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Creating a Chore System that Works for you AND your kids

There is no doubt that kids of all ages should be helping out in the home. But there are lots of differing opinions on chores and whether kids are paid for them. Some call it Chores, and I admit I don’t like the term much, it makes it feel like a job not wanted, like drudgery, like it’s a “chore” to get done. I prefer Jobs or Responsibilities. Whatever you call them though, they are important.

We have never paid our kids for housework, they contribute to the running of our home as a responsible member of the family. Don’t take that to mean that I think paying kids for chores is wrong, there are pros and cons to both. I’m just sharing what we have done.

That’s not to say they do a ton of chores though, and I am nowhere near as consistent with training them as I wish I were. I am retraining myself to be consistent with cleaning jobs, and as I get better at it, I’ll train my kids. You don’t have to start this method from age 2, more about that later.

Here is the method for training kids to work that I love best.

5 Phases of Work

Phase 1: Ages 2-4  Mommy’s Helper

Little kids love to tag along and help, whether it’s pushing the vacuum or putting clothes in the washer, this is the time to have fun with your little helpers.

Praise their happy attitude, their willingness to help, and thank them for helping. I want my kids to learn that work is a good thing, not something to be avoided. That attitude is best fostered from the beginning. If you complain about work, they will learn to complain about it as well.

Phase 2: Ages 5-7 - Doing Jobs Together

They aren’t so little anymore, and you can begin teaching them how to do a job from start to finish. Do not assign jobs to be independently done at this age or you’ll be forever reminding and nagging for them to get it done, or sending them back to do it over. Do their jobs WITH them.

Praise their efforts, allow that some jobs are hard and it doesn’t have to be done perfectly to be valuable. 

I have fallen in love with this altered version of the old saying: Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly at first. 

There is a fine line between allowing for imperfection and allowing being lazy. You want to build in them their belief that they can do a good job and that doing a good job is satisfying. It’s not just about your praise, but that they can be proud of themselves for doing it.

Phase 3: Ages 8-10 - Side by Side

The beginnings of independence at this age means that you can start transitioning to them doing jobs alongside you but independent of your hands. So maybe you are cleaning the shower while they clean the sink, or you are hand washing dishes and they are drying. They’ve done the job with you many, many times, now they start doing it totally on their own, but you are there in the room working on another job. This fosters their independence but you’re right there to answer questions and to be sure the job is actually done.

Allow them to come up with their own method of cleaning if they are so inclined, as long as the end result is satisfactory, does it matter if they do it “your way” or not?

Phase 4: Ages 11-13 Apprentice 

Moving up to an Apprentice means you are (finally) assigning jobs to be done on their own. You’ve trained them for years, they know how to do the jobs, and they aren’t overwhelmed by them, and you don’t have to be right in the room with them for them to stay on task and get it done. They aren’t always completely independent in this Phase, though some could be. 

As they get more skilled, you can add in new jobs, but do train them to do the jobs for a couple of weeks. They should grasp it faster at this age, so it won’t take years or lots of repetitive training anymore. 

Please don’t just assign a job they’ve never done and only give a couple of directions. Take them through Phase 2 & 3 for that job by showing them how to do it, and then do that job WITH them until they get the hang of it. 

Some kids will need the side by side jobs of Phase 3 a lot longer than others. Go with what is working for your family.

Phase 5: Teens - Independent Work

If all goes to plan you’ll have a very skillful worker now. But mix in those hormone swings and it can get a bit dicey. That’s why training them before this age is ideal so that once they are here, they know what to do and how to do it. 

Training teens can totally be done, but be aware of your responses to their attitudes and eye rolls that are sure to come. Patience and kindness are key here.


Starting with Older Kids

So what if you have older kids or teens and they can’t do work independently? You can’t just start at Phase 3 or 4 and throw them in if they haven’t been trained.

If this is where you are, I suggest starting at the beginning and working through the phases in order. You won’t stay in each phase for years, and likely not even months, but going through the phases of them helping you, to you helping them, to working side by side, and then to independent jobs works a whole lot better than just ignoring and hoping that they’ll figure it out when they go off to college.  

Differences in Kids

I don’t have to tell you that all kids are created differently. What works great for one won’t work for another. 

Your firstborn will likely do better with this than those down the line, it’s just a thing for many firstborns to be more responsible. Kids with ADD or ADHD will need much longer of the side by side work so you can help them stay on task. Kids with anxiety might take longer to be able to do independent jobs because they have a fear of doing something wrong. Always tailor jobs to your individual children and their quirks and needs.

Keeping Track of Jobs

A Chore/Job/Responsibility chart can really help kids of all ages (and us moms too!) to stay on task and have even more satisfaction with a job well done.

I’ve got three versions of this chart for you, totally free. Just download, print out one per person, and post it up where you can all see what needs to be done. 

I’ve left a little room at the bottom for you to add in a Reward if you wish to do that. I didn’t write “Reward” directly on it so your kids wouldn’t expect one if you don’t like that idea.

I’ve designed these charts so they will appeal to all ages and both boys and girls.

Have on hand an assortment of options for marking off their charts like stickers, smelly pens, gel pens, and glitter pens - they all add to the fun.

In an ideal world, we and our kids would follow the plan and everything would work out perfectly, exactly as we envisioned. But, well, we are all humans after all, and therefore not perfect, no matter how hard we try. So with this or any other plan you put into place for working on chores with your kids, please always give yourself, and your kids, grace. Grace daily. Your relationship with them is more important than a perfectly clean house. 

Remember: Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly at first.

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Have you tried any of these systems with your kids or have a different system that works for you? Let me know in the comments!


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