This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.
It is a valuable exercise to read books such as Little House in the Big Woods and In Grandma’s Attic. These stories reveal how children used to be entrusted with so much more than cleaning up their rooms. They had cows to milk, dishes to wash, horses to tether, fires to tend, wood chips to gather and so much more. I highly recommend reading these books with your kids!
Children for the past thirty-plus years have merely been expected to go to school, be involved in activities, and maybe do a chore here and there for mom. I have to restrain myself from eye-rolling when I hear people say, “Why are millennials so lazy? Why do people feel so entitled? Why is our country falling apart?”
It’s elementary, my dear Watson: When we fail to entrust our children with the important while they are young, they won’t see the value of work when they are older.
Children should have an investment in the success of the family’s goals and the opportunity to fail while the consequences are not particularly life-threatening. In order to accomplish this, we need to involve them in the important. This is also true within the church.
In this series, we have discussed three of our six E’s of raising GenNext Christians: Engage, Exemplify, and Equip. This next part—Entrust—is the hinge pin in all of this. Without a hinge pin, the hinge doesn’t connect and the door won’t work. Do not fail to skip this piece of raising children. This post is broken into two parts. Today’s section addresses entrusting kids with responsibilities at home and the second will address entrusting them in the church.
Entrusting Children at Home
Before you ask, this does have something to do with raising Christians.
Children spend far more time at home than they do at worship services and bible class, so training ought to begin here. Home should be the environment where they learn responsibility and accountability. Parents, your goal should be to train yourself out of a job. You are not a slave to your child. You serve them in love, and tend to the needs they cannot manage, but you ought to be training them to replace you.
If and when your kids complain about “all the stuff they have to do” remind them that everyone in the family has a job and the family cannot function if everyone doesn’t do their job (this is similar to the church). Explain to them that the family won’t function well without their help. In doing this, you give them a sense of investment in the family’s success.
Giving them this “sense of investment” begins by entrusting your children with chores. The incentive for participation is a commission per chore with which they can purchase things they’ve been wanting to have. Some people do allowance, I prefer commission. Your motivated kids will scoop this up. Your less motivated kids will slough off. However, their motivation will rise when they see their siblings loaded with cash while they only have a few pennies. Just give it time and consequence.
Dave Ramsey has an excellent money system for kids. It comes with a dry-erase chore chart, three vinyl zipper envelopes for dividing their cash, and a few other things. We’ve been using this without our children for about four years and it has helped us out tremendously. You can purchase the set here. Below is my middle daughter’s chart. Some chores are only done every few days, and sometimes they simply fail to get done. When they don’t get done, they don’t get paid for those chores. When there is blatant refusal to do chores, I make them pay me out of their envelopes because in life, when you won’t do certain things like washing the car or mowing the lawn, you’ll either have a dirty car and overgrown lawn or you pay someone to do it.
The following is a list of “important” things to involve your child in at home, broken down by age. Only you know what your child can handle, but I will make some suggestions.
These activities teach your child how to maintain their living space and also give you an opportunity to teach the value of work, money management, failure and success. Some of the items in this list aren’t payable chores, but things they simply ought to be doing.
2-3 years old:
- picking up their toys
- putting away silverware (you can supervise or remove knives if you are concerned about injury) I paid my kids a quarter for every time they did this
- feeding the dog (if you have one). If they can scoop dirt, they can scoop food (assuming your dog eats dry food).
- clearing the table (use plastic or stainless steel utensils or dishes. If it drops, no biggie; it’s just a food mess that they should help clean up.)
- putting their dirty clothes in the hamper
4-5 years old:
- putting away silverware
- Helping with the dishwasher
- tidying their rooms unsupervised
- sorting socks in the clean laundry
- feeding pets
- basic cooking (supervised)
- putting clean clothes away & dirty clothes in the hamper
6-9 years old:
- putting away laundry/folding clothes
- sweeping/dry mopping
- wet mop (if you think they have the maturity)
- cleaning bathroom counters and tubs
- maintaining a tidy room
- picking up animal messes
- learning to clean windows they can reach
- drying and putting away dishes they can handle
- basic supervised cooking (should be able to make sandwiches and a few other things independently)
- keeping track of their own cash
- reading the bible on their own each day
10+ years old:
- washing dishes
- picking up animal messes
- cleaning entire bathroom
- cooking a meal each week
- doing their own laundry or helping with the family laundry
- cleaning windows
- mowing the lawn
- teaching younger siblings to do chores
- washing a car
- changing a tire
- maintaining a car
- changing the oil
- taking out the trash
- helping with meal plans
- learning how to shop smartly
- balancing their own checkbook/managing cash
- daily bible reading
What would you add to this list? What other activities do you think a child ought to be entrusted with in the home?
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