The Dreaded Chore List
In terms of instilling the values of mental toughness and work ethic, discipline is the gift that keeps on giving. - William Baldwin If you want a candid reaction out of my guys, ask them about "The Chore List". A critical part of a child’s training involves equipping them to survive on their own. In Jamaica there is a saying that a child is not grown until they turn their own key in their own door. Somehow this generation is being protected from learning household chores. We either think they are not going to do it the way we want it done or that it would be punishing to assign them chores. There is a scripture that says train up a child in the way it should go and when s/he is old, s/he will not depart from it. This very aptly refers to spiritual training, but also applies to home training. We really do our children a disservice when we don’t educate them on how to live on their own or contribute to their family. Unless they are going to live with you all of their life, teaching them these life skills (washing clothes, clearing the table, dusting, sweeping) will be very valuable.
Since my mom was a single parent, we were well training on how to contribute to the household. My earliest memory of helping with chores was to bring and returning the trashcans from each room to the front of the apartment. My brother would then take the trash to the incinerator in the hallway. I was around 4 – 5 years old. These small contributions made me feel important because I was helping.
As my sister and I got older, we worked out an agreement that she would clean the kitchen and I would make sure the living room and bathroom stayed clean. We were both responsible for washing our own clothes and cleaning our room. All of this was great for preparation for becoming a parent. The one thing I wish we had done was to rotate responsibilities. Even now that we each have our own homes, I am always much more proactive cleaning my living room and bathroom, than I am my kitchen. I just know that my sister is on her way to handle that room.
When my guys were old enough, they had fun helping out with different tasks, but when we put everything down on paper and it was expected, the table turned a little bit. I think they understood the concept because they were being good helpers at school. I just believe that when you have children, part of your responsibility is to equip them to be good adults. So our choir list had 3 weekly rotations:
Rotation 1: Stack dishwasher, wipe counters and table, vacuum floor
Rotation 2: Un-stack dishwasher, sweep floor, clean bathroom
Rotation 3: Put dishes away, take out the trash, water plants
Each son was responsible for cleaning their room and their laundry. We typically washed clothes on the weekend they just had add to the color sorted piles.
In addition to the three rotations, each person was responsible for:
Making up their beds in the morning
Laying out clothes the night before school and church
Placing all important papers from school on the dining room table
Putting the bathmats up after shower or bath
Putting the toothpaste or hair care products away after use
Cleaning hair and toothpaste out left in the sink
I find with boys you have to be specific. So these were the "clean the bathroom" instructions:
Clean the sink and vanity
Put cleaner in the toilet and clean with the brush
Sweep the floor
Wash out the tub
Clean the mirror
Put wash clothes in the dirty clothes basket
Put out clean hand towels
Robert Burns is credited with writing “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. The house didn’t stay pristine, but there was definitely a plan and they did get the training. If the dishes were still in the dishwasher, holding up the stacker and the put away man, I would have to yell out “who is the Unstacker this week?”. The properly assigned son would then swing into action.
We recently found the list that is still in its original sheet protector. It was safe in a kitchen drawer since everyone was off to college. My oldest yelled out “BURN IT!”. Of course we did no such thing, but he did make me laugh.