Is it possible for kids to contribute to the housework without being reminded?

There were a number of questions around getting kids contributing to the workload around the house. And I loved this one:

Will my 4 & 6 year olds ever get ready and do their chores without being reminded 10 times?

Last year I outlined the framework I used to allocate household tasks to the kids, which you can read here Family Contribution Schedule.

We have reviewed the schedule 2 -3 times since we first created it, tweaking it so it better fitted the kids abilities and preferences. After our last review just recently, it now looks like this:

Daily / Weekly TasksValueWho
Afternoon - 15 minutes outside with the dog1Master 6
Dust lounge room (once a week)2Master 6
Small laundry basket emptying as needed1Master 6
Set place mats and cutlery each night2Master 6
Light run and pre leaving for school check of doors1Master 8
Afternoon - 15 minutes outside with the dog1Master 8
Wipe down couches each week2Master 8
Set water on table each night1Master 8
Clean windows in LEGO room (once a week)2Master 8
Tidying up tv cabinet once a week1Master 8
Afternoon - 15 minutes outside with the dog1Miss 11
Help prepare evening meal once a week3Miss 11
Clear dinner table - placemats, misc items and wipe down table2Miss 11
Fold washing (once a week)2Miss 11
Dust lego room and dining room once a week3Miss 11
Afternoon - 15 minutes outside with the dog1Master 13
Bring bins in on Friday morning1Master 13
Clean windows in lounge room inside and out (once a week)3Master 13
Evening - feed dog (7 days)3Master 13
Fold washing (once a week)2Master 13
Morning - feed dog (7 days)3Master 13
Empty recyling bin (as needed)2Master 16
Afternoon - 15 minutes outside with the dog1Master 16
Clean 3rd toilet2Master 16
Empty compost bin (as needed)3Master 16
Put bins out on Thursday night2Master 16
Clean main bathroom once a week (includes shower)4Master 16
Tidy book shelves2Master 16

I would love to say that I just print this out, pop it on the fridge and everyone sets about doing their work with out being reminded. That however would be a big fat lie! I am not sure if any kids anywhere in the world remember and then actually do the tasks they are supposed to do to contribute to the housework, but mine don’t.

My kids are currently aged 16, 13, 11, 8 and almost 6. Each of them need a reminder of some sort to do at least some of their work. Where possible I try to allocate tasks where they will fit into part of a routine, for example before school or before dinner, I find that the more a task forms part of their routine, then the more likely it is to be completed. The 13 year remembers to feed the dog most mornings as he does it straight after he has his breakfast for example, but prompts are often needed for other tasks which don’t fit so neatly into the kids’ days.

While I don’t give up hope that one day, they will magically do their tasks without being reminded, I have grown to accept that household tasks are not top priority in their life and as they don’t see things quite the way I do, I need to make it as easy as I can for them to remember to do them and remind them they need to be done.

A stand out moment for me occurred last year one night after school; the eldest had been home on his own while everyone else was out at after school activities. When I arrived home, the floors were still very much in need of a vacuum with all sorts of debris in the main rooms, the compost bucket was over flowing and the book shelves were a mess.

All of these tasks were at the time, the responsibility of the then 15 year old. In exasperation I asked him couldn’t he see that the floors needed vacuuming, the compost bucket was calling his name as was the book shelf? He said he honestly didn’t notice until I pointed it out. I made comments about using his initiative and he replied with:

If you want me to do stuff, just tell me or write it down. I just won’t see it otherwise.

Part of me really wanted to argue the point, that he should just see it – I do! But part of me realised that if I took that path that I would be creating a considerable battle for myself. While he may not love doing the household tasks, he (and the other kids too) actually do them when asked.

Systematic reminders

time management DSC06431
So I now instead of becoming frustrated with the kids for not doing their tasks without being reminded, I take a more systematic approach to reminding them about their tasks.

  • For tasks that form part of the morning or evening routines, I will just locate the relevant child and remind them they need to do their “morning tasks” for example. In the evening I will let the kids know I need the table set in 15 minutes for example so we can eat dinner and let them work out from there when to do it.
  • For tasks that are more random like emptying the compost bin when it is full or emptying the small wash basket, I will let the appropriate child know it is now ready to be done. If there is no response after my first request, I will set a time on the task to be done. I try to remember to take into consideration what they are doing at the time and be measured in my expectations. If they are in the middle of a game or have just sat down to start reading their book, then I will work with them to agree on a time when the task needs to be completed by.
  • For the bigger cleaning type tasks, I try to have one session a week where we all do the house work together. During the school term this will often be on the weekend at some point. It can be easier to get the kids working if they aren’t feeling like they are missing out when they see the other kids playing. It also helps that I am working too and they are see we are all in it together.
  • For the eldest two boys who have times when they are home on their own some afternoons after school, I will leave them each a list of tasks that they need to complete. Once they are done they can then ring me for the Wifi password.

Make it easy for them

I also like to make sure it is as easy as possible for the kids to complete their tasks. Any obstacle can so easily be used as an excuse for them as to why they can’t do the task.

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This means having the dusting cloths easily accessible for the kids. I have ours stored in a drawer that the youngest two can easily reach and open.

how to create a cleaning caddy DSC01217

I have cleaning caddies in convenient spots so the kids have all the materials needed to undertake tasks like cleaning the bathroom and/or toilet.

What happens at your house? Do the kids do their tasks without being reminded?