Chores, or How I’ve Stopped Cleaning the House

This summer, I revamped our household chores, realizing that it’s high time I stopped doing most of the cleaning around here. With four kids between the ages of 4 and 9, I had a ready and able army of helpers.
I sat down and wrote out all the chores I knew my kids were capable of handling. Then I wrote up specific instructions as to how those chores should be done, leaving nothing to the imagination. Finally, I mapped out who would do which chores on what days, putting in what time said chores must be accomplished. (It’s best to be as specific as possible to avoid “misunderstanding” when kids are involved.)
Reviewing the list, I realized nearly every household cleaning task could be assigned to the children, from washing the kitchen floor to vacuuming, from taking out the trash to doing the dishes. Once everything was in place, I called a family meeting and informed the children of the new chores.
While not exactly excited about the prospect—although my five-year-old did do a fist-pump upon being told his job would be setting the table for dinner—the kids have proved to be fairly proficient at cleaning. Not perfect, but with gentle instruction and encouragement, they will soon be doing it as well as any grownup.
Some parents balk at the thought of having their children “work” around the house. To that, I say, aren’t your children consumers in the family? Are they not part of the family? Then they should contribute to the upkeep of the family.
If you need more convincing, here are some positive benefits of chores.
Chores build confidence. Just listen to my oldest brag to her friend that she’s “old enough to do the dishes.” She has discovered that she’s capable of doing something without assistance, something that contributes to the family.
Chores build character, specifically a good work ethic. Being a good employee when they grow up is started by teaching them how to be a good member of the family through chores. Believe me, your child’s future employer will thank you.
Chores build responsibility. Giving your children the opportunity to serve within your family shapes their sense of responsibility.
One final note about chores and compensation: Well-meaning parents tie chores to allowances, and that can create a world of problems. To wit, if a child doesn’t want the money, then he doesn’t have to do the chore, right? Chores are service to the family—if you pay for the chore, the it’s no longer an act of service. So separate chores from allowances.
So start handing over more of the housework to your children and watch their character, confidence and responsibility grow.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.


  1. Naomi Rawlings August 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    I read the title to this blog post and smiled. Great post, Sarah! I’ve recently started adding chores to my five-year-old’s list. He can’t really unload the dishwasher yet, because of how high up we keep our dishes, but he can do the silverware and help load the plates. So he’s been doing more of that lately. 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I think it’s way to easy for us moms to do everything ourselves. We forget that with a little instruction, our kinds can help. And in fact, we should be teaching them to help, because they will be on their own doing these things themselves one day.

    • Sarah Hamaker August 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      That’s exactly it, Naomi. We get so used to doing things when our kids are small that we sometimes forget to train them in helping us around the house when they’re older.

      One of my favorite memories is of my two girls when they were about 6 and 4, coming to me and begging to wash the kitchen floor on their hands and knees. Of course, I said yes, got them some soapy water and rags, and then overheard them playing “Cinderella.” Boy, I milked that for all it was worth!

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