Children and Chores: Journeymen (Ages 6-12) and Master Craftsmen (Ages 13+)

Journeymen (Ages 6-12)

One of Tim’s professors in Bible college said that the elementary school years are the rocking chair years of parenting. Babies and toddlers take loads of physical care while teens require enormous mental and emotional energies, but the elementary years seem to almost glide by. This is a great time as you continue to teach your children how to work, too. If your children have been helping you since they were toddlers, they will already be in the groove with work expectations, and their increased capabilities allow them to do more than complicate your tasks.

What should you focus on during this time? Training, consistency, and success

Training: You need to actually TEACH your children new skills you want them to have. If you want your eight year old to take over cleaning the bathroom, don’t just make the assignment, but take the time to show him what is involved, step by step. You need to both SHOW and TELL. Then, make sure to check on his work. Young children will do what you inspect, not necessarily what you expect.

Training an apprentice via the Buddy System (?)
To teach a new skill, either work with your child or use the buddy system and assign an older child to work with a younger one. Sometimes I’ve told an older child that he could work his way out of a job by teaching a younger sibling.

One way of helping kids remember what is expected in a particular job is to make reminders or checklist of the steps. (For the bathroom, you could post the list on the back of the bathroom door.) This also works well for bedroom cleaning. So often we just say, “Please clean up your room!” but don’t explain what is entailed.

Consistency: Figure out a system that works in your household, and then stick to it. This kind of repetition pays off as your children will begin to do their chores without being asked, and, if you have some kind of emergency, you might be surprised at how much of the home management they can carry out because they’ve learned the routine. We’ve found it very helpful to start our day with a 15 minute concentrated chore time. Everyone has chores that need to be done at other times of the day as well, but this short burst of chores gets us off to a good start with the breakfast dishes done, counters cleaned up, laundry started and other loads folded and put away, etc.

Success: Just like you want your toddlers and preschoolers to gain confidence as they to help, you want your grade school children also to experience success. Make sure to provide the tools your child needs to accomplish his jobs, and remember to recognize a job well done, whether that is with words or with some type of reward.

Master Craftsmen (Ages 13+): Independence, Responsibility, and Service

By the time your kids hit their teen years, they should be pretty skilled at all the routine jobs they've been doing around the home. They should be adept at cleaning a bathroom, making meals, doing their own laundry, and taking care of the lawn and garden. At least that's the goal. Now is a great time to take stock and see where each one stands. What skills has he acquired? What are still lacking? After watching our oldest subsist on frozen pizzas, ice cream, and Taco Bell, we decided that a graduation requirement for  his brother and sisters would be that they can prepare a minimum of seven different dinners. (Jonathan's going to have to prove his abilities this year before he heads off.)

Besides filling gaps (and everyone has them!), this is a great time to foster independence. As you see your teens taking increasing initiative and responsibility, you'll be able to grant more freedoms. These two qualities (responsibility and freedom) should have a direct relationship. During these years kids tend to be self-focused, so give them plenty of opportunties to serve both your family and others with their work. This can go some ways towards counteracting the natural selfishness so common to these years.

Finally, this is a great time to do more advanced skills, perfecting and digging into certain areas. Maybe one child will become your IT guy, caring for all the computers in the house. (Mine is a senior this year, and I'm thinking he needs to train a replacement.) Some kids might want to become experts in food preservation or breadmaking. Let teens explore different areas and gain expertise in an area or two.

One of my favorite books is Laddie, Gene Stratton Porter's largely autobiographical story of a large Indiana farm family in the 1800s. The mother has the practice of leaving her home for a bit some time before each daughter gets married. This allows her daughter the experience of running a home all by herself, and provides a great test to make sure she's ready for the tasks awaiting her. As we think about our teens, we might envision similar situations which will allow them to test our their skills and wings!

Silly teens in the garden 

Proverbs 15: 19  The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway.


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