Chore wars.  Ugh!  I want to raise kids who grow into responsible adults.  But I also want a home with less yelling, nagging, whining, and “what’s in it for me” attitudes.  Battles over chores seem to be the lament of mothers across the nation.  Why does this have to be so hard?  We do this every single day!  Don’t you think these kids would have figured it out by now? If they just did what we asked, everyone’s lives would be easier.

When we’re finally at our wits end, we end up chasing the next Pinterest worthy reward system or cutesy printable DIY magnetized chore chart.  For awhile, it gets our kids motivated to try a little harder.  But it never seems to last long.  The newness wears off, and rotating and assigning every task becomes a dreaded hassle that causes more headache than help.  What’s a mother to do?

Now, I am far from perfect in this area.  In fact, over the last couple years I’ve been slowly coming out of a long-term funk that was full of morning sickness, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety.  I was far from being on top of things.  And when the fog started to lift, I realized just how out of control things had become.

With newfound energy, some determination, and some trial and error, things are finally starting to look up.  But we don’t do chores!

Here are some ideas we’ve tried that are helping in our home:

 

1. Rename

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  In this situation, I don’t agree with Shakespeare.  The name of something makes all the difference.  I am more inclined to agree with Anne of Green Gables on this one: “I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”  Referring to routine housework with labels such as “chores” or “jobs” seems to set a negative tone right off the bat.

Dictionary.com gives one definition of the word chore that reads, “a hard or unpleasant task.”   More and more these days, kids hear the word “chore” and automatically conjure up visions of unfair drudgery and lost time.  Who wants to face that every day of their lives?  If you use the word “job,” a first thought might be, “how much will you pay me?”

Now, some families find that paying for daily chores is an effective way to teach kids to work hard, manage money, and learn the value of a dollar.  If this is working for you, don’t worry yourself into changing things up.  I agree to pay my kids for work done over and above normal daily tasks.  But I have personally found that money is not a great motivator for my own kids.

So what do we say if not “chores” or “jobs”?  I got some ideas from some other great sources around the web.  One article I read that really stuck with me was from farmhouseschoolhouse.com.  It was an article about finding a daily rhythm and building times into your day to clean together with your family.  She describes a time in the evening where her kids run around the house picking up while she cooks dinner and they wait for Daddy to get home from work.  They named that time of the day “Blessing Hour” because their work blesses everyone in the family.  How lovely!  Another system from themiraclemusicgame.com renames chores “acts of kindness.”  I love these naming ideas because they shift the focus from self to service.

 

2. Reframe

Are we just splitting hairs here?  Does the name of something really make a difference?  I believe it does.  When I shared the concept of “Blessing Hour” with my kids there was a definite response.  It really made them think.  My 11 year-old’s initial response was, ” ‘Blessing Hour?’  It’s more like ‘Sour Hour!'”  And she was right!  Even though we had been making time to work together every day and share in household tasks and responsibilities, the overall attitude of everyone involved was plain old sour.

We talked about how keeping a tidy home and working together on daily necessary tasks really is a blessing to each member of the family.  In fact, it not only blesses our family, but anyone who enters our home.  We have decided to do our best to focus on doing kind things for each other and blessing our home and family while we work.  Instead of automatically saying, “I didn’t make that mess!”  or “that’s not my job!,” we can try to remember each person doing their part and all the kind things we are doing for each other.

It does take mental effort and sincerity, but I’m convinced it’s working.  The kids are quick to remind me to call it “Blessing Time” when I slip up instead of calling it “clean up time” or “chore time.”  It makes a difference in the thought process in their minds, and that’s half the battle.  They’re going around finding nice things to do for each other like little service elves instead of dragging their feet and feeling unfairly put-upon.

 

3. Work together

I believe that taking time to work with your kids is important.  I cannot stress enough how children learn most effectively by watching our example, even when we’re not purposeful in our actions.  When I struggled back to back with two difficult pregnancies and recoveries, guess what habits the kids picked up?  I was physically unable to be up modeling appropriate housekeeping and a positive attitude.  It was a chore just to walk from one room to the next.  During that time, the kids learned how to get by doing the least amount of work necessary.  And my attitude toward routine tasks as “one more thing that makes me feel like I can’t even” really rubbed off.

It’s the truth.  That’s the reality of the season we were in.  Even though the kids were more than capable of doing better, they didn’t have an appropriate model to follow.  It was survival folks, plain and simple.  If this is the season you’re in right now, give yourself grace and just do the best you can.

I have found that kids are much more willing to pitch in and help when they see that I’m working hard myself.  I’m able to teach kids how to do various tasks effectively by casually talking about what I’m doing and why as we go along.  Also, I can give them opportunities to try jobs they wouldn’t ordinarily tackle on their own.  It may take longer to get the job done in the moment, but I’m counting on the long-term benefits outweighing the temporary “inconvenience.”

 

4. Add Music

Music is a central part of our family culture.  We have YouTube and Amazon Prime playlists for almost every occasion.  It was fun putting together a bunch of light-hearted upbeat songs to work to.  We have included songs from Phineas and Ferb,  The Greatest Showman, High School Musical, and Moana, as well as some classic rock and tween pop.  It’s quite the eclectic mix, but it works for us.  Karaoke night anyone?

Get creative with this part.  Choose songs to suit your family and the age of your kids.  We’ve sort of nominated “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted as our “Blessing Time” kick off theme song.  If you’re not into blaring the music, your family might enjoy playing an audio book or podcast for kids.  I think it’s nice to have something to listen to that makes the work more enjoyable and helps to pass the time.  It can easily become something to look forward to.

Well, we’re off to crank the tunes and run from room to room completing acts of kindness that will bless our home and family.

What are some of your tips and tricks to combat chore wars?

Let’s do this thing!

Heather Tinker

Photos from Unsplash