It was a foreign concept that my wife introduced me to one day this year. She said to me, after I was complaining about the dirty dishes for the 100th time, “you know the kids can help out around the house too”. I guess we were so wrapped up in being a dual income family, with no time, tons of scheduled activities, that I never stopped to think that kids could do household chores too. What a crazy concept, kids doing chores, that sounds like something straight out of my upbringing.
What is so weird, is that I grew up doing chores around the house when I was a kid. I didn’t grow up on a farm or work for a family business, but I definitely did chores around the house. Sweeping the kitchen, mowing the lawn, cutting back the blackberry bushes EVERY summer (worst ever), emptying the trash cans for trash day, etc.
So I got to thinking, why I don’t I have my kids help out?
Turns out, we’re not the only family that doesn’t have their kids do any meaningful chores, a ton of families are run the same way. I have my theory on why kids don’t do chores anymore, which has something to do with enabling and no obstacle parenting, but I’m guilty of both these traits, so no need to go to in-depth, =). When we started staying home more in the recent months, the dishes added up, the household chores added up, the cleaning added up, the laundry added up, and the tempers added up. Finally I decided to go with my wife’s advice and have the kids help out around the house. Coincidentally, that also combined, and coincided, with my challenge of getting them to reduce their screen time.
I thought what better way to reduce screen time, than to have them clean the house (so I don’t have to as much), and not be on the ipad, tv, or video games. So, after much trial and error, I came up with easy ways for kids to help out around the house that were effective in reducing screen time (i.e. they were not too short). When I first started I made a ton or errors with too complicated chores, chores that were not repeatable every week/day, and too much of a chore responsibility (i.e. too many chores). Without further adieu, here is what I got working for me (and just may work for you). Most of these chores are for Kindergarten and up.
- Make Their Bed – This is my favorite chore to start off with. Super easy, super rewarding, and super repeatable. This is a good way to start a habit. Screen Time Reduction: 5 minutes.
- Feed the Dog/Cat/Fish – Easy peasy, and they gain responsibility for having be the caregiver to your pet. Screen Time Reduction: 5 minutes.
- Water the Grass and Plants – Depending on the age of your kids, this is a nice way to get them outside for a bit. I really like this one because depending on the size of your lawn or plants it is easily 30 minutes. Screen Time Reduction: 15 – 30 minutes.
- Set the Table (just plates, cups, chopsticks, napkins, forks, and spoons. We don’t do knives that is too dangerous for us.) – This is an old one but a Good one. I remember this choir when I was a kid, and it was actually somewhat fulfilling. I pair this with cleaning off the table, which helps us get the junk off from yesterday. Screen Time Reduction: 10 minutes.
- Empty the Dishwasher – This one is tricky because I don’t know what you have in your dishwasher or how your plates, cups, etc, are arranged in your cabinets. We have a ton of dishes everyday since we cook a lot, and so having a kid put away the dishes is super great. This is an everyday choir that is fulfilling (I remember doing this as a kid so I can vouch for it), and is easy to get going. Please utilize your own judgment with what you want your kids to put away, and at what age they should be doing this. For example, if there are sharp knives we don’t have them touch them, or if the item is too heavy (a pot) we don’t have them do those either. In addition, if the item is in a cabinet that can not be reached safely, we do not have them put that away. That might mean you are starting with spoons, forks, and chopsticks, but that is a great start. Screen Time Reduction: 15 minutes.
What I found to be great is that you have the ultimate carrot for having them do chores, Screen Time!
They for sure know, no chores done, no screen time happening! What is also great is you get to teach your kids how to be self sufficient. You get to spend time teaching them something (that also reduces your stress), bond with them, and in addition they become that much more ready for the world.
Well, I hope you found this helpful, I highly recommend you try reducing screen time by adding in household chores for your kids. It has helped my marriage, our kids, and me (reducing my stress), and I hope it will help you too!