FAMILY

Mum's the word | Doing chores can be fun for the whole family

I am the first to admit that I have fumbled my way through parenting. I doubt many would say otherwise if they were truly honest with themselves. The only tool I had that was consistent was that my parenting came from a place of love.

Cleaning up: The chore game can be fun for the whole family. Photo: Shutterstock

Cleaning up: The chore game can be fun for the whole family. Photo: Shutterstock

Sure, I navigated the well-meaning advice offered by many, even referred to books written by the experts from time-to-time. However, I eventually realised that there were no text book kids - well mine certainly weren't. And just when I thought I had found some well-meaning advice that worked, the situation would change.

Each one of my children was different and each of their needs were different. In fact, each day was different even with the one child.

Just when I thought I had the perfect solution, a curve ball would come my way. Sleep was a struggle for one; another, I'm certain, would have slept on a rock (not that I tried that) and I would turn the vacuum cleaner on outside the bedroom door to help the third one slip into their slumber. Trust me, that worked. The longer I left that vacuum cleaner running, the longer that child would sleep.

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However, there was one parenting trick I developed that was an absolute hit, a constant go-to and it worked with every child.

This was the chore game.

Not sure how it came about - no doubt from a desperate need to encourage my children to take some responsibility around the house. And, of course, to develop a work ethic they could take into their adulthood.

This game was quite simple and it became something fun that involved the whole family. Don't get me wrong if the children could avoid chores all together they would have been happy, but this game captured their attention and involvement. And I managed to get them to pick up the stuff they left all over the house and put some effort into tidying their bedrooms.

The game involved a container, some paper, a pen and at least an hour set aside, although two hours was better - at least for the parents.

To start the game we would all sit down and write, on separate pieces of paper, a chore we believed needed to be done. Nothing too hard and nothing that took too long. Each chore was limited to 10 minutes. Some examples were:

  • Spend 10 minutes picking up toys/clothes/shoes left laying around the house and put them away where they belong
  • Spend 10 minutes cleaning the bathroom (I was still left with the worst parts of this job but at least the vanity was cleaned and toilet paper holder filled)
  • Spend 10 minutes sweeping the floor
  • Spend 10 minutes cleaning the lounge room
  • Spend 10 minutes dusting

We included a few simpler chore alternatives for the youngest child who was more enthusiastic than most to play the game. For example, put your toys away would replace clean the bathroom. We eased her into some of the mainstream chores when she was older. But the good news was this was a game the whole family could play.

I hope you can see the pattern. The options are limitless. All the suggestions were put into the container for the purpose of each person to draw out a chore they must do for the set period of time.

However, the key to the success of this game rested with a couple of special options thrown in by myself or my husband. Everyone wanted to draw out these suggestions. They included:

  • Give every other player a chore you want them to do while you sit back and relax for 10 minutes
  • Choose one person to clean your bedroom for 10 minutes.

I believe that these two chore options could well have been the reason why my children maintained their interest in the game. They wanted to give the orders.

Usually this game went over the time designated because everyone was eager to draw the 'special' chore options out of the container.

However, sometimes I threw in a trick chore, just to keep everyone on their toes. This wildcard chore was not always used, but the children never knew when it was going to appear.

That option was:

  • You must do two rounds of chores - 10 minutes each - while the rest of the players sit back and relax.

Truth be known I think I pulled out this chore directive more often than the others. The kids loved it, but as far as I was concerned it was simply another day at the office, so to speak.

The bottom line was we all seemed to have fun as a family, although sometimes cringing at the chore we had drawn out of the container.

A highlight - at least for the children - was that they would not be asked to do any other chores on that particular day, once the game had wrapped up.

I still like the idea of this game - let's face it housework is boring, but this game makes it interesting. Not interesting enough however, for the now adult children who no longer live in the family home, to come home and play a round or two.

The good news all have developed a strong work ethic and are house proud in their own, respective homes.

Mumma Jak has three children and is familiar with the challenges of parenthood. She is well aware that every child is different, every day can be different and a parent's approach needs to be different according to the situation at hand. She is happy to say she fumbled through, motivated from the perfect starting point - unconditional love. The good news is that all three of her children have become normal functioning adults.

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