Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Chore System & 3 Related Topics

I am in the midst of a 7 days series on Kids & Chores and today, Day 5, I want to share about our chore system. Our chore system is not the only system and not the best system; it is simply the system we have found that works best for the Soutters. What I like about it is it is simple and I can keep up with it.

The bottom line is systems do not work if you do not work the systems. Read that again:

Systems do not work if you do not work the systems.

Whatever you come up will need to be something that you use and can be consistent with. My husband puts in another way. He always reminds me, “A poor plan well executed is better than a great plan poorly executed.”   

And as much as I want cute sticker charts, marble jars, popsicle sticks, and all those other cute crafty chore charts on Pinterest, I have found those do not work for me. I spend more time shopping for the materials and creating the cute system than I do actually using it. Understand, I am not putting these systems down. I am simply saying that I haven’t been able to make them work for us.  Again, find what works for you.

So this is our system. It requires paper and pen. Every day I write the kids names on the paper and as the day goes by I write down roughly 3 chores for them to complete after school. The first chore on the list is always: Unpack lunchbox and put it away. On Saturdays I write down about 5 chores under each name. The kids know that the chores must be done and crossed off. They are not allowed to do any of their stuff (go out, play with friends, etc.) until the chores are done. They do the chores, and cross them out as they go. That’s it. I know profound, eh!?

You see, my temptation is to bark orders and give my kids about 6 things to do at one time and then yell at them when they do not remember to do all of them. The list communicates exactly what needs to be done. My kids can set their own pace and they know when they are finished. 

Now for 3 related topics:

1. Allowance & Chores. Several have asked if we pay for chores. This is another one that you will have to decide for your family. This topic is not only controversial between moms on the playground, but also among the "child experts". I will share what we do.

In the Soutter house, we do not pay for chores or offer rewards. Allowance is not tied to chores. We do this because we want to send the message “You are a part of the family; you need to help.” No one pays me to sweep the kitchen, make dinner, and drive the kids to their friends’ houses. Why should they be paid to do their part?
On the other hand, if a young Soutter wants extra money, we do provide opportunities for them to earn it by doing extra chores. First, they must to their required chores (again with no compensation). Then they can have additional tasks that they are paid for. Things like filling mom’s scrapbook paper, washing the car, lawn work, or babysitting a younger sibling might be performed to earn money. 

I need to take some new pictures of my kids doing chores, eh? I know I have used this one almost everyday.

2. Changing Up Chores. Some asked if we had the kids do the same chores regularly or if we changed it up. We want our kids to become proficient in a chore so we do not change chores frequently. We believe that when kids choose their chores out of a jar, or roll a dice, or pull a popsicle stick, then no one gets really good at a task. Plus only changing chores every 3-4 months means I do not have to teach a new chore so often (which takes time). For example when it comes to getting dinner on the table, one kid will set the table, one will clear the table, one will wash the dishes and load the dishwasher, one will wipe down the table and chairs and sweep, and one will help Mom in the kitchen. And they do this for about 12-16 weeks (the same amount of time it takes us to get really good at couponing or meal planning, eh?)

Another picture of my simple chore system

3. On Following Directions (just given, not on chore system). Kids are expected to do chores and follow any directions right away, all the way, and with a good attitude. In fact that is a common saying in our home. We often remind our kids, “Right away, all the way.” In other words, when directions are given, our kids are expected to do them right then, not finish their Wii game and then do the chore. The task must also be done “all the way.”  If I say, “Go put this in your bookbag.”  I mean, go put it in your bookbag, not near your bookbag, or on top of your bookbag. When we give these directions, we expect our children to answer with, “Yes Mommy, I will go take out the trash” (or whatever the directions were). This reply helps to ensure that they have heard the reply and removes the typical response of, “Oh… you asked me to take out the trash? I didn’t hear you.” 

When they get older, they are allowed to respectfully request a delay on following directions.  We feel this should be taught only after children demonstrate consistency in following directions “right away, all the way.” Here is how it works in our home. I give a direction and the child says, “Yes Mom, I will set the table. I am in the middle of a geometry problem. Can I finish the problem and then set the table?” Notice that the child starts with a statement showing compliance (we even expect that they physically start moving in the direction of doing the chore).  Also notice that the statement requires that they bring some new knowledge to the picture. It is not that they just don’t want to; there is a feeling that they have some extenuating circumstance (like they are minutes from winning the next level on the video game) that would potentially justify the delay in following directions.  Of course we have the prerogative to deny the request, at which point the discussion is over and the only response is “Yes mom.”

Let’s wrap up this long post, if you have made it this far. We didn’t arrive at this plan over night.  Rob and I read lots of books (we have been highly influenced by the Ezzos and John Rosemond), we talked, we tried things, and we tried some other things, and kept working at it until we arrived at this point. Of course there are still plenty of days when we revert back to no plan, barking orders, nagging our kids, etc. There are plenty of days when the kids fail to do their chores, complain, and whine, and take way too long. The good news is we do know what works, we do have a plan, and we are striving to become more and more consistent.

If you missed the first part of the series, here are the links:
And here is what you can expect:


  1. Su, Can you share how you discipline a child who does not comply Quickly or with a good attitude?
    Laura Thomas

    1. Hey Laura-

      Sometimes all it takes is a word of warning and asking them to start over when a chore/direction is given. We often say, "Let's try that again." And then we repeat the direction. Other times, we make the kids repeat the chore several times over and over (like unpack lunch box and wipe it out). But still other times, we will send the child to time out and then when they get out of time out, they have to do the chore (possibly a couple of times if the offense is severe). Yes, like load the dishwasher once. . and then unload it and put all the dishes back in the sink and then reload the dishwasher. So as to practice doing the chore right away, all the way, and with a good attitude. Hope this helps. You got this; you are a good mom.

    2. What an awesome concept! My stepson struggles when he is at our house - being away for two weeks and then dropped back into our house our rules. I will start trying this with him!

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  3. I think you have hit the very important points of setting up a system so the kids will be an integral part of the helping hands at home.

    One of the most annoying things my girls used to do was to dilly dally over a chore, like emptying the dishwasher, or pretending they just didn't know where everything went. In the beginning, we would sometimes spend 20 minutes or more teaching them how to unload a single load from the dishwasher. Could we have done it faster ourselves? Absolutely.

    The downside would have been that either our children really didn't know how, and we just did a poor job of teaching, or they were using "learned helplessness" as a technique to make the process so irritating that they thought we would just do it instead.
    Heh. No dice on that one!

    I think this series is terrific, also since it teaches the children they are part of the family and as such are expected to help. I have heard way too many parents say, "Well, Susie is so busy with all her activities, and she is getting good marks, so we don't want to upset that, so we just do it all."

    Arrrggghhhh. As if no one else in the house is busy.

    I cringe at the message that sends to the kids: You are too important and too busy to help...

  4. I just read two posts from another blog with ideas on manners and putting their things away that seem to go right along with your series and things you taught in your Meal Planning class. Listing the URL's in case you want to incorporate some other ideas to your household. LOL!
    Putting Things Away:
    Thanks so much for this series. I'm LOVING it! :)

  5. Great job on this series, Su, not just on the what and how, but why involving kids in household chores is important. I'm done with that part of life but have passed these on to my 28 year old former "switch plate polisher" and she loved it...wishes all her 5th grade parents would read it! Alas, kids who have no chores are easily recognized in the classroom too...and the dorm....and on the job. She will no doubt put a lot of it into place with her new little one as soon as he is able. --Susan

  6. Helping each others is fastest way to done a household choirs. Love our parents, brothers, and sisters for a long lasting happy family.

  7. I love this post! I will have to go back to the beginning of your series and start trying things out with my kiddos. I'm learning that even my two year old can have chores - something I never thought about doing before!

  8. Love this!
    Great ideas...and we're on spring we're re-focusing on chores and how-to-do-them-well (in the midst of lots of FUN) !!!
    ~Kara @ The Chuppies/NOBH

  9. Thanks for the post. Its so hard to get my kids to cooperate with house cleaning. Just encouraging them is a chore in and of itself. but a chore chart might do just the thing.


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