Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kids: Your "Happy Helper Team"


 School has begun.  Fall has arrived on the heels of summer.  In the all-too-short summer months I do a lot of organizing. Then it's time for back-to-school and my house, which is fairly clean and orderly during summer, suddenly becomes a path of mass destruction during the school year.  In an effort to keep this from happening again, here are my tips for getting your children involved in helping keep the house tidy.  


As soon as possible, teach them how to do a job and do it well.  We have a mantra in our home when it comes to chores:  If you can toddle, you can tote.  It’s not original to me, but I love it!  As soon as my children could walk, they were given jobs to do. For help in figuring out tasks that children can do and at what ages, I just wrote a post on age appropriate chore suggestions.  You'll find it here


We’ve tried a weekly printed chore chart.  But, we have found that it works best for us to list daily chores on my dry erase board in the kitchen.  I let them pick the ones they would most like to do. If one of the younger boys selects a task, which he is being trained to do by an older sibling, then that older brother will automatically get to go with that little brother to complete that chore.  At other times, I add a name beside the specific chores.  It depends a bit on how much time I have for training that day.  Given the option, the younger boys will pick some of the harder and more “exotic” items on the list. And that means T-I-M-E to show them how it’s done.  However you do it, try to be sure you that “hit all the bases” and that each room of the house is eventually rotated through by each child. 


 If they cleaned the bathroom, they wanted to know that (just because we were having company) a job, which was rated as “acceptable” last week, was “just not good enough” this week.   They have told me that they want to know the “right” way to do it the first time and they will strive to have it in that condition each and every time.

You must be sure that you are not asking them to do something that you have not trained them to do or have given them something to do that is beyond their frame of reference.  I have struggled with getting frustrated with a child when they fail to complete a task, only to have them say, “But, Mom, you never showed me how to do it.”   


To insure this consistency, you must TRAIN them.  The first time a new task is introduced, I have them just watch me do it – along with my snappy and interesting running commentary on each step I am making.   The next time, I have them do it while I am watching them.  I have them repeat each step back to me while I watch.  The third time, they complete the task alone – with freedom to ask me if they need help or forget a step.  By the fourth time, they do it all and then I inspect their work when it is completed.


It is said that “variety is the spice of life” and so, too, it is with chores.  Our boys have certain areas of cleaning which they prefer.  For instance, my middle son loves to clean the bathroom.  I’m NOT kidding!  So, for many months, he cleaned the bathroom every week.  His brothers began to expect that “John will take the bathroom cleaning on the chore list.”  One day, while gesturing with the toilet brush, he explained to me, “Mom, I do like the bathroom.  But, that doesn’t mean I want to be the only one who does the bathroom!”  I got his message.  I now make sure that we “share the love” when it comes to the bathroom.  Although he still cleans it more often than the other boys.


 If you receive coupons for free children's dinners at a local restaurant,  instead of giving them out, create a chart and have the kids earn their certificate.  We did this once.  I had a HUGE chart on the wall of the hallway.  They got to color in squares each day.  After 40 squares were colored in, they received their certificate.  But, all the Happy Helpers had to make it to 40 squares before we went out to eat.  The older ones were providing help and encouragement every day to their younger siblings to help them get their squares colored in!  (Sibling solidarity - unexpected side effect).  Unbeknownst to the kids, my husband and I had decided that whoever got the most points got to order dessert - a HUGE deal for my kiddos because we never order dessert at a restaurant!  In a weird moment of serendipity, the children's meals all included dessert.  So, the kids all voted that Mom and Dad got to order dessert and split it!  Best scoop of ice cream I ever had!  

Here's a link to a free customized chore chart over at  I love this idea and her themes are really cute!    

  •  Name your cleaning team.  Ours was:  "The Happy Helpers".
  •  After about 60 minutes of cleaning we have a well-deserved "Happy Helper Snack"
  • I made it clear that we were a team and that each member was equally important.
  • If a team member was sick, then their chores were equally divided among the other team members.  That's what we do when we are a team; we look out for one another.
  • Keep it positive!  We listened to music while cleaning.  We shouted encouragement to each other.  If a young one was struggling, an older sibling came along side of them and helped them.  
  • Keep your expectations realistic.  The job may not be done as well as I would have done it, but if it's good enough, I leave it alone!  
  • Point out positives before negatives.  "I love the way you arranged those candles on the end table.  But, let's see if we can stack those magazines so that they don't unexpectedly fall over."  Or "I can see that you took a lot of care in making your bed this morning.  Let's see if we can work together to clear off your desk so that you can use it later for doing homework."   
  • We cleaned on a schedule - at 8am every morning before we started school. 
How have chores worked in your house?  I'd love to know your system to organize chores and teach children how to keep a house tidy and clean.  Comment below to share your thoughts. 


Do all to the Glory of God, 


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