Training Children to Help With Chores

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” Galatians 6:9.

Something over the past couple of generations has led to a belief that moms are responsible for ALL the housework. We think kids should lead a life of leisure, and for what? A bunch of people who grow up completely unprepared for adult life when they’re suddenly thrust into it at a certain age or when they get married.

This is not only wrong, it’s unfair to everyone involved. Moms get burned out, kids don’t learn a work ethic, and dads work hard only to come home to ungrateful kids and wives who are too tired to want anything to do with them.

The Proverbs are full of admonitions to work, the blessings that go with it, and warnings against laziness. “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” Proverbs 16:3. “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back” Proverbs 21:25-26.

If we’re to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), shouldn’t that include training him in physical labor and how to run a household? But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? It can be especially hard if you’re just coming around to this way of thinking and your oldest child is already ten or older. So be in prayer about this subject, explain the concept to your children (many times if needed), and seek help from women in the church who have these kinds of expectations firmly established in their households.

Below is a list of things kids should be able to do by their ages. Don’t worry if you don’t think your kids can do these things. Kids have different abilities at different ages, and some of these things even depend on how big your kids are (for example, switching out laundry if you have a top-loading washer). But make sure you also give your kids the benefit of the doubt. Help them rise to challenges. Kids aren’t given nearly enough credit for their capabilities. 

Don’t get discouraged if you see other kids your kids’ ages who are doing much harder work than your kids currently do. Remember that the eight-year-old who can complete entire loads of laundry himself didn’t naturally pick up that habit. His mom has worked diligently on teaching him how to do it--just as you’re going to do--and is probably still guiding him through the process each time he does it. And he’s most likely not doing it perfectly.

Before we get to the list, remember these things as you’re training your children in this area of righteousness.
  1. Get on the same page with your husband about what the expectations should be. You might find that your expectations are too low or too high, and talking it out with your husband can help smooth out the process of training your kids to work. Besides that, even though as the wife and mother you’re in charge of the house, ultimately your husband is the head of the family and should be making final decisions in big changes like this.
  2. Go over the basics with your kids each time for the first ten or twenty (or more!) times they attempt a new chore. Don’t get too frustrated if they continue to forget details. Just keep telling them or write down the instructions (if they can read). 
  3. Do the chores with them the first few times and then let them do it themselves. Make sure they’re doing their best without being nit-picky (again, easier said than done). For example, if the six-year-old “gets done” sweeping the kitchen in two minutes, encourage her to look back over the floor to see if she sees anything she missed, and make sure she knows to sweep the whole floor, not just what she can see. 
  4. The work doesn’t have to be perfect (even people who have been doing chores for years and years don’t do it perfectly), but it should improve as your kids practice. 
  5. Remind yourself often that this will save you time in the long run, and the “long run” probably isn’t as far away as you think. Loosen up some of your expectations of efficiency. Don’t sacrifice your sanity or your happiness as a homemaker on the altar of getting things done faster. 
  6. Model for your children gratefulness and cheerfulness. Work is not a bad thing, and we don’t have to view it that way.

Here are some Bible verses you and your kids can memorize, or maybe you can display them around the house or even just write them directly on the dustpan. Sticky notes above the kitchen sink could work too.

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 

Philippians 2:14-16
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 

Galatians 6:9
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
 
1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Timothy 5:8
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Proverbs 14:23
In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

2 Timothy 2:6
The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

1-2
  • Clean up toys and books
  • Put dishes on the counter next to the sink
  • Put away socks and shoes
 
3-4:
  • Set table
  • Clear table
  • Put away laundry
  • Fold small towels, napkins, washcloths
  • Dust low surfaces
  • Start learning to sweep (probably works best for a four- or five-year-old, but advanced three-year-olds might be able to give it a try)
  • Start learning how to make their beds (instill good habits early: make beds first thing in the morning)
 
5-6
  • Wash dishes or rinse and put in the dishwasher
  • Sort, fold, and put away laundry
  • Sweep and vacuum (not perfectly)
  • Wipe down toilets and bathroom counters
  • Put away groceries
 
7-8
  • Complete loads of laundry (except maybe spraying for stains)
  • Mow the yard
  • Mop or wet Swiffer
  • Clean windows and glass doors
  • Vacuum and wash cars
  • Take out trash and replace trash bag

9-10
  • Help with grocery list as well as retrieving items from your list while shopping (keeping safety in mind)
  • Help prep for meals as well as clearing and cleaning up after meals. Begin teaching how to properly store away food either for leftovers or for future use 

10-12
  • Clean out trash containers (w/soap and water) when needed
  • Check and replace batteries and lightbulbs in smoke detectors, etc. 
  • Weed eat around yard, general yard clean up and light maintenance (clean and care of equipment)
  • Simple sewing (replacing buttons, fixing hems) as well as knowing how to iron (both boys and girls) 
  • Bathing and giving general care for animals. Younger kids definitely benefit from seeing and learning how to care for animals, but primary responsibility of animal care should be gauged by the child's maturity.  
  • Pump fuel for vehicles and check fluids on cars, including how to use a battery charger (applies to both girls and boys)
  • Tool operation and safety for light maintenance (repairing a loose leg on furniture, installing blinds or shelves- using power tools)

Older children need more gender specific training… so keep in mind as they begin to enter the “teenage” years, for example, boys and girls benefit from knowing how to chop wood, but boys should have the primary task or daily chore of keeping wood chopped and prepped for wood stoves/furnaces. 

Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list, and there’s nothing wrong with different families doing things differently. This is a general guide with some ideas attached. Also remember that as your kids get older the skills and concepts you’re instilling in them now will take firm root and help them grow more responsible. Especially if we model thankfulness and cheerfulness and continue teaching what God says about work, our kids will want to take initiative and help where they can.

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

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