Do you cringe thinking about how much time your children spend in front of a screen throughout the summer? Is it a struggle to get your children to play outside? Do you tire of cleaning up after your children when they’re home all day? Have you ever considered a summer chore chart?
A teaching opportunity.
Summer is not just a time for vacations, sleeping in and enjoying the absence of structure. While it’s nice to enjoy those freedoms, summer can also provide the opportunity for kids to learn responsibility. The absence of school and homework allows time for chores and contributing to the family. Summer is an opportune time to teach kids that they can play as much as they want, after the work is done.
“Humility includes responsibility, time management and being a good team member.” – Leonard Sax
Driven by our own concern about our daughters’ screen time and lack of self-initiative, our family adopted a summer chore chart a few years ago. It has worked wonders for us. My husband and I created a chart inspired by one we found on Pinterest.
We allow our girls to watch one thirty-minute television show when they first get up in the morning (which is a summer-only privilege). Then they have a list of every day expectations (make bed, brush teeth, etc.), followed by a list of options depending on the day of the week (sort the laundry, dust the living room, clean a bathroom, pull weeds for 20 minutes, etc.). After accomplishing these tasks, they can choose to read, write a letter or do a craft for 20 minutes – which they ordinarily extend to an hour. Next, they can play outside, go to the park, etc. After doing all that, if they want to watch another show or play a game on their Kindle, they can. However, they typically have so much fun playing or reading, they forget all about screen time. (Note: Adapt time frames and activities to age-appropriateness.)
The first week or two of enforcing the summer chore chart requires training.
The key to success in any job is preparation. My husband and I took the time to show our girls how to dust, clean the bathroom, wash windows, and so on. Like learning to read, children need to be taught.
Some chores are expected to be done as a contributing member of our family. Others are additional jobs for which our girls can earn a commission. A great motivator for chores for which they get paid is to withhold payment until the job is completed correctly. Although kids don’t like having to re-do a job, the pay-off is worth the enforcement. With the empowerment of making choices and knowing how to complete tasks on their own, comes pride in their work and willingness to do extra.
Our girls enjoy keeping track of completed jobs and earning money. Having a clear understanding of what jobs they get paid for and what are expected contributions to our family (and why) eliminates complaining.
We so often get caught up in ensuring our kids have a happy childhood, we lose track of preparing them for life.
A happy childhood can include the gratification of contributing to the family, learning humility and developing work ethic. For they are but ours for only eighteen years, and the world’s for the rest of their lives.
Praise your children’s effort and don’t be afraid to show them mistakes they’ve made. You can say, “I remember when I was learning to clean the bathroom. I always forgot to pick up the soap and clean underneath.” Like anything, learning responsibility takes practice.
Don’t give in to the urge to do it for your child.
Accept that it will take a while before tasks are done the way you like. Let your children make mistakes and guide them through the fixes.
It takes time in the beginning, but the reward for your investment can be great in many ways:
- Children can take over more chores as they get older which takes work off your plate.
- They develop a sense of pride in doing a job well and contributing to the family.
- Kids learn work ethic that will help them later to get and keep a job.
- They will be independent, confident young adults when it’s time to push them out of the nest. And after all, isn’t that what we all want for our children?