Letter from a reader:
My question to you is — can you please elaborate on children working in the home. At what ages and what types of things did you have your daughters take over in order to learn how to run a household? What can boys do? Any advice or ideas will be greatly appreciated. Donna A.
Since Laurie said she was open to hearing how others are training their children to work in the home, I thought I’d share what we’ve done.
My children are a son-16, son-14, daughter-11, son-7, daughter-3, daughter-1.
When the first 3 were 6, 9 & 11, we had the 6yo washing breakfast dishes, since it was usually just cereal bowls or plates from toast. Anything too messy and I’d do it, until she was a little older. The boys alternated lunch and dinner each day. This way each child washed once a day and one didn’t always have the worst meal. Also, before washing, the child had to put the clean dishes away, as a means of quality control. Eventually that wasn’t working because if there were several dirty dishes from the last meal, we had to call the “offender” over to wash those dirty ones before the others could be done and it just snowballed from there. After a couple of years I realized that the daughter was the same as as #2 son had been when he washed the messier dishes, so we moved to daily dishes. Ryan did Mondays and Thursdays, Brandon – Tuesdays and Fridays, and Tasha – Wednesdays and Saturdays. (I have done Sundays through it all.) This all got easier 2 years ago when we got a non-human dishwasher. Now they just have to load and unload most dishes, hand washing only those that won’t come clean in the dishwasher. We also have 2 cleaning days a week (Tu & Sat) for dusting, vacuuming and bathrooms, and we rotated those weekly.
This all worked out for the past few years, but due to other things in our schedule which upsets the time of getting dishes done, we just changed the routine again. We are now rotating all these things weekly. One week the child does all the dishes (except Sunday.) The next week they do the vacuuming (our house has 3 stories.) The third week they do the dusting and bathrooms. It isn’t totally balanced, but they like the fact that they now get 2 whole weeks of no dishes! The other cleaning – floor washing, windows, etc. – get done periodically with no set person. Usually the younger ones help with those. I have just recently realized that son #3 is now 7 and the same age his sister was when she started doing all these chores – except dusting things she couldn’t reach. So I will have to tweek the system a little and get him involved more. He helps put dishes away sometimes, sets the table and puts away his own clothes. The older 3 do their own laundry – Ryan on Monday, Brandon on Tuesday, and Tasha on Wednesday. Now that we have a front-loading washer Noah can actually do his, too, as he can reach the controls – he just needs reminding. I am thinking about having the older ones help the younger ones with their laundry, too, since I am doing laundry for 4-5 people.
We just started having the children pick a meal or two a week and help prepare those. Ryan and Brandon can already cook a few simple meals. Ryan has no desire to do more. His specialty is macaroni and cheese and PB&J! But he can do tuna and noodles, spaghetti, anything that is just meat, noodles and a sauce. Brandon should go to culinary school. He loves to cook and eat! When we picked our first menu, he ended up with 6 choices – his 2, Ryan’s 2 and 2 more. Tasha is willing to learn and wants to, it’s just harder to keep her undistracted. And of course the younger ones want to help, too, so I let them unless I’m really pressed for time.
I still tend to do too much of the work myself, especially with so many children. I’m finding that I’m going to have to take a lot of time for a little while to get them all trained so that I can have a little more free time. Well, not really free time, but time to do all the things with them I’d like to do – especially the little ones that I hardly ever get to do things with that I did with the older ones when they were little. I know it will be worth the effort, but it is definitely EFFORT. I sure wish I’d known all this when the older ones were little so I could have trained them then when they were willing. Instead I foolishly did all the work myself because it was faster! Oh, well – they are good kids and still trainable!