Fact: Sometimes I get overwhelmed. When #HurricaneHilda reaps havoc on my house and life, it's not a happy feeling. It's like treading water where you lose steam and start to sink. I was going through one of those “sinking phases” one week, and looked up from a long day of work to a see a house that – literally – looked like it had been robbed. “I can't do it all!” “There aren't enough hours in the day!” “I'm a horrible housewife!” “It's just too much!” were all the woe-is-me's I wanted to shout to the world. For whatever reason instead of whining, I decided to wise up. I whipped up some chore charts and the next day I shifted the problem from being 100% mine, to placing some of the treading to my family.
Obvious, right? If your workload is too much to bear, lighten it! Sure, I hear you, it sounds like an easy fix. But…how many of us TRULY rely on our kids (and spouses) to help lighten our load? Our REAL load? Do we really give our kids chores that are truly load-lightening for us, or just the “I need them to do anything at all so I can justify giving them allowance”-type chores? Running behind my 1, 2, and 4 year old kids, picking up the trail they leave behind is exhausting. Now, I try to shift the load and truly rely on my kids to HELP, and not HINDER my progress in a day. Here's how we're doing it:
1. Make a list of chores
First, I did LOTS of research (probably WAY too much) for my “Teaching your Kids To Be Financially Fit” class at Frugality Boot Camp (which you can watch online, by the way!). I compiled the ultimate list of what chores your kids can/should be doing based on the research I did, categorized by age. So lucky for you, the list is done! Get the printable version HERE.
2. Put them to work!
What good is a list of chores if you don't actually USE it?? As I've been trying to find challenging tasks for my kids to do throughout the day, I have found that it actually IS lightening my load!! It takes some training and patience, and it's certainly not perfect. But hey, it's better than the job I was doing…which was NOTHING most days.
My tip? Find what they like to do and RUN WITH IT! If they hate it, it will be a battle.
Priya is our vacuum girl. In this picture she wasn't even 2 yet. She was in charge of vacuuming the kitchen with my favorite little vacuum. (Kitchens are easier because it was typically larger crumbs and food pieces that were easy for her to see and aim for).
Hutch used to be our little vacuum-er, but has passed the torch.
Hutch was 3 in this picture. He LOVED using the squirt bottle. So I mixed vinegar and water in a cheap bottle, gave him an old rag, and told him to go at it. Sure, there was more spraying than there was wiping, but again, it's about the principle of it all and not the perfection of it all.
I also discovered the power of an old, unmatched sock! Spray some Pledge on that baby and BAM! A great dusting tool for small hands. Can you see the difference in where they have dusted and where they haven't? They really did a great job getting to places that I could reach!
Hutch loved that it allowed him to crawl on top of furniture. Again, he was barely over 3 yrs old in this pic.
Now that my kids are the ripe old ages of 2.5 and (newly turned) 4 (see his birthday extravaganza HERE), we have moved on to more complicated chores. I have Hutch use the big vacuum on the carpet now. It's hard for him to push and is pretty heavy, but he's a trooper and does his best.
While Hutch vacuums Priya usually picks up and puts away the shoes, toys, and misc.
My FAVORITE benefit in all of this is that Hutch is now our exclusive laundry folder. That's right folks, he's 4 and folds our laundry. ALL OF IT. I dump it in a pile on the couch, and let him go at it. He has even recently learned to put the clothes away and will even hang them up in the proper closets (we have low-hanging bars in the kids' rooms).
I showed him once or twice, and I was AMAZED at how quickly he picked it up! I got over-confident and tried to teach Priya. Let's just say we'll keep her on no-fold duty for a while.
He not only folds, but he sorts the clothes by family member, and sets the pile on the stairs (I don't want him falling, it's a pretty big stack by the time he's done) and sets our clothes in our room (since its on the main floor) or puts them away. #PoorChubbyOllie is always in on the action.
Sorry for the cellphone pics, BTW.
3. Track progress and offer incentives.
I have an fabulous allowance system I am going to introduce, but that is an entire post in and of itself. But I will preface with: in all the research I did, the parenting experts said to NOT pay allowance PER chore. Meaning, it's not “you get $0.50 for making your bed, and $1 for taking out the trash, …”.
They all said offering money per chore leads to unrealistic expectations and entitlement issues. Eventually your kids will assume that they should get paid for everything they do in this life (not the case) and that work is paid on a per-item basis (typically not the case). The fact of the matter is that you are part of the family, and you have responsibilities…just like you work for a company, and you have responsibilities. You work until the job is done. Once those general responsibilities are taken care of, then you get incentivized for doing your share. Again, I will do a post on that ASAP. Here's a teaser video in the meantime:
So as you can see, by relying on your kids and pushing them to do hard things, it really does lighten your load in the long run! Sure, it takes a little training and lots of patience in the beginning. But in the end, you're TEACHING them to fish rather than GIVING them all the fish, and it's freeing you up to focus on bigger and better things.
What chores do you have YOUR kids do? Leave a comment and share, I love learning from you all!