When I was a kid, I loved the Little House on the Prairie books and TV show. As a parent, I find myself reminiscing aloud to my kids about the “good old days” of that vintage, when kids did lots of manual labor to help the homestead run – milking cows, gardening, catching fish, hunting, planting, sowing and reaping in the fields. This predictably leads into my new policy statement about how our kids have to do more chores and help more around the house.
My husband and I consider ourselves reasonably good parents, but assigning chores is something we have not done particularly well. We issue proclamations of change but don’t follow through rigorously with accountability when they don’t do their assigned chores. I grew up with the same cycle, my father periodically proclaiming, “There’s going to be a new regime around here!” and assigning tasks; within a month we’d atrophied back to our old ways. Deep down I wonder if I’d begun doubting it’s even possible.
Until now. We are sharing a ski cabin this winter with two other families – and one of them runs a tight ship with chore routines that has mercifully expanded to include us all. Picture this après dinner routine: All the adults relaxing over wine at the long dining room table, while kids scurry around the kitchen, dancing to loud music, and getting everything ship-shape.
It’s magical, and I’m so impressed I decided to analyze what’s different and share what I think are the keys:
- Assign a set of discrete tasks and rotate them. Our cabin chore list has 3 sets of jobs – A, B and C, each with a list of tasks, and they rotate each evening. We have 3 teams of kids who rotate amongst the jobs.
- Assign every single job, no matter how nitty-gritty. Sweeping the floor, wiping down the counters, putting leftovers in Tupperware, washing pots and pans, not just setting the table but adding extra chairs for a big crowd. Let nothing go unlisted lest it’ll go undone.
- Turn on loud dance music. It’s a party in the kitchen during clean up! (I should have learned this from my kids’ preschool teachers with their “clean up” song)
- QA. Our first few days there was extensive Quality Assurance, now the kids understand the expectations and we can do more “spot check” QA.
One of the requests we hear from our customers (in jest) at Gatheredtable is, “Can you do the dishes too?” If you have kids, I hope this helps you get them helping! I’m going to try to replicate this at home myself!