If I had to list the 5 most important things I want my children to learn from me, hard work is in there…unfortunately, it is also incredibly difficult to teach. A few years ago, I found myself mostly working alone so I didn’t have to listen to the whining, complaining and fighting that always accompanied chores.

Now, I have 3 boys who are actual assets when it is time to clean up! It is a heavenly moment when you realize having help from your kids makes your load lighter instead of heavier, and now our house is pretty clean most of the time. But, there are a few things I wish I would have done differently when my boys were little that would have made life much easier then and now!
  • I wish I would have made my boys work earlier. Little boys can help with lots of things, especially general picking up, washing dishes, and laundry. My 2 year old is the happiest helper and we have lots of great conversations about colors and matching over clean socks. I should have had all my kids help instead of wait until they were asleep or occupied before I started my cleaning. This started a bad expectation of, “Mom will do it.”
  • I wish I would have made cleaning accessible to my little ones. It is so overwhelming for little guys to hear that they have to clean their WHOLE room or playroom all by themselves. Asking them to just put away the books or just pick up the dirty clothes and working with them makes things so much more simple for everyone involved. Step by step and specific instructions make big tasks seem small.
  • I wish I would have had them make their bed as soon as they were old enough to sleep in one. Such a valuable habit and completely do-able.
  • I wish I would have allowed them to try some of the harder chores and accepted their best effort as “good enough” instead of needing to do it over or not allowing them to give it a shot. I am much better at this now.
  • I wish I would have been a better example about picking up the mess before leaving the room. My husband is awesome at this, and when he is around, everything just stays clean because he asks everyone to pick up what they have messed up. I am still trying!
  • I wish I would have had everyone help keep the car clean. When my husband is driving the van, he asks everyone to bring in 2 things…one in each hand. So much more simple than the huge “car clean out” that we so often have to do and much less embarrassing when someone needs a ride. Working on this one too.
  • I wish I would have had them clean up the outside mess on a daily basis. We love playing outside, but there is no reason for our backyard to be trashed…we have bins for balls and places for bikes. It only takes a second when we do it every day, and then our Saturday is so much more free.
But, that was then, and this is now, so moving on…
My boys are now 11, 9, 7, and 2, so obviously my oldest 3 are the ones who help the most. I have found the easiest thing for me is to give them things they have to do DAILY, and we keep it really simple. They can get these done in the morning before school or after school, but they are supposed to accomplish them every day (homework aside, this takes about 40 minutes):
  • Make bed, pick up room (including any clean laundry on bed)
  • Practice piano 15 minutes
  • Practice keyboarding or extra math 10 minutes
  • Homework
  • Read scriptures 5 minutes
  • Pick up all of your items around the house (done before bed)
There is a small reward for accomplishing their list. They get $.50 per day for the cleaning stuff and are rewarded with 35 minutes of electronic time for accomplishing the other items (less if less chores are accomplished). I know it doesn’t sound like much, but since we pay for basically everything they do, the extra $10 per month is just fun money or money they can deposit in their bank account to save. They can earn more if they want to do extra jobs. I am also pretty strict about screen time, so the 35 minutes of free time is a big bonus for them. They can bank it, and it doesn’t include days when we watch movies together or they have friends over when it is cold outside and end up playing the Wii. So far, it has been reward enough.
Of course, this is not all they do. Once a week they clean bathrooms and clean out the car. They help with dishes each night and yard work during the summer. They also are required to just “pitch in,” when we need them to.

I have decided against specific assigned chores. I really like our family to work together without people telling me “my stuff” is done or “that kid” got the easier job. If the garbage needs to be taken out, the closest boy gets that job. If the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, everyone helps. If company is coming, all hands on deck. If someone is bogged down with homework, they get the night off. This has mostly worked well for us, especially when we add a little music to the cleaning party. Our family being willing to help each other out is an important thing to my husband and me.

I must add one thing I feel like I did do right...I never made a clean house more important than the people who lived inside it. I didn’t miss out on childhood milestones to organize a closet or skip out on story time to mop the floor. I invited kids and neighbors inside even when my dishes were still out and sometimes moved a pile of laundry so we could sit and chat. That being said, I truly believe that when a home is clean, it is a happier place and more comfortable for everyone. So, sometimes the fun has to happen AFTER the work is done, and sometimes work can wait. Both are important lessons.
The hardest part? Staying consistent! This is so, so hard. The random and weekly stuff we are great at…keeping track of the 6 daily things is much harder as is consistently rewarding them. Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow where I introduce the coolest and cutest $1 chore charts that help with both problems!