While I’m far from a parenting expert, I do think that Luke and I make a pretty good team when it comes to raising our kids to be kind, compassionate, contributing members of society. A few weeks ago, we decided – after a few too many days of slipping on random Hotwheels cars in the hallway and a meandering through a sea of Legos on the playroom floor – that it was time to introduce the “C” word: CHORES.
I will admit, I felt like a mean mom forcing Marleigh to grow up too fast and assume too much responsibility at the ripe age of four years old – and for some kids, four might be too young to start enforcing chores – but Marleigh has always been wise beyond her years and we thought this would be a great learning experience for her.
One night, she and Luke sat down at the kitchen table to write out her “chore contract” (an idea that Luke stumbled upon online) and together, the three of us determined a list of simple tasks that Marleigh now completes each night before bed: cleaning the toys up in the play room, helping to put her laundry away, and making sure none of her things are out of place throughout the house.
Each night she completes her chores, she receives a check mark (or, as we’ve decided recently, a sticker) and at the end of the week, she gets 4 quarters as her allowance to divvy up as she chooses between three separate mason jars: Spend, Save, and Give. For whatever she puts into her Save jar, we match the funds, showing her the importance of being smart with her money.
So far, we have noticed a few things:
1. Marleigh genuinely looks forward to completing her chores every night. With the exception of a couple times where she has been “too tired,” she does her tasks with little to no complaining.
2. Huck has even joined in on the cleaning! After seeing Marleigh excitedly running from one end of the house to the other to put things away, our little guy has gotten the “chore bug” and carries his weight in the clean-up most nights. (Because of this, we’ve also been giving him a small allowance at the end of the week – 2 quarters. One for each year he is old!)
3. Both kids have been making less messes throughout the day. This is probably my favorite result of chores thus far! The kids haven’t come right out and admitted that they’ve been making mess less so they have less to clean up at the end of the day, but the change has been noticeable. When they’re playing cars in the playroom, they only have cars out. Same goes for Legos, Lincoln Logs, puzzles, etc. Before they started doing chores, they would get everything out at once, which was a complete disaster (that Luke and I usually ended up having to tidy up at the end of each day because it was too overwhelming for the kids to clean it all).
4. Marleigh is her father’s daughter! Financially speaking, this is a very good thing. I often joke that we would be bankrupt and living on the streets if I were the one in charge of our family’s finances. Luke is wonderful at saving money and sticking to a budget, and apparently Marleigh is following in his footsteps! So far, the majority of her allowance has gone into her “Save” jar, which we match at the end of the week. The least amount of money has gone into her “Spend” jar, and she was so excited to bring her “Give” money to church to put in the offering this past weekend!
5. A little responsibility is a good thing. While I was concerned initially about seeming too strict in implementing a chore list, Luke and I have both agreed that this has been a really great learning experience for both kids. While we have always urged our kids to clean up after themselves, it usually came with a bit of a struggle at the end of the day. Since we’ve started daily chores, cleaning has become a part of their bedtime routine rather than a nightly annoyance (for all of us!).
Almost four weeks later, chore time is one of the best parts of the day around here lately. Going to bed each night with a (relatively) clean house without having to clean up the same toys multiple times a day has been a real sanity saver. And that, my friends, is what we call a Parenting Win!
How do you teach your little ones to be responsible with their things?
Share your best tricks with me in the comments!