• What does God’s Word say about teaching children to help?
  • Do chores have to be a chore?
  • Surrender and blessing
  • What kinds of jobs can kids do at what ages? – A LIST OF IDEAS
  • Letting it go…and trying to leave it there
  • When in the day do we have kids do their jobs?
  • How long do our children do those assigned jobs?
  • Required jobs and jobs for money
When Bob and I had only 2 children who were still taking long afternoon naps, I was able to get most all of the necessary up-keep of our small apartment home done during those 3 hours.  But when our third child was born, and our first two were 3 and 4-years-old and not napping for so long, I began feeling over whelmed as to how I was going to keep up.

I knew I needed to be teaching the oldest two to be helping, but that felt like so much more work than just doing it myself.  Well, desiring to have my cake and eat it, too, I did not teach the children right away and rather continued trying to do it all myself.  *cringe*… And I limped along this way for another few years… (not recommended *laugh*).  But not only was it impossible for me to do everything myself – it was not God’s best for me or for our children.

Let’s consider some things together about our children learning to participate in the family’s needs…
For my story, after 4 more years trying to do everything myself and not training our children as the Lord would have me do, we had then grown to a 5-child family.  Now I was really struggling.  *chuckle*  But God was moving me toward doing what He desired for me to do, which was to teach our children to participate in the family more.  We needed to develop our children’s character.  So I finally began to research how in the world one should approach this task.
During those previous 4 years (since about 2003) I had been reading and learning to implement the practical ideas from Steve & Teri Maxwell’s books, namely their Managers of Their Homes book, and Teri does a great teaching on including children in the family chores.  Not only does she show people how to do that exactly, and include sample schedules from many other families so that I could see what they were doing in this arena, but she also offered a list of ideas of what children can be expected to do at what ages!  This was exactly what I needed to know!  *happy dance!*  But they had other important things to teach me about how to “get kids to do chores.”
What does God’s Word say about teaching children to help?

We need to teach character such as dependability, diligence, thoroughness, attentiveness to detail, efficiency, a good worker, diligence, and service of others to our children. People are not born knowing these things – they have to be taught.  Our own human nature draws us in the opposite direction of this character – but we have to pursue better in order to honor the Lord and function well in relationships and society.  And if our children do not learn to work at home, to be diligent in their tasks, to serve their family, etc. – they are very unlikely to learn to do so unto the Lord.  Small sphere first; big sphere after.  Here some scripture verses (emphasis mine) to reveal what the Lord things of some of these character qualities.

“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”  ~ 1 Timothy 5:14

On work:
“Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.”  ~ Psalm 104:23

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this:  If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  ~ 1 Thessalonians. 3:10

“But he who looks in to the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  ~ James 1:25

“The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but the diligence is man’s precious possession.”  ~ Proverbs 12:27

“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”  ~ Proverbs 10:4

The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”  ~ Proverbs 12:24

“The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.  ~ Proverbs 13:4

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter in to the joy of your lord.'”  ~ Matthew 25:21

“You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.”  ~ Deut. 6:13

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  ~ Galatians 5:13

“…serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews…”  ~ Acts 20:19

Do chores have to be a chore?

One of the greatest concepts I received from the Maxwell’s was that we should all pursue doing good work – not just tolerate work so that we can pursue entertainment or playing.  We were put on this earth by the Lord to introduce others to Him, and to do good work and to serve Him and others.  So if we pursue enjoying doing good work, then we will be successful in our life’s work and enjoy our life’s work; if we pursue entertainment/toys/playing then we’ll have to work even harder just to financially fund our entertainment appetite.
So Teri Maxwell suggests that instead of calling our work at home “chores”, we should call it our “jobs”.  The word chore really has negative implications to it in today’s society.  It implies something distasteful and something to be avoided.  But everyone has their job to do, and that doesn’t seem so negative.  We explain to the children that daddy has his job to go to every day, mommy has her jobs at home every day, and each of the children has their jobs at home every day.  Every has “good work” to do – and it’s feels really good to pursue good work!  It’s satisfying, rewarding, and it helps us sleep well at night having accomplished good things and exercised our physical bodies.
So I stopped referring to our work at home as something to get through so that we can all go play – shaping that attitude.  Instead, I began shaping a new attitude by saying to the children, “Let’s get this good work done so that we can then pursue more good work and learning today!  *smile*”  And they catch that vision, and they love it.  Our children are “chomping at the bit” to have jobs at home just like the big kids do!  Even the littlest ones have their jobs, and they puff out their chest and do their job to the best of their ability.  *laugh*  When our twin babies were born, our 2-year-old had his “bottle job”, where he would take the baby bottles when we handed them to him and take the bottles to the kitchen sink.  *smile*  He watched for the opportunity to do his job; he did it faithfully, proactively and on purpose, and he protected his job with his whole body if necessary!  *laugh!*
Now don’t get me wrong.  The older children who are actually required to do their jobs are not always so enthusiastic.  *wink*  But ultimately they feel good having done good work.  We hold them accountable with Charts and Lists, and this really helps them to do excellent work and be successful, and helps us to not lose our sanity every day by saying, “Have you done [so and so]…have you done [so and so]…have you done [so and so]…”  The charts and lists do the work for us.  And I am responsible to be checking their work all the time, and also holding them accountable to not only getting the job done but doing it well.

Most of the time when they complete a job they know they are to ask me for inspection for they are considered finished.  They hold on to that broom and dust pan until I’ve given the okay that the job is done to my satisfaction.  And having to go back and do a little more on a job until it’s done completely is not considered a failure necessarily, but rather just learning to do excellent work.  Their eyes do not yet see all that mine do – the cracks and corners that were missed, but they have learned and will continue to learn to see what needs to be done.

In order for the children to have the blessing of doing good work, however, they do need to be taught to do each aspect of each job.
Surrender and blessing

This may seem funny to some people, but I really did have to learn to surrender “my jobs” to our children.  I desired and needed their help, of course, but I did not relish having to teach them to do everything with the time and energy that would require, and I honestly had no idea even how much to expect from each age of child.  But I began with some simple things, one daily job per person, and I spent time teaching them to do that well.  I demonstrated parts of the job, I did it with them, I told them why each part was important, and I explained why doing a job a certain way was time efficient.  And when they desired to do a job in a different way other than how I’d taught them, then I told them if they could find a way to do that job which produced better results and was more time efficient, they were welcome to do that.
What kinds of jobs can kids do at what ages?

This was one of the first things I desired to know when trying to plan what our children would do for jobs.  I know that if my expectations are accurate, then I can move forward with confidence and encourage the children to do the same.  But if my expectations are not accurate then my requirements of the children will likely be too much for them and as a result produce frustration, defeat, and a sense of failure.

So I began by asking other large families I was meeting, who had gone before me in this concept and were including their children in taking care of their home and family, what types of things their children did at home to contribute.  And I studied the list of ideas in the Managers of Their Homes book.  And soon I developed my own understanding and vision for what kids could accomplish at what ages.  So I put together a list of ideas, for my own reference when putting together our weekly schedule for that up-coming school year.  And I’ve shared this list with many moms who have asked me for this same input.  (click on chart to enlarge)

The Managers of Their Homes book also talks about how chores can be divided in to daily, weekly, and monthly, too.  So those bigger jobs that don’t need to be done every day or even every week, can still be scheduled and accomplished in a consistent manner, and don’t need to all be taken on by the mom.

Letting it go…and trying to leave it there

Now letting our children take over many of my jobs was one thing – but then I found that I had to resist the temptation to do their jobs for them as soon as I saw that the job needed being done.  It was not a blessing or a time saver for me if I continued doing those jobs that “just take a second” (and all those seconds do add up, don’t they!) instead of leaving them for the children to do!  For example, I was often up late at night straitening up those book shelves on my way to bed (moving the horizontal books to a vertical position, or straitening the books up so that they were not about to fall out on to the floor for example), instead of just walking past those book shelves and going to bed when I needed to.  I like to wake up to order in the morning – I mean I really like this.  But I simply don’t have time to do all of those little jobs every single day; and all of those little 5-minute jobs add up so fast.  If the house cleaning and up-keep jobs are done once-a-week, that is pretty good.  I still teach the children to put books away correctly, and when I catch them putting the books away sloppily (horizontally) or not at all when I’ve asked someone specific to put them away, then I have them come correct their work.  But over all I need to leave the books alone until the child assigned to straitening up the book shelves once-a-week will do so.
Honestly – I still totally struggle with this discipline of giving the job to a child and then leaving it for them to do.  *chuckle*  I just want to straiten up the 6-foot-tall shoe shelves when I’m in the garage.  When I see milk drips dried on the dining room chairs I just want to grab a cleaning cloth and get it off “real quick”.  When I see toys thrown in to the toy baskets (meant only for toys that don’t have another home, or a set they belong to, not as a catch-all), it has been very difficult for me after the kids have cleaned up the family room to not go through those baskets and start pitching items out that don’t belong there and requiring that kids come back and put those pieces where they belong.  *laugh*  In fact, I usually still do this.  *snap!*  But I’m working on it.  And, really, if I don’t leave it for Anna Marie to do on Mondays when she is assigned that job, then she really doesn’t even have the satisfaction of finding lots of items that are tossed in there and having a sense of accomplishment that she did good work!  Instead, she wonders why she’s required to do this job since there’s not much to be done.  It is best for both Anna Marie and for myself to let the job be done by her, and not by me.  This so so freeing when I have the discipline to let things go until their assigned day to be cleaned up.  I’m not letting things go out of laziness, or putting it off until later when it should be done – because that job does have a planned time and a planned worker assigned to it – but I’m letting the children bless me by their participation.  And that’s a good thing.
When do we have kids do their jobs?

I like to have our children do their jobs first thing in the morning. I like to get jobs done in the morning when we’re fresh and our most energetic, I like to be sure the jobs get done and there is no chance of them being missed because we ran out of time that day, and I like to enjoy the “fruit” of those jobs having been done, all day long!  So our children do them first thing in the morning, before breakfast, before play time.
Here is a chart I made up for Anna Marie when she was 6-years-old to help her be somewhat independent in getting her jobs started each morning.  She can look at this chart on our refrigerator and know quickly and easily what job is hers for that day if she forgets.  I simply typed the chart up in Word and added clip art from Microsoft Office.  Here’s her schedule:  Monday means to clean out toys from the toy baskets that don’t belong there and put them where they do belong, and to order the kids book shelves.  Tuesday is to pair up the kids shoes on the shoe rack in the garage.  Wednesday is to wipe clean with a Clorox cleaning wipe all of the door knobs in the house and the light switch plates.  Thursday Anna Marie wipes clean with a damp cleaning cloth all of the dining room chairs (legs, top, sides, seat).  And Friday she uses Clorox cleaning wipes to clean the 3 bathroom sinks and faucets.

How long do our children do those assigned jobs?

Teri Maxwell, author of the Managers of Their Homes book, suggests that when children are assigned a job that they should stick with that job for an entire school year.  This makes so much sense to me.  With this plan, children have the opportunity to learn to do their jobs really well, with confidence, and they do the job efficiently so that it doesn’t take them very long at all to do it.  This feels good to them from my experience, and they know what is expected of them, how long it will take, and they feel good being capable in their work.
If children have their jobs changed around often “for variety”, then they’re faced with having to learn new jobs all the time.  They’re sort of in a constant learning curve, and they don’t as easily reach that sense of “I can do this well, and on my own.”  Children still have plenty of time to learn all varieties of jobs when those jobs are changed annually – and from my experience, each job they learn to do is learned really well, and that seems to “stick” even longer than if they’re doing all varieties of jobs all the time.
So I create our school year schedule (for more details on how I do this you can read my post, Scheduling For Fall – How I Create Our Schedules) and assign jobs to each child for that year.  I make a new schedule if we have a baby who has changed a lot in his or her needs over the course of several months, and we need a new plan; and a make a new schedule up for summer time (watch for a post on this next week!), but the children’s jobs for that year stay the same.  I actually always so enjoy how well our children have learned to do their assigned jobs that I either forget to, or I’m very hesitant to change their jobs for the following year!  I like to reap that fruit of my labor having taught them to do those jobs well for as long as possible!  *laugh*  But a year is a good point to change up and learn something new.

Required jobs and jobs for money

We have both kinds of jobs in our family currently.  There are some that the children are assigned and required to do daily, and there are those which are optional or money-earning opportunities.  Our oldest children do the jobs for earning money.  In the past I’ve kept bigger jobs such as deep cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning window blinds, wiping out the refrigerator and freezer, and such for myself just because those ones seemed to me to be harder and therefore more appropriate for me to do.  The children did simpler jobs that took less time and didn’t require heavy chemicals.  However for several years now our oldest children have been doing those big jobs for money.  They’re optional, but I still hold them to a high standard of excellence when they do the work and get paid to do it.  Before I had older children doing jobs for me, I had to rely on my schedule to make sure I had time planned to complete them myself.

I so encourage you to learn what your children are capable of doing in your home, and then to let them participate.  And to make it a “get to”, not a “have to”, even for the required tasks.  *smile*  And I speak that way to them, affirming that doing jobs in our family is a privilege for old enough children.  I’ll say, “Okay, you get to set the table now it’s time to eat.”  Or, “You get to sweep the floor today after lunch, right?”  It’s so good for children to really feel and be needed.  To be a necessary part of a group; a team player.  And it teaches them at a very early age, even as early as age 2 years, that they should value doing good work.  When mom has the attitude of doing good work each day she can really set the pace for how the entire day can go; and children can catch that vision and that mentality like they’re catching “spring fever.”  Try it!  *smile*
If you would like to have any of my charts, lists, or schedules that I’ve shared you can download those from this link.
Blessings on your efforts,
Recommended resources:
Managers of Their Homes, by Steve & Teri Maxwell
Managers of Their Chores, by Steve & Teri Maxwell
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