floor
  • TOILET PAPER ON THE DISPENSER (this one is super important)

At the end of the week they have me come and check their bathroom out, and I either say “Good job, go take a shower,” or “You need to fix X, Y, and Z.”

I’ve been working recently towards the kids getting their room clean every day, or at least “I can walk through your room without stepping on Legos” clean each day, and “Mommy level” clean at the end of the week (but, I’ll be honest I rarely get mine clean, so I’m not going to freak out too much, just so long as it’s not smelly).

What happens if their area isn’t clean?

Their allowance is docked.  Each week the kids are paid for their work, part goes into giving and part goes into savings.  We only dock a maximum of $1, but it’s a big deal when your allowance is less than $5 a week.

More ideas for teaching responsibility at: Teaching Responsibility, practical tips from experienced homeschoolers.


6 responses to “My kids do chores without complaining, yours can too”

  1. We do something fairly similar, and never have any moans. I don’t even have to ask them, they just get on and do them. I think starting them young is the best thing and being constant and ensuring they understand how much they are helping our family.

    1. I agree starting young really does seem to have a difference.

  2. I feel like our house doesn’t have enough defined spaces to do this easily. I could see it working well if we ever move into a larger space (fingers crossed…)

    As it is, we mostly clean together, which has its benefits and downsides (easier for a child to let others pick up their slack.)

    1. The child slacking off was what we were running into when we all did it together, because one child was moving S-L-O-W-E-R….

  3. I love your system and especially the rotation. Your kids will certainly leave your home prepared for life!

    1. That’s my goal. After going to college with a few kids who did not know how to do dishes, or cook, I swore my kids would know how to do it (and I’ll admit I only really learned how to do laundry right before leaving for college).

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