WembleyWonderful #153 - The miraculous effect of the tasks list - or how to get your children to share chores

A few years ago, me and Mr WembleyWonderful got sick of doing all the daily chores for a family of six: unloading the dishwasher, setting the table for dinner, getting stuff ready for school the next day, and so on and on and on… And then I had this life-changing revelation: what about making the children help?

I am an only child, so I had no idea until I had four children, but… It seems that when you have siblings, equality is key: you will never agree to do more than the others. So expecting a child to do chores out of goodwill is simply idiotic. The chores need to be fairly distributed and open to no discussion.

First, I thought about the tasks that are fairly easy for children and that I was completely ready to relinquish. For me, not cooking or managing the laundry (I love my food and my clothes too much); but emptying the dishwasher, laying the table or cleaning-up after meals definitely! Obviously, everyone has different views on this.

Then I tried to spread the load as fairly as possible between the children . I created a table (under Excel but you can do it without): each child at the top of a column, each day at the start of a line. Days are actually sub-divided into 5 sections (i.e. 5 lines per day), to reflect the times of the day: morning, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, evening. And for each of those times the children have a clear task to accomplish. This is our weekly chores list (we actually call it tasks list), it lives on the fridge for everyone to see it, and whoever does not accomplish their task runs the risk of not being fed at the next meal (I am not joking).

The joy of this chores list is that it is self-regulating : if a child forgets his or her tasks, siblings will automatically remind him/her to do so. We actually implemented the chores list when our youngest could not even read yet (he was 4yo) and it never was a problem.

The list needs to be monitored regularly – for instance there are far more chores to accomplish when children are home-schooled, so I recently entirely re-wrote ours. But mostly it is a wonderful thing : it avoids having to constantly nag your children for help; or always relying on the most helpful one and knowing the others do nothing. If you are looking for more family peace during lockdown, I strongly recommend you give it a go.