Chores: Sometimes You Gotta Spell It Out

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I’ve mentioned before that each of our children above four years of age has regular chores to perform around the house. The quality of their performance ebbs and flows with the seasons, their attitudes, and my follow through.

Recently, we were struggling with one job and his ability, or lack thereof, to clean the living room. We, the parents, were wondering if he couldn’t do, wouldn’t do it, or just needed some encouragement. The jury is still out on that one. But, the conversation did, however, lead to some helpful changes. FishPapa requested that I figure out some way to expressly communicate what needed to be done when a child was assigned the task of “cleaning the living room.”

What resulted was this. It’s a sheet that I taped to the wall that literally spells it all out. Step-by-step instructions as to what needs to be done before the kid can say his job is done.

How to Clean the Living Room

1. Pick up the pillows and put them on the couches.
2. Fold the blankets neatly and place one on each couch or chair.
3. Pick up the books and take them to the school room.
4. Pick up any trash and take it to the kitchen trash can.
5. Put movies, video games, and remotes in the drawers.
6. Deliver clean clothes to their rooms.
7. Take dirty clothes to the laundry room.
8. Gather baby stuff and place them neatly in Baby’s corner.
9. What else is out of place? If you’re not sure what to do, ask a parent.

Yes, I know, it seems a little OCD. But, it works! Every kid who can read can consult the list, take a look around, and know where to start. It is a fantastic tool to getting that task taken care of. Now if only I could get around to making lists for every room.

What do you do to help your kids do their jobs right? Share it in the comments!

(My Brood) Works for Me
Making a Clean Sweep
For more great ideas, check out “Works for Me Wednesday” at Rocks in My Dryer.

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  1. This is a great idea. I only have 1 older than 4 so far, but he is a boy and I really think he just doesn’t see the same messes I do. Our concepts of clean are different so it makes so much sense to spell out what it means to clean a certain room!

  2. My WFMW is about chores, too.

    Your advice is so good. I’ve found that my kids can’t always read my mind – SURPRISE! They need to be taught and mentored in life skills, just like in their academic or sports skills.

    Great post.

  3. Great WFMW post. I just have one over 4 right now and her main chores are her room and then emptying the utencils from the dishwasher. But I had to make a picture sheet for her room (clothing away, bed made, pj’s on the pillow etc.).

  4. Oh that is isn’t OCD I hope b/c mine is in a sheet protector with a dry erase marker so my darlings can check it off, then erase it for the next time. That isn’t OCD, right? I would like to say efficient 🙂 But, it does work!

  5. What a great idea…if only I can teach my kindergartener to read today…Hmmmm… I do something like this, just not as indepth (hence, the reading). I have a chore chart with pictures so that they’ll get the point of what’s expected of them. I’m glad to see that my kids aren’t the only ones that don’t “know how” to clean… we have to teach them by showing, as well. The playroom is a big challenge for us. We use the “coin” reward system which seems to be working for us right now…here’s a link that explains it a little more…
    Thanks for the tips!!

  6. Funny, I wrote about family teamwork (for getting jobs done) at Finer Things and tips to train little helpers at Happy to be at Home! We all must be very focused on chores this week! 😉

  7. Not OCD at all! I think that often we expect things of our kids, and they don’t really have a clue how or what to do!

    Thanks you for sharing.

  8. I think that is a great idea. Too often they don’t know what we consider part of the job.

  9. My friend did this same thing. She got pretty sick one summer (and was going to get worse with time, she can now barely walk) and spent a full day each week teaching her elementary-aged children how to properly clean a bathroom, how to correctly do laundry, things like that, and she taped step by step instructions inside a cabinet nearby. I loved this idea!!!

  10. I read your list to my 11 year old boy and he gave a sheepish smile and said, “You aren’t going to print that out, are you?”

    Actually, that’s exactly what I was thinking I should do!

    Great post!!!

  11. If you have any others, I would love to print those out too! I need one for the bathroom and kitchen…lol!

  12. I have two teenage sons who are responsible for helping to clean the house every Saturday, in addition to their bathroom. I have a chart on the refrigerator for what is expected with each grouping of chores – so they know exactly what needs to be done and I feel less like a nag when I follow up on it. About every month or so we have a “deep cleaning” day – with plenty of advance warning – with additional responsibilities for each grouping of chores. In this case, we start the day with doughnuts, we turn the radio up loud, and we all clean at the same time. Even though we’re each in our own world while we’re cleaning, it’s great family time with a huge sense of accomplishment at the end.

  13. Lists like that are helpful, not OCD. What might seem commonsense and obvious to some of us, is completely foreign to others. (And even with a list like yours, never could get my ex to properly wash dishes! lol)

    I have a set of Positive Discipline “tool cards”, one of which is titled “Take Time for Training”, and suggests the following 4 steps:
    1) Kindly explain the task as you perform it, while your child watches.
    2) Do the task together.
    3) Have your child do it by herself while you supervise.
    4) When she feels ready let her perform the task on her own.
    This works even for younger, non-readers.

  14. I recently started implementing chores again as I was becoming too overwhelmed to get everything done myself. My daughter is 8 and she has been very lucky to not have a chore list but that has now changed and to make it even better, she’s excited about it because I tried to make it fun Now she gets on me if I don’t give her chores. I also made a very OCD ‘How to’ guide for each chore 🙂

  15. It is not OCD at all. Actually, it is a good educational tool and practice. A teacher would not (hopefully) give a child a worksheet of math problems and say “do the math” without first teaching, reviewing, and practicing.
    Also, having the steps written down is the same as having a recipe. I think we need to follow this practice when it comes to some untangibles, too. I used to talk with my children about what “being good” meant. Recently I had to remind my 21 yr old that when I ask him to “empty the dryer” it means to actually fold the clothes, too. He looked at me like he had never heard those words before–nice try kid ;).
    The one thing I have learned, in all my different personal and professional roles, is what is common sense to one person is not common sense to another.

    1. fogot to add–when I gave my son, at age 6, his first official job of bringing in the garbage can from the curb, my father said to me “what does he get for that?” I replied “he gets to live in our house.”

  16. I’m a mom of 7 and have found that spelling it out is an essential to reducing frustration for me and for the children in completing jobs satisfactorily. Great post!