Chores and Your Children

Tell Them, Show Them, Let Them Do

Driving down the road with my radio tuned to one of my favorite Christian music stations, I heard the DJ tell a story. She described a weekend evening when, at 11:00 PM, she was still in the kitchen. Standing at the sink washing dishes, she had two thoughts, “Why?” and “No more!” As the mother of two pre-teen girls, that was her ah-ha moment. She wasn’t training her children in the manner she needed to be.

Like that radio mom, I’ve had several ah-ha moments when it has hit me, “Why aren’t my kids doing this chore?” Recently as I finished prepping dinner, I noticed all four of my boys sitting on the living room couch. “Why aren’t they helping?” popped into my frustrated head. As a busy homeschool mom, why weren’t my kids helping me in the kitchen?

Sometimes I listen to the negative, self-talk messages inside my head. Isn’t it easier for me to do the housework than to teach my children? When I do the housework, it’s done right! (Can I hear an amen?!) Because I homeschool, I’m home during the day. I’m the mom. Shouldn’t I be doing the household chores?! That’s my job.

But, God tells me to lay a good foundation. Despite their childishness and teenage inertia, He tells me to count the cost. If I want to eventually release my children into society as well-adjusted, productive citizens and spouses, I’d better start training them. Now.

Here’s how to make that happen.

Set Age-Appropriate Expectations

My elementary student isn’t quite tall enough to put clean plates away in the upper cabinets. But he can sort socks and feed the dog. He can restock bathroom cabinets with extra rolls of toilet paper and water the flowers. Accomplishing those tasks teaches him responsibility, saves me time, and frees his older siblings to do their age-appropriate tasks like mowing the grass or putting clean sheets on the beds.

Train, Don't Delegate

Teaching my children to do new household chores requires more than a quick lecture. “Tell them, show them, let them do” is a realistic training mantra at home or in the workplace. Currently, I ask my 8-year old to tag along when I head to the laundry room. He is gradually helping me check pockets for tissues (and sometimes loose coins!), turn socks right-side out, and pre-treat stains. He cleans the lint trap and sets the water temperature. Basically, we are doing laundry together this month. Next month, I will start to watch him do the laundry.

Do All Things With Excellence

Without your watchful eye, most kids want to finish chores ASAP so they can move on to bigger and better things (LEGOs, for instance). But getting it done doesn’t mean it’s done well. Model excellence as you work and expect a job well done by following up on any chore your child does. If a task isn’t done to your satisfaction, it’s time to retrain your child. Return to the “tell, show, let them do” stage. It’s worth the effort and builds a desirable character trait that carries beyond the home.

Attitudes Matter

The word “chore” implies something that isn’t especially fun to do. When I grumble and complain about grocery shopping or making dinner, I’m just like the Israelites. But If I find ways to thank God as I work, I’m more Christlike. Stop and thank God for your working dishwasher as you unload it. When you chop vegetables for dinner, tell Him you appreciate a stocked refrigerator. Teach your children to express joy and thankfulness for the home, toys, and yard you have—even if they come with related work.

Pick one chore and begin to train your oldest child to do it this month. Teach a new task next month. Gradually decrease your workload while equipping your children for the long run

Melanie Hexter

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage (Psalm 84:5)." Melanie Hexter writes on homeschooling and travel from the beautiful mountains in Colorado, but that's not where her family has always lived. She and her husband have homeschooled their six children, three now graduates and three still in process, in three time zones as they have pursued God's leading. In addition to helping her husband with his business and her children live out their gifts, Melanie has written the U.S. National Parks Unit Study and several literature-based studies which she makes available to others at

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