Chores made simple

Our Family Chore Chart
Our Family Chore Chart

Hard work matters

I believe in the value of hard work. It seems to me that the mystical “work ethic” of ages past is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity. As we strive so hard to inculcate a sense of self-esteem into the next generation, we are missing the mark and, instead, creating a culture of entitlement and laziness.

Parents have a duty to teach their children the value of hard work, and to equip them with the practical skills needed to perform the work. Not only that, studies show that when we have work to do, and the work is valued and achievable, our sense of self worth actually increases. In other words, while we cosset our little ones and “protect” them from the hardship of “real life”, with all it’s responsibilities, demands and work, in a misguided attempt to improve their sense of self esteem, we are in fact doing the very opposite, and creating a vacuum of meaning in their lives.


Chores provide the perfect opportunity to develop a good work ethic. Certain things need to be done every single day in order for a family to function efficiently. If these things are left undone, chaos ensues. If all of these things are done by just one or two people, chaos ensues, and so does burn out and family feuding. But if each person has a job to do, and everyone contributes equally to the smooth running of the home, and is fairly rewarded for their contribution, the result is bliss. A sense of teamwork, harmony and mutual dependency develops which results in everyone feeling like they matter; like they belong.

The problems with chores are fairness and consistency. I usually find that I forget who is supposed to do what, I forget to check up on whether or not it’s been done, and in the end it seems so much simpler for me just to do it all. Until I burn out, of course.

Making it practical

This year, we’re trying something new (although I’m sure all of you already have this brilliant plan in place!). I’ve devised a chore chart. It’s a table broken into 9 columns, and in each row is the name of a chore that needed to be done each day. At the start of every week, we sit with the list and each of us chooses 7 or 8 chores to take of in the week ahead. Our names are written in the columns next to the chores we’ve chosen, and the seven blocks to the right of our names represent the days of the week. Each day, once we’ve completed a chore, we tick it off.


Every weekend we go to the Farmers’ Market. Anyone who has done all their chores all week long gets R50 pocket money to spend on themselves at the market. If they’ve done more than their fair share, they get an extra R5 per additional chore they’ve done, provided they’ve done it all week long. We are all expected to tithe 10% of that, and to save 10% of that. But the rest is ours to spend as we please, or to save if we prefer. This means that the girls get a great grounding in the basics of money management, not to mention a fairly concrete maths lesson each week.

So that’s the economics taken of. However, I also want to foster a sense of teamwork, kindness and generosity. I absolutely don’t think that working for money and money alone will ever create that. Instead, no one will do anything unless they’re paid to do it. So while I believe in the value of earning your keep, and being paid for a job well done, it needs to go beyond that.

Every evening with supper, we either chat, read stories, play board games or, most often, watch movies. Now what we do is vote for the person ho was most kind and generous in a particular day. Each nominee has to make a case for their election (see: a debate lesson), and then the vote is cast. The winner chooses the evening’s entertainment.

So far it’s going very well. The house runs smoothly(ish), and everyone has a sense of participation in that success. We have far fewer grumbles about doing chores, and I have more times for things other than washing the dishes. All-in-all, I’m very satisfied with the results so far.

What about you? Do you use chore charts? How do you incentivise the system, and what works in your house? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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