I wrote before about the large error I made in not expecting enough of my oldest child when he was younger. By not starting young, we began a fierce battle of wills at age 12 that lasted until he moved out. With our later children, we have not made that particular mistake again. (Fear not, we have made p.l.e.n.t.y of others. Our children will emerge from childhood just as traumatized as any other.)
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, "Do they really (fill in the blank)?" As in, "Do they really do laundry?" "Do they really wash bathrooms?" "How old were they when they started?" I have noticed that many people seem to expect very little of children. Or as I wrote in the other article, we can be just too lazy and time can be too short to teach our kids how to do chores.
If you Google "Age Appropriate Chores" you will get a whole slew of links with various helpful charts that can give you a general idea of what chores can be expected of what age child. I would definitely use them as a guide at best. A lot depends on how long your child has been doing chores. It goes the most smoothly if children have been expected to chip in from a very early age. They can just keep building upon the responsibility that they have previously mastered. It also depends on the various motor skill development, temperament, etc. Even within my own family, Rosie was washing windows independently at 4 years old, where my now 4 1/2 year old is not ready to do that. (But, she can fold laundry like a champ! Which Rosie didn't do until 6 years old.)
When putting together our weekly chart, I don't consider personal care items to be "chores." Nor, do I consider the general work of contributing to the family. When I pull up with a van full of groceries, you better get your butt up from in front of the TV and bring something in. Even the 2 year old carries in the bread. This is just work that goes along with being in a family. The last thing I want is for my kids to think they have checked their day's responsibilities off their to do list and now they get to lounge around all day. So, our chore cart simply lists what specific jobs they will be doing that week, knowing that there will be other things that need to be done.
The upheaval of adding the final Frowzy to the family is finally beginning to level out. And I am now ready to begin the very necessary process of getting the family back onto our organized track. (And I use the term "organized track" very loosely.) I use the system set out in the Sidetracked Home Executives, which is the plan that the Fly Lady is based on. Of course, it is an on again off again system in our House of ADD, but when it is ON is works like a charm.
Basically, I write all of my tasks on index cards and organize them in a file box by days of the month. Some tasks are daily, some weekly, some monthly...you get the picture. So, the Frowzy kids' chores get based on these. Sometimes, it's just the routine daily chores and sometimes it's something else. I can't stress enough how much more agreeable the kids are to doing their chores when everyone is doing them at the same time. My kids are early risers, thankfully so is the saintly Mr. Frowzy, so they do their chores in the morning before school.
I've tried different chore charts and dry erase boards, but what ends up working the easiest, (and has the least chance of someone erasing "dust living room" and replacing it with "wash all the underwear") for me is to just write it on a piece of scrap paper and hang it up. The kids either get assigned a job they do everyday or a different job for each day, depending on what needs to get done that week.
In order for my kids to be able to contribute to cleaning the house, I need to have cleaners that are safe for them to use, which of course Better Life products are, and that are idiot proof. (I mean that in the most endearing way possible.) But, the no residue cleaners make them easy for the kids to get great results without having to worry about rinsing or whatever. And the kids like to get great results. They can appreciate the feeling of achievement that comes with getting all the fingerprints off the stainless refrigerator or making the wood floors glow.