What’s ‘old enough’ to do household chores?

No idea of money or wastage

My five-year-old, like most five-year-olds, has no concept of money – where it comes from, how hard you have to work to get it, why you shouldn’t waste it, what things cost, and so on. She prefers coins to notes, because they feel more like money. And as a result, she requests ‘a teensy weensy present’ whenever we go shopping and doesn’t fret if something breaks or gets lost, because ‘we can just get another one’.

But I’ve seen what this attitude becomes in adult form, and it isn’t pretty.

As such, my littlie is now expected to earn monthly moolla, so she can learn about saving, delayed gratification and how you have to put in effort to get nice stuff.

Chores for my five year old

To structure this, she’s been given chores: making her bed each morning, feeding three of our four cats once a day and taking her plate or bowl to the sink after finishing a meal. For these activities, she receives a princely sum of R20 a week. Which has to be saved up over several weeks if she’s to buy anything good. Cos not even a ‘teensy weensy’ Tinkerbell figurine costs less than R20 these days.

How to achieve compliance

I’ve had a lot of moms ask me how we ‘get’ her to comply. Here are some tips, not all of which are mine, and which reflect a diversity of views and approaches.

1. Cash remuneration for a weekly ‘full house’

This works for us so far. But I need to see how she does with delayed gratification.

2. Treat charts or star charts

We use charts for behaviour (manners, listening, truth-telling), but not for chores.

3. Tasks that are easy-ish and age-appropriate

She battles a bit with the far end of the bed, but we coerce her to continue. And even if the bed is made poorly, at least she’s made it. She’ll improve over time.

4. Very specific sets of instructions

We’ve shown her what to do and how to do it, with repeats, so she’s clear on it.

5. A sense of family obligation

There’s the sense that, if she doesn’t do her bit, other stuff doesn’t get done either.

6. Working together as a team

This is her best part: having one of us ‘keep her company’ while she works.

7. Constant reminders, follow-ups and nudges

She’s too little to be trusted to remember, so we rely on lots and lots of nagging.

8. Time out for blatant disobedience

We don’t give time-outs (5 minutes) for chore avoidance, but for tantrums/rudeness.

So, how’s she doing with it?

She’s doing pretty well, with a lot of reminding. But I’m determined. I never did a chore in my life and when the time came to run my own home one day, I got a nasty shock. My husband, a lifelong chore-doer, nearly headed for the hills early on.

Plus, chores are not a punishment. So, for us, it’s important to celebrate her ‘growing up’ and ‘being old enough to do chores’. By telling her grandparents, teachers and friends. By cheering her on. I want her to feel like chores are a gift, to help her to become a responsible, capable, self-sufficient, other-orientated adult.

And there’s surprise and delight.

At least, for me. I’m impressed by her pride in ensuring that the duvet isn’t ‘skronkled’ in the corners and that the kitten doesn’t steal food from her geriatric step-grandfather. It turns out that my five-year-old rather enjoys helping. And prefers things to be in their place, safe and sound, nice and straight. Who knew?

Do your kids do chores? What are they? And do you reward them? If so, how?

*This post originally appeared on jozikids.co.za.