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Children and Chores: Part 5 - Develop a Mature Work Ethic

Maturity means maintenance of domains

As our children grew in age and ability, pincharts (refer part 4 of "chore" series) were gradually phased out and a new system introduced. This new system developed and demanded a mature work ethic.

Your kids may be ready to maintain household domains.

Hi, I’m Madia. I have eleven children and one of the greatest privileges of my life was to know Dr. Leila Denmark. She practiced pediatrics for over 75 years and was my mentor for 32 years.

I can hardly express how much she helped me, both with the children’s medical issues and family life challenges. I would love to share what she taught me with you


Divide and Conquer

Divide your home and chores into "domains". List the specific responsibilities for each domain. The domains might be as follows:

Domain # 1 Kitchen and Den Christina

Daily: keep own room neat; keep kitchen and den picked up (after meal clean-up is shared with siblings); vacuum kitchen/den when needed

Weekly: dust and vacuum own room; wash own sheets and laundry; disinfect kitchen surfaces; dust kitchen/den; clean trash can; mop kitchen floor

Monthly: de-junk and mop own room; dust own baseboard and ceiling fan; clean refrigerator and oven; clean kitchen/den walls, ceiling fans and baseboards; clean kitchen/den windows

Domain # 2 Living room/ Dining room/Downstairs bathroom Emily

(list specifics)

Domain #3 Basement/Yard/Cars John

(list specifics)

The purpose of assigning "domains" is to encourage greater personal responsibility. There is a general schedule for chores, but each child is commissioned to take ownership of their domain. The idea is to maintain their area of responsibility by checking it and keeping it neat and clean (not just carrying out specific chores morning and evening). Duties associated with a particular domain should be discussed and generally monitored until the upkeep becomes a habit.

I try to be sensitive to the time commitments and preferences of my older children when we assign domains. Some love cooking, others prefer working in the garden. However, It is in everybody's best interest to gain a variety of basic household skills so...

We try to switch domains around once a year. That way everyone gets practice doing a variety of tasks. Also, I assign some kind of cooking duty and kitchen clean-up to each family member. We're all for guys learning to cook and girls helping with yard work. At the same time, I do have a greater focus on in-home duties for the girls and outside duties for the guys. I guess some people would consider me "sexist". That's okay, it makes sense to me!

If a brother or sister keeps leaving his or her things out in a particular room, it is the responsibility of the one in charge of that domain to talk to their sibling about it. Should that brother or sister continue to be slack, then the next level of appeal is Mom.

Again, no system works perfectly and may need tweaking after you institute it. Some children latch on to it quicker than others. Some need more monitoring and consequences for slackness. Try to be patient, consistent and persistent until everyone gets used to it.

The system of domains is not just about keeping a clean house. It's a good tool for teaching critical life skills of competency and dependability. It's also handy when guests are due to arrive. "Hey Everybody, check your domains. Aunt Phyllis should be here in half an hour!"


From Madia:

"When our children were very small, I often took them to visit my grandmother, who lived in Orlando. "Mama Lois" loved children and was always very welcoming. In the evenings, after little ones were tucked in bed, we sat in her living room and reminisced.

"It was during those evening chats that I learned about her childhood. Life was not easy for Mama Lois. Her papa died when she was nine, leaving her mother and four little girls. Baby sister passed away shortly afterward. Mama Lois' mother had to work full-time to put food on the table, so her Grandma Brown moved in from the country to care for the girls.”

From Mama Lois:

“Grandma Brown was a wonderful woman and pretty much raised us. Everyday after school, she had us help with chores. We had to mop the floor, clean and help with the cooking. Grandma Brown made us work very hard, but on the weekends she made sure we had a good time. We would go to the park or do something else that was special.'

My Great-great Grandma Brown

From Madia:

"Mama Lois was a good worker. She never moved very fast, but was dependable and diligent. If anyone complained about her taking too much time, Mama Lois would often respond, "I'm slow, but sure." She was definitely someone you could count on! Great-great Grandma Brown taught my grandmother how to work. She in turn taught my mother, who taught me. I hope I can pass on the legacy of hard work and diligence to my children."

From Dr. Denmark:

"A child should be taught that the house that he lives in is his home, and he should not be paid to keep his room or take out the trash or wash the dishes. He should be taught that he should contribute to this place he calls home and he should be happy to help. If a child is paid for all he does in a home, he is in the same position as a hired servant, not a member of the family. He learns in this manner to receive and not to give. The child learns the art of making a contribution to life by helping his parents keep a neat place in which to live."


For more of Dr. Denmark's insights, read Dr. Denmark Said It!

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