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Chores

boys trampoline

The little ones savoring their last lazy days of summer.

The boys went back to school a week or so ago, and now that September is upon us, we have resumed our routine in earnest. That means chores, lots of them, and no slacking off whatsoever.

During the summer our life is free form –the entire neighborhood congregates at my house, probably because of the abundance of food. Even teenage boys want their cupcakes. And when it comes to chores, the boys are so busy hanging out with their friends, that every now and then I’ll empty the dishwasher myself instead of interrupting their play.

Not so when school is back in session. Forget to do your chores and you are grounded the next day. Worse, if you are seriously slacking off? You may be handed your brother’s tasks on top of your own. For a week. That is the ultimate consequence –double chore duty.

What chores do my boys perform?

My 13 year old takes care of the following each night:

  • Sets table with silverware, napkins and water
  • Clears table
  • Washes table
  • Puts all food away in glass jars
  • Wipes down kitchen counters
  • Wipes out kitchen sink with Bon Ami, rinses and dries sink ’til it sparkles
  • Takes dirty rags and cloth napkins to hamper in laundry room

He also pitches in by taking charge of these twice per week responsibilities:

  • Sorts dirty clothes into three categories: regular, delicate, rags
  • Runs clothes through washer and dryer
My 12 year old does the following daily duties (with great reticence):

  • Runs dishwasher
  • Unloads dishwasher
  • Takes out recycling
  • Takes out compost

The work that the boys do is a significant contribution. They further help me with any additional tasks I ask them to do. That might mean helping me chop up veggies for dinner, or sweeping the floor. I love being in the kitchen with my children and always have (though I probably can’t say the same for them).

The boys started pitching in when they were very little. My older son used to pull herbs off their stems for me when he was just two years old. He became responsible for setting the table when he was around four years old, about the time he started preschool. At that time I had my children take on the responsibility of packing their lunches. I made sure they did this the night before as to avoid adding stress to our mornings.

My favorite chore that the boys now partake in is picking kale from our front yard (I tore out the flower beds to make room for veggies). I love watching them go out there with a big bowl and little scissors. My younger son makes a mean version of my Raw Kale Salad –I will feature his recipe on here soon. He is truly a wonderful and discerning little chef.

My older son has said this about the younger:

“My brother is a better overall chef –but my specialty is desserts.”

That about sums up my happy little family. What about yours? What do you think of chores? What do your children do and how do you persuade them to take action around the house?


posted on September 5, 2012

  1. Aidel.K

    When my kids are contributing around the house, I think about what great spouses they will be! My oldest son is married, and it’s true–he really helps his wife. My younger son does the floors: mopping, vacuuming, etc. It’s not his favorite activity, but he does it. He’s very good at it. He’s also good at cooking; he doesn’t enjoy it, though. My daughter loves to make desserts and has become really proficient in the kitchen. She pitches in all around the house. I think it’s so good for them.

    • Marcee ….. ILLINOIS

      Whoa …. fantastic.

      I love reading “chore” stories. Way to go mommies!

      Growing up my sisters were verrrrry lazy. Just terrible. I did almost everything to help mama. Laundry, folding, putting things away, etc.

      After our nightly dinners together, my daddy would help clear the table w/me. I would start washing the dishes, put things away. Mom would be watching TV in the living room. The siblings were no where to be found. Hiding somewhere most likely. This went on for years and years.

      Early household chores taught me how to run a home. I appreciate it.

  2. Audrey

    I have 2 boys, age 14 and 17. We are the opposite of your schedule, during the summer, they have lots of chores. During the school year, they are so busy with school sports, so they don’t have time to do chores during the week, just a few chores on the weekend.

    So in the summer, there are 2 weekly chore charts, and they switch with each other each week. One list includes vacuuming the whole house including stairs, cleaning a vehicle, and cleaning a bathroom. The other list includes sweeping the whole house including the garage, dusting, and washing the front of appliances. Both are required to clean up after themselves when eating, put away their own laundry, clean their room, and make dinner once a week.

    During the school year, they simply vacuum and dust, or sweep and clean a bathroom, just on the weekend. They are still required to clean up after eating, clean their room, and put away their laundry.
    In addition, they also help with family chores, cutting, splitting and stacking firewood, weed control and fence maintenance on our property. They are very self sufficient about making their own breakfast and lunch, if I don’t do it for them.

    I think my boys do more chores than most of their friends, but we try to make it a positive family value. I think it is important in life to have a strong work ethic, and to know how to do basic things around the house. We also pay them for their chores, and that is their motivation, because, as teenagers, there are many “extras” that they want to buy.

  3. Sina @ the kosher spoon

    My daughter is 3 and starting preschool soon. I think it’s a great idea to teach her how to pack her lunch.
    Chores in general are something I have to think about as she starts getting older. Nice to hear your experience.

  4. I just want to say thank you for sharing this! We have 3 children who participate in daily chores, without allowance. We want them to be contributing members of our family. I tell my 14.5 year old son his wife will thank me someday! He takes out the compost, garbage and recycling, mows and waters the lawn, rotates laundry, makes his bed, helps cook and loads the dishwasher and does his homework. My daughters (ages 8 and 11) unload the dishwasher, help prepare meals, sweep the floors, fold and put away laundry, make their beds and do their homework. They all play instruments so they also practice/play music daily. Each child has a clipboard and they mark off what they have done. For example they all have 5 boxes for laundry, 5 boxes for dishes, 5 boxes for sweeping on room in the house, 5 boxes for playing their instrument, 5 boxes for homework, etc. When they complete a task, they mark and “X” on the box. At the end of the week it helps us say “thank you for helping the family”. When I was diagnosed almost 2 years ago with Leukemia (AML), the kids really had to start doing tasks on their own and helping around the house. They used to make their own lunches, but now that I am well again I do make their lunches and enjoy it. It helps when three times per week they make their own breakfast -mainly on the weekends so I can sleep in. I find that my kids really do like to help and it makes them feel a sense of responsibility to each other and our family. Again, thank you for sharing your ideas…I think I am going to add setting the table and putting left over food away on their lists. You are a blessing as always!

  5. KarenW

    I have been a single mom since my boys were 3 and 8. They are now 19 and 23. The oldest is acting in Los Angeles and the youngest has chosen to serve in the Marine Corps before becoming a high school history teacher.
    He leaves for boot camp in 18 days.

    When my oldest was 12 he became responsible for his laundry and his little brother did the same when he became 12. They were both responsible for poop patrol to clean up after the dog. At 13 my oldest took over cleaning up after dinner later the boys did this together. On Saturdays we all did yard work together. They learned to cook, run a vacuum, and dust. I told myself I was raising future husbands. We had so many fun times.

    What amazed me was that my boys were the only kids and teens who had household responsibilities. I often questioned myself thinking they may be better off with more carefree lives; but the boys told me even though they did not always enjoy chores they were learning about responsibilities and they felt good contributing.

    One thing I learned was to give up my expectation of how things should be done and realize that everyone has their own way of doing things. At first I would redo their work if it was not exactly what I wanted. I realized I was creating more work for myself and robbing them of feeling good about what they did. We worked together as a family to find a balance between my idea of what was good with theirs. Over time their own expectations for themselves grew. It was wonderful to watch.

    Chores, meal planning, shopping, and cooking can be a wonderful way to share time together as a family while providing children with self confidence.

  6. Sel

    Hi there, love the blog and the natural way of your lives…i have
    one question and hoping that someone out there sees this and perhaps
    they might have some input…..Here goes; does anyone know how to
    make jalapeno olive oil? it is so addictive and what a wonderful
    addition to any dish. Infusing does not work, it opens up a very
    possible botu poison, a scary thing….so does anyone have a better
    idea? thanks, Sel

  7. Olivia@ OmNom Love @ omnomlove.blogspot.com

    I’m actually in the 7th grade now and school started on August 6th. :( I’ve been in the school groove for a month now.

    I don’t like chores at all. Period. Though I do help out around the kitchen a lot because I cannot stand a dirty kitchen. I cook dinner, I make my lunch, do the dishes, empty & load the dish washer, take out the trash, dust, and clean my room. That just about sums it up.

  8. Cindy

    I love reading about how your family works. My oldest is just 3.5 and I just made her first little chore chart. She is thrilled to move magnets from the to do section to the done section. She opens and closes our shades, puts her own clothes in the laundry room, takes her breakfast dishes from the dining room to kitchen and uses a little broom to sweep up any mess on the floor.
    It’s fun to see how excited she gets to do her chores and I think as long as we keep it positive, she will co to or enjoying her contribution to our family.

  9. MamaCassi

    when my oldest was 2, i realized he wanted to help and that it was rewarding for him to do so. the chore chart became one of his favorite parts of the day. i was challenged to come up with enough chores to make his day challenging. i can’t remember what all they were, but cleaning up his own toys and getting dressed and napping were on there. as he grew, he demanded more and more challenging chores. he is 6 1/2 now, and has a magnetic chore list that he LOVES- he lets the dog out in the morning and oversees her dog bowl. he clears the table when i ask, and sets it as well (we’re pretty casual). and also helps take out the compost. he can help carry laundry up and down the stairs, and can also collect it to bring downstairs.

    his sister wasn’t interested in chore charts at all, stickers, rewards, all for nil. but she decided that she likes to help in the kitchen (when she got an apron for a present) and so took on flipping pancakes in the morning. she’s only 4 1/2 and for about 6 months now, she will stand on a little stool, and oversee the pancakes, and when they’re done she gets them out of the pan onto a plate and i pour on more batter. she is also helpful with folding laundry. she’s more patient, and enjoys the more detail oriented slow tasks that he has no focus for.

    at this point, adding in chores at a certain age has been something our kids take great pride in. my baby (16ish months) will help her siblings out with great joy and clap for herself when she completes a simple task. i think as a family, we find more joy together when we all appreciate what it takes to make our home a place where we all work and rest together in a healthy rhythm. i know i’m unique among young mothers/mothers w/young kids, in that i don’t clean up more for my kids, or do more things for them, but i also feel blessed that i enjoy working alongside my kids, and have the freedom to take them out and do more with them without feeling overwhelmed or worried that i have to do everything for them. because they have responsibility from a young age, they have a great confidence in their place in the home, in other’s homes, and in public. this leads to not perfect, but very well-behaved kids that others like to have around and that enjoy being around others very much.

  10. Karen

    When I was a kid, growing up with both an older and younger brother, we all did chores on a regular basis. My brothers did much the same sorts of things that your boys are doing now. We’re all in our ’40′s now and all my friends are always impressed when I tell them that both my brothers are meticulously clean and tidy: they shop and cook like professional chefs. One brother works from home and has a 3 year old who is already setting the table and “helping” to fold laundry. He stops work every Friday at 2 pm and spends the next three hours cleaning the house from top to bottom. His philosophy for cleaning the bathroom is “disinfect all surfaces.” My other brother is the same and I’m pretty sure he even irons his jeans (he likes the crease in the front.) Anyhow, I’m sure they would have liked it better when they were younger if al had been done for them, but my mom insisted that they know how to take care of themselves and their household, just as she expected of me, her daughter. If that’s anything to learn from, then all your efforts now will surely pay off!

  11. renee @ earthlink

    Thanks for sharing. My kids think they have it rough with “too many chores”. Now I can share your blog today and these comments.
    Best, Renee

  12. Rebekah

    My six-year-old makes her bed, helps fold kitchen towels and washcloths, pairs socks, and puts her folded laundry away. She also cleans up the playroom and other various chores as needed. My two-year-old helps clean up the playroom and she has other “jobs” like putting her shoes away and turning off her nightlight. I grew up with regular horse and I think they are invaluable for teaching important household skills as well as how to be part of the family.

  13. My son is grown now, and a very responsible young man. When he was young, I handled chores matter-of-fact: in this family, we help each other. I gave him choices like either bring in the groceries or put them away, either gather and sort the laundry and start it or fold the dryer clothes and put them away…things like that where he had a choice which of the two things to do, and together we got them done :)

    I can vouch for while they might complain at the time, he recently thanked me for helping him grow into a responsible person. We laughed because when he was young, he acted like doing chores was because I was the meanest mom out there — he said the truth was he thought I was too nice a lot of the time and that he really didn’t mind doing chores!

    Life is grand :)

  14. Amy

    My kids both have chores, nothing too major but my husband and I think it’s really important for them to know how a household works…I remember going to college and seeing those poor helpless boys (and a few girls too) stare blankly at the laundry machines. Worse were the boys who managed to wash ALL their clothes in hot water with a red sweatshirt! I vowed I would not let my kids loose in the world without some skills. Chores help them appreciate that they are part of a team and one person shouldn’t have to do everything! My daughter is 12 and she unloads the dishwasher and helps cook, and my 10 year old son folds laundry and usually helps set the table depending on soccer. They both clear their own plates from the table and put them in the dishwasher and have been doing that since they were about 4! Love it!

  15. Candy @ Heathy In Candy Land @ healthyincandyland.com

    My boys, 6 and 9 have been doing chores for a few years now, and like your family, they do more during the year and less during the summer. I just made up a new chore chart the other day that they mark off daily and earn a “behavior buck” for with a completed column per day. After a certain number of behavior bucks accumulated they can earn special priveleges like extra computer time, a sleepover, etc. My 1st grader feeds the dog, takes out the garbage, empties the silverware from the dishwasher, clears his dishes, cleans up after himself, and my 4th grader feeds the cat, empties the recycling and compost, empties the rest of the dishwasher, clears his dishes and also cleans up after himself. They are loving the reward system (so far anyway–we’re only two days in), and I think having to chores makes them more responsible, and accountable members of the household. I love that your boys cook too! I need to work more on that with mine. Right now they like helping to make treats, but that’s about it.

  16. Sarah

    We homeschool. Chores are the main part of our Citizenship “curriculum” since being a good citizen starts with governing yourself to do that which you ought to do. This is why we have never paid for regular chores. Just as the dinner table is the first school of manners, chores within a family are the first school of citizenship. This is why we don’t pay for chores. Everyone contributes and learns to serve others through chores. Our older two kids now do a lot of jobs for several neighbors to earn money (dog sitting, watering, etc.).

    Chores our children currently do:

    Our 14 yo daughter and 12 yo son trade off every day doing barn chores and preparing supper. They both can cook several complete meals without my direct supervision at this point because they’ve been “apprenticing” with me in the kitchen for years already. Both can fix breakfast as well: fried/scrambled eggs/omlettes to order, hot cereals, bacon, etc. They also take turns packing lunches for their father. They do all dishes by hand and are teaching their younger sister to do dishes. My 14 yo spends her own money on ingredients for special occasion recipes. (She subscribes to food blogs, too, because she enjoys baking.)

    Barn chores include milking the goat, feeding/watering all animals (steers, goats, chickens, cats, dog). They clean the stalls. They wash all the eggs they gather. They do all the mowing on our property. They can do all sorts of odd jobs for their dad including setting up electric fencing, checking oil and tire pressure, finding the exact tool their dad needs. They have both painted a room, torn out a wall, unloaded hay and corn from the truck, repaired fences.

    They know how to do all aspects of cleaning a house. We have daily house chores posted for all three children. The older children can do laundry, but I prefer to do most of it myself.

    The youngest, 9 yo girl with disabilities, sets and clears the table, is learning to wash/rinse the dishes, folds laundry (with supervision), puts away laundry, cleans the foyer area, sweeps floors, empties all trash baskets, dusts with supervision.

    My observation is that adults vastly underestimate what children are capable of doing. And, chores are the best character building program we’ve ever come across. :)

  17. Elana Daley @ conceptsintraining.com

    Sammy is setting the table and clearing his own plate and utensils. We have developed a reward board as he has been asking for a remote control helicopter. He dresses himself, puts away his toys, feeds the pets, and when I bake he jumps right in. Sam is 5.5 and he is very interested in working hard to get the remote control helicopter. He loves to toss the clothes into the washer and attempts to carry the laundry basket from the bedroom to the laundry area. It’s fun to work and play with him. He is very interested in learning hebrew so we are pursuing that too.
    It’s because of him that I found you. My desire to make healthier choices for all of us came about when I began making homemade baby food. Your boys are grown up compared to the photo shared years ago of them eating home made popsicles. Time really flies and there is no cliche.
    Thank you for your years of contribution to our home.

  18. Deb Kinney @ reviveorganizing.com

    Elana, thanks for writing about the topic of chores. I was a single mom and my daughter started doing chores when she was 3. By 7 she had to put dinner on the table once a week (something green and a protein – standards were loose), but by 10 she could cook a chicken and was doing laundry. Today she is 23 and in her first job, having gotten a scholarship to college and worked too. She groused during some chores like any child, but when a chore was new and challenging enough, she felt special to get to do it. Real self esteem is built by expecting children to take on difficult tasks and do them well. Guidance and encouragement are crucial, but so are high expectations. Kids are amazing and love being responsible when given the chance.

  19. Terri Willis

    OMG Elana! I am so impressed. Wished I’d read something like this when my kids were younger. It would have been so much easier to give them chores starting at two. (In my defense, my teen-age son has been doing his own laundry since he was ten when he complained about how I did it!)

    I plan on sharing this with the family and adding to his daily chore list!
    Thanks (though my son won’t thank either of us right now)

  20. I have a 2 year old little boy that loves to help with dusting, cleaning windows, changing laundry, feeding the dog and letting her in/outside, sorting the clean silverware out of the dishwasher and making all of Elanas wonderful ice cream recipes in our new ice cream maker :)

    I LOVE the idea of starting a chore chart now, so that his excitement for these tasks continues. I want to go home and make one right now! Where do I find a good magnetic chore chart? Does anyone have any tips on ways to organize the chart if I make it myself?

  21. I am sooo happy to hear that other people have their children help out with chores!!! I have four children (15, 13, 7, 5) and have always had them help out with chores around the house, just because they are part of the family!! I have started my kiddos off as early as 1 1/2 taking full trash bags from the little trash cans around the house to the big trash can. It is great fun watching them learn to put a new bag in the little trash cans when they are so young!!! We add things as they can do them until they know how to do every chore in the house proficiently.

    The best parenting advice I ever received was from a woman who told me that I was not raising children, but that I was raising adults!!! That does not mean that they can’t play and be children, but that as they are growing up my job is to prepare them to be responsible adults! One of my goals for each of my children is to train them to be able to run a household efficiently. My older children have done their own laundry since they were eight and are capable of cooking complete meals on their own. They also know how to do every job in our home!

    I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2008 and was blessed as I was too weak to cook or clean or even to feed the babies and my older two children were able to help out enough that as a team we got everybody fed and clothed and kept the house pretty clean. As they get older and move out on their own, I know that they are prepared for the everyday responsibilities of running a household. Since I was not prepared for that when I married and had my own home for the first time, I think it is a very important thing to teach.

    Thank you for your post!!

  22. Oh, you are so much better at handling chores as a parent than I am!! My children (18 and 16) have always had chores and performed them reasonably well and within a reasonable time frame – when requested. I felt we were always fighting the schedule, trying to make things happen. I was dxd with a chronic disease about five years ago. Now, I lazily encourage my children to help because if I can do it myself, it’s a sign of strength and help. But I have spoiled them and that is a hard one. My husband assures me that he never cleaned up after himself while growing up, but once on his own he instinctually needed cleanliness and order. I hope that gets handed down to our teens from his side. I really am enjoying not being too organized right now!:)

  23. Barb

    I have mixed feelings about children doing chores. For instance do you expect they will clean the family bathroom? Perhaps if one is wealthy enough that each child has his/her own bathroom, or should they take turns? I think who is responsible for the bathroom defines how responsible for family order and cleanliness is each family member.

  24. Ody @ Almonds

    Dear Elana,
    i am following your blog for a while now and love it. i live in Lesotho Southern Africa and raise twin toddlers.
    I wanted to ask you how concern are you with your kids and their consumption of Phytic Acid in the almond flour.
    i finally got my kids eating baked goods from almond flour and now i read that it might not be so good as well.
    i also see that you are using more coconut flour for the past year, in your view is it more recommended?

    thanks much and Shana Tova,
    Ody

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