Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Teach Kids a New Chore

I admit, sometimes I do not like my kids doing chores because the result is less than perfect and in the end, I have to go back and redo it. Sometimes I do not even ask my kids to do a household task because I know I will just end up frustrated.

And that is my problem, not my kids. The responsibility falls on me to:

ONE. . . teach my kids how to do the chore. I cannot expect my kids to know how to rinse the dinner dishes and load the dishwasher if I have never really shown them how to do it. I make this mistake often. I mean I am yelling at my kids that they are getting water everywhere when I have never demonstrated the skill.  Same with laundry. . .I think it is common sense that you would check your pockets before putting your jeans in the washing machine and so I yell at the kids when there is melted chapstick all over the clean clothes. And then I remember I never taught them to check their pockets. 

TWO. . . I need to have realistic expectations. When my kids load the dishwasher after dinner, I need to prepare that water will get everywhere, my kids will be sopping wet from waist up, and a few dishes may even break.. .at least for the first few times. I need to prepare myself that clothes will get runied the first few times my kids do their laundry by themselves. And I need to tell myself that this is so OK because the long term goal of preparing my kids with skills they need as adults is far more important than the short term goal of getting the dishes done as quickly and efficiently as possible. (It is that whole long term parenting vs. short term parenting again. . .those of you who have taken my meal planning and freezer cooking class may remember this principle). 

I also need to remember that the more my kids do a particular chore, the better they will get. All new skills take practice. The more we practice, the more we improve. I need to remember that I am training them. I am providing practice. I am preparing them with skills they will need as adults. I need to extend grace.

So now that I have dealt with me (please tell me you can relate), let's deal with the kids and talk about how to teach kids a new chore. . .step-by-step.

When we train a new Sunday School teacher at our church, it is a 4 step process. On the very first Sunday, the trainee is simply in the room, observing the teacher and the class. The 2nd time the trainee helps the current teacher. The trainee may do a small part of the lesson like leading the craft or the game.  The 3rd Sunday the trainee leads the entire lesson on his own, but the current teacher is there in the classroom. And afterward the current teacher gives the trainee feedback. And then the 4th Sunday, the trainee teaches the class.

These are the same steps that we use when we teach our kids a chore:
First Time: Demonstrate the chore. Have the kid watch.
2nd Time: Do the chore together. You do the majority of the chore, but the kid helps.
3rd Time: Your kid does the chore by themself, but you are there supervising. You give input, you give correction, you talk about what they did really well and what they could improve on.
4th Time: The kid does the chore independently. But Mom comes to inspect to make sure the results are up to the family's expectations. Now I do not inspect everytime, but I do fairly often. Inspections help those kids who tend to do a 1/2 way job do a thorough job.
{I am liking the rainbow lists, eh?}

This is the pretty straight forward, somewhat easy part, eh?  The hard part is getting kids to do their chores with a good attitude and getting them to take their time and not rush thru their work.  We'll get to that.  Remember this is a week long series. Here is Day 1 of Kids & Chores, you just read Day 2 and below is what you can expect the rest of the week:

Tomorrow, Wed: Age Appropriate Chores, Figuring Out What Kids Are Capable Of

Thurs: Dealing with Attitudes and Chores

Fri: My Chore System

Sat: How Chores Do So much More than Just Help Keep the House Clean

Sun: Using Scripture to Teach about Chores 

And I am so enjoying all your emails. I am loving your questions (I will answer them this week). I am loving reading about how you do chores at your house (I will share this week). So keep them coming. Your input will make this series an even greater resource.


  1. This is a very current discussion at our house and we are completely revamping our system so I am excited to see what ideas other people have!

  2. I love your system. How would you suggest teaching this system when the child is only with us every other weekend?

  3. I am always looking for new ideas and motivators for not only my kids, but for me. We have a chart in a page protector. I outline the chores in THEIR COLOR (yes, I love the rainbow lists!!:)) and then they initial them when done. I have now made a sheet with details for each chore. They can always go back to those sheets to see what is required for each chore. I have been working and re-vamping them so they will get laminated once we have ironed out details (we have moved so things have changed a bit). Thanks for sharing all of this!

  4. Oops, I meant to say we have 5 children ranging in age from 16 down to 2 (there are 2 2 year olds 7 months a apart, both adopted from foster care). We also normally have one more, but are between placements right now. Keep up the great work. I just found your blog and am really enjoying it!


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