Time for a Promotion!

The summer’s winding down now and thoughts are turning to the school year ahead. Some of you are back already and the rest are counting the days. Whether your guys are heading into kindergarten, 12th grade or somewhere in between, it’s the perfect time to set some new expectations for them at home, as well as at school.

Being promoted to the next grade means that they successfully mastered the lessons of the past year and are ready to take the next step in their learning. New subjects, more homework and differences in the way they do their work, whether it’s giving oral reports for the first time or participating in the science fair, all push them to grow – which is good.

We expect them to be able to handle the increase in workload and responsibility. It makes us proud and we don’t for a minute doubt their ability to manage it. What’s funny though is that we don’t often make the connection between their abiity to do more at school with their ability to do more at home.

Why not let them know that since they are now a year older, they’re also going to be asked to do a little more to help out on the homefront, too? I’m a firm believer in the importance of kids making a meaningful contribution to the family in the form of chores as soon as possible. Since ours were little, we’ve let them know that we expected them to pitch in, not just once-in-awhile, but regularly. Our message has been that in order for our family to run well, we need their help, whether they’re two or twenty.

Why? Because it’s true! Growing a successful family is hard work and each member should play an important part in making that happen. Beyond that, every child needs to know that he or she is a valuable member of the family and that their participation is required and really makes a difference. We all need to know that we are needed, children included.

Regardless of whether your income could fund a small country on its own or whether you’re working two jobs and barely making ends meet, chores are important. It’s not about being able to afford outside help. It’s not about money at all. There is a mountain of research to prove that regularly participating in chores raises self esteem and a sense of belonging. It fosters responsibility, independence and self sufficiency and helps propel children toward success.

True, it’s often much easier to just do it (whatever it is) yourself. Arguing, pleading, and giving constant reminders can definitely wear you out and create friction. But if you are clear and consistent from the start, the battles will lessen and you will see a positive change occur.

The keys to success in this department are:

  • Make sure the jobs you delegate are realistic and age appropriate.
  • Be specific and precise. Make a chart or type out a contract so everyone knows exactly what is expected. Keep it in a place where it can be easily seen.
  • Don’t expect perfection – teach them the job first and look for improvement over time.
  • Express your appreciation for what they have done not only when the job is completed but while they are doing it.
  • Follow through on your role as supervisor by checking up on the work. Don’t just assume it has happened. This is one of the ways you communicate that you mean business and really do expect them to do their job.
  • Make sure that you allow sufficient time for the job to be done. Give chores the same value and attention that you give to homework, sports, etc.

The list below will give you some ideas for age appropriate tasks:

Ages 2 – 3

  • Putting their clothes in the hamper
  • Helping to put toys in the toybox, books on the table or shelf

Ages 4 – 5

  • Setting the table
  • Emptying the wastebaskets
  • Helping to unload the dishwasher
  • Putting dirty clothes in hamper
  • Making bed (okay straightening out bedcovers)
  • Cleaning up toys and books before bed each night
  • Watering houseplants or flowers (with help)
  • Putting dry dog or cat food in dish

Ages 6 – 7

  • All of the above
  • Sweeping
  • Dusting
  • Helping to clear the table
  • Helping outside with weeding and raking

Ages 8 – 9

  • All of the above
  • Helping to make dinner -peeling carrots, grating cheese, etc.
  • Cleaning out the car
  • Putting away groceries
  • Emptying the dishwasher
  • Helping to sort and fold laundry

Ages 10 and up

  • All of the above
  • Vacuuming
  • Stripping sheets and remaking their bed
  • Cleaning the toilet and the bathroom
  • Making their lunch
  • Taking out the trash and recycling
  • More outside work like mowing the lawn, etc.

It works best if you choose one or two things that can be clearly identified as “their jobs.” The personal care ones like making their beds and putting their stuff away will be in effect forever. The ones concerning common areas or family functions can be added or alternated with siblings as is appropriate.

Remember though – the idea is NOT to overload them with a ton of housework. A couple regular jobs in addition to cleaning up after themselves is enough. You just want them to understand that they are needed and expected to help keep the household running. If you present it right, they will feel empowered and useful, even if they keep those feelings to themselves … which, let’s face it, they most likely will.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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3 responses to “Time for a Promotion!”

  1. Ann

    Thanks for the list of jobs! We’ve gone to a “job jar” that everyone picks a job out of every day after school or work. We started it when school started two weeks ago, and so far, so good!

  2. HubCityGirl

    I LOVE this post! Thanks so much for sharing. Both of my kids, 18 months and 4 years, have been putting their clothes in their hampers since they are able to walk, but it’s nice to have a few more ideas. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference :)

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