What Chores Should Kids Do If They Don’t Live With You Full Time?

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I get asked this question a lot from my clients, especially if the kids or stepkids don’t live with you full time. What are the appropriate chores to ask the kids to do at your house?

Chores are an important part of teaching life skills to your kids, meaning that as (step)parents, you want your kids to grow up to become self sufficient and contributing adults in the community. At least, that should be the goal for most parents. Believe me, you don’t want to have a thirty year old still living with you asking you to make his lunch before going to work and wash his favorite shirt before he goes out with the boys. It’s just not right.

When it comes to chores in your home, one area that’s really important is taking care of their personal space, meaning their room, toys/play area and depending on their age, their bathroom. Even a three year old can learn to put away their dirty clothes in a hamper, bring to covers up on their bed and hang up their towel after they finish with their bath. If you start with little things and reward them for completing the task, it will become easier as they get older.

I also highly encourage kids to participate in preparing the meals and the cleaning up. Since they were a part of consuming the food, it’s only fair that they help with putting the table on, clearing it and doing the dishes. For example a three year old can help wash lettuce while a teen can prepare simple meals.

As for the rest of the chores, it’s really up to you and your partner in deciding what works for your house. We had a chart on the fridge explaining what chores we wanted to have done and by when. We had three kids at home, two who came to our house one day during the week and then every other weekend and my son living with us full time. We had to find a way to make it equitable for everyone. Not easy.

The tasks where on a rotating schedule meaning that each child had to do a particular chore at least once during the month. When the girls were not home to do that chore, my husband and I would take over so that my son didn’t end up doing all the chores on his own. It worked for us.

Think of this process as helping the kids learn what it takes to run a home, take care of their stuff and learn some values. Believe me, it’s not when they head out for college that you start cramming all they need to know in order to live on their own. The kids will become overwhelmed and feel lousy about themselves or blame you for not teaching them how to take care of themselves.

Either way, you are going to have some push back. Better to do it when they are young and you have a say in the matter.

In the end, it’s all a matter of trying out for a few weeks to a month and see what works. Involve the kids in the decision process. The more involved they are in how things are run in the home, the better the chance they will willingly participate in doing the chores.

Want to talk about chores and your child? Leave a comment below and I’ll be more than happy to help you find solutions.

Looking for help in creating a schedule that works for your family? Schedule a time with me to chat about some strategies that can make life at home more peaceful and joyful by clicking here.

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  • What a fabulous article, Claudette! ALL kids need to learn responsibility and prepare for adulthood through chores. I love that you and your husband took on the chores for your daughter when she wasn’t with you so your son didn’t take on more. I imagine that would have made him feel resentful if he had to do double duty. I taught my kids how to do their own laundry when they were around 11 and they’ve been doing their laundry ever since. Dishes, sweeping, helping prepare and cook food, taking out garbage, vacuuming, cleaning floors and bathrooms are all things my kids did growing up.

    Thanks for this article. I hope parents of young kids take heed and take the time to teach their kids responsibility through age appropriate chores.

  • This is a really helpful article, Claudette. I think there are many who don’t realise the importance of chores for helping children grow into independent adults. As you pointed out, even the littlest kids can help out with some things. The two-year-old Goddess is really good about packing up the toys she uses when visiting my place and the older ones love to help with preparing food. Your scheduling idea offers a great solution for families with stepkids who may not live in the house full time.

  • Claudette this information is so helpful! Your wisdom would be great for parents in general! It is the accountability that becomes a problem – for the parents. I find that children need the structure and when parents don’t structure their own lives, they automatically teach that to their kids. I also like having the input of the kids when making the chore list or schedule. Just like adults, when they are enrolled in the process they are less resistant to comply.

    Wish I had all your wisdom when I was a young mom!

  • Hi Claudette,

    This is a great article. I agree – chores are more than just picking up after yourself. You are teaching kids to be self-sufficient and well-equipped adults. For us, we have the kids clean their rooms, sort and put away their laundry, pick up their dishes after food and wipe down the table. They also (we have a six-year-old and a pre-teen – and a baby on the way) clean all the floors upstairs. They now do a great job and understand that when they can’t find things, it’s probably because they have a mess!

    All the best,
    A. S. Noraford
    http://www.blendedfamilysurvivalguide.com

  • Jackie, love your analogy of goalposts are always moving. What I find is that parents tend to want to delay as long as possible doing the “hard stuff’ with their kids, especially if they work full time or they only see their kids every other weekend. These parents want to be see as cool and fun parents. Unfortunately, the consequences can be high if these parents don’t start young. Having kids doing chores is an easy place to start.

  • Thanks for dealing with this important issue, Claudette. Family life is a work in progress, and the trouble with kids is the goalposts are always moving. They grow up and, before you know it, they’re capable of doing much more than just the dishes but sometimes, as parents, we’re a bit slow to catch up with the changes. Thanks for the reminder to stay pro-active!

  • Outta curiosity, what kind of chores did you expect from your stepkids who were only at your home a few days out of the month? My husband thinks if the kids are not there for too long that they shouldn’t have to do a weekly chore. I am not sure how to compromise with this as I agree with this article.

    • Hi Janae. Great to see you here. When my stepdaugthers came over only every other weekend, we still had them take care of their room (this was a non-negotiable rule) as well as help with the dishes. Now that they are in their 30s, they thanked us for showing them how to take care of themselves. When they were at University, they say so many kids not able to even do basics like sorting for laundry, making simple meals and keeping their very tiny space tidy. These students had the most challenging times at school, not because of the subject they were enrolled to learn, but in basic life skills.
      I would suggest to ask your husband what is the one thing he wants his kids to learn from him? That he will do it all for them or that he taught them everything they need to in order to be happy and successful in adulthood?
      Thanks for the question Janae. Let me know if there is anything else you need.

    • Thanks Amar. I believe that as parents, we have good intentions in raising great kids. Sometimes we just want to “protect” them too much. The best place for kids to learn how to become productive and happy adults is at home, when they see their parents do the same.

  • I think that chores are completely important in running a household and kids should definitely be a part of it. When my daughter used to visit with her dads on weekends, he always had a chore pending for her – whether it was to walk the dogs, or do the dishes, he never acted as though she wasn’t part of the overall family and was a “guest” he got her right down and dirty..

    Keep it Touched,
    KG
    http://www.kgstyleblogs.com

    • KG – that’s exactly why chores are essential for kids that don’t live full time in one home. You don’t want them to feel like guests but a part of the family. Families contribute and support one another in creating something unique and fun. We all need to feel that we belong and yes, doing chores is part of that too.
      Thanks for your thoughts. I always like to read what you have to say.

  • I totally agree that children should have their chores around the house. My four year old always takes his plate and cup to the sink after eating and when I ask him to tidy his room, he does a stellar job (for his age). I try my best not to sound like a nag and tell him how helpful he is and how nice his room looks. I do lose it sometimes and go off on a rant about toys on the floor, etc., but like I said, I try my best! 🙂

    • Ann-Marie, as parents, we all lose it at times. We lead hectic lives, trying to fit in so much in so little time. I also think that kids need to see us as human beings with all our greatness and flaws. If we can see ourselves as mentors and role models for our kids and leave space for them to come to us and share their thoughts and ideas, then we are doing a great job. Kids need to know that it’s OK to fall and that someone is their to pick them up. It’s all part of learning to grow.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    house chores, step, stepkids, teaching life skills, your personal space

    About the Author

    CLAUDETTE CHENEVERT, aka The Stepmom Coach, works with women as they struggle to create a cohesive family life. As a speaker, author and stepfamily professional, Claudette mentors and guides stepmothers through the process of establishing a harmonious and thriving home life for their families. Her newest title, “The Stepmom’s Book of Boundaries,” is now available on Amazon.com and elsewhere. Learn about her coaching practice and self-study program for stepmoms at StepmomCoach.com.

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    The original content you just enjoyed is copyright protected by The Stepmom Coach—aka Claudette Chenevert—who proudly offers information, tips, products and other resources for building better relationships “one STEP at a time” via 1:1 coaching, self-guided coursework and more. Suitability is to be determined by individual users based on their own concerns and circumstances, as The Stepmom Coach does not endorse and is not liable for opinions expressed by third parties (i.e., advertisers, affiliates, audience members, clients).


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  • What a fabulous article, Claudette! ALL kids need to learn responsibility and prepare for adulthood through chores. I love that you and your husband took on the chores for your daughter when she wasn’t with you so your son didn’t take on more. I imagine that would have made him feel resentful if he had to do double duty. I taught my kids how to do their own laundry when they were around 11 and they’ve been doing their laundry ever since. Dishes, sweeping, helping prepare and cook food, taking out garbage, vacuuming, cleaning floors and bathrooms are all things my kids did growing up.

    Thanks for this article. I hope parents of young kids take heed and take the time to teach their kids responsibility through age appropriate chores.

  • This is a really helpful article, Claudette. I think there are many who don’t realise the importance of chores for helping children grow into independent adults. As you pointed out, even the littlest kids can help out with some things. The two-year-old Goddess is really good about packing up the toys she uses when visiting my place and the older ones love to help with preparing food. Your scheduling idea offers a great solution for families with stepkids who may not live in the house full time.

  • Claudette this information is so helpful! Your wisdom would be great for parents in general! It is the accountability that becomes a problem – for the parents. I find that children need the structure and when parents don’t structure their own lives, they automatically teach that to their kids. I also like having the input of the kids when making the chore list or schedule. Just like adults, when they are enrolled in the process they are less resistant to comply.

    Wish I had all your wisdom when I was a young mom!

  • Hi Claudette,

    This is a great article. I agree – chores are more than just picking up after yourself. You are teaching kids to be self-sufficient and well-equipped adults. For us, we have the kids clean their rooms, sort and put away their laundry, pick up their dishes after food and wipe down the table. They also (we have a six-year-old and a pre-teen – and a baby on the way) clean all the floors upstairs. They now do a great job and understand that when they can’t find things, it’s probably because they have a mess!

    All the best,
    A. S. Noraford
    http://www.blendedfamilysurvivalguide.com

  • Jackie, love your analogy of goalposts are always moving. What I find is that parents tend to want to delay as long as possible doing the “hard stuff’ with their kids, especially if they work full time or they only see their kids every other weekend. These parents want to be see as cool and fun parents. Unfortunately, the consequences can be high if these parents don’t start young. Having kids doing chores is an easy place to start.

  • Thanks for dealing with this important issue, Claudette. Family life is a work in progress, and the trouble with kids is the goalposts are always moving. They grow up and, before you know it, they’re capable of doing much more than just the dishes but sometimes, as parents, we’re a bit slow to catch up with the changes. Thanks for the reminder to stay pro-active!

  • Outta curiosity, what kind of chores did you expect from your stepkids who were only at your home a few days out of the month? My husband thinks if the kids are not there for too long that they shouldn’t have to do a weekly chore. I am not sure how to compromise with this as I agree with this article.

    • Hi Janae. Great to see you here. When my stepdaugthers came over only every other weekend, we still had them take care of their room (this was a non-negotiable rule) as well as help with the dishes. Now that they are in their 30s, they thanked us for showing them how to take care of themselves. When they were at University, they say so many kids not able to even do basics like sorting for laundry, making simple meals and keeping their very tiny space tidy. These students had the most challenging times at school, not because of the subject they were enrolled to learn, but in basic life skills.
      I would suggest to ask your husband what is the one thing he wants his kids to learn from him? That he will do it all for them or that he taught them everything they need to in order to be happy and successful in adulthood?
      Thanks for the question Janae. Let me know if there is anything else you need.

    • Thanks Amar. I believe that as parents, we have good intentions in raising great kids. Sometimes we just want to “protect” them too much. The best place for kids to learn how to become productive and happy adults is at home, when they see their parents do the same.

  • I think that chores are completely important in running a household and kids should definitely be a part of it. When my daughter used to visit with her dads on weekends, he always had a chore pending for her – whether it was to walk the dogs, or do the dishes, he never acted as though she wasn’t part of the overall family and was a “guest” he got her right down and dirty..

    Keep it Touched,
    KG
    http://www.kgstyleblogs.com

    • KG – that’s exactly why chores are essential for kids that don’t live full time in one home. You don’t want them to feel like guests but a part of the family. Families contribute and support one another in creating something unique and fun. We all need to feel that we belong and yes, doing chores is part of that too.
      Thanks for your thoughts. I always like to read what you have to say.

  • I totally agree that children should have their chores around the house. My four year old always takes his plate and cup to the sink after eating and when I ask him to tidy his room, he does a stellar job (for his age). I try my best not to sound like a nag and tell him how helpful he is and how nice his room looks. I do lose it sometimes and go off on a rant about toys on the floor, etc., but like I said, I try my best! 🙂

    • Ann-Marie, as parents, we all lose it at times. We lead hectic lives, trying to fit in so much in so little time. I also think that kids need to see us as human beings with all our greatness and flaws. If we can see ourselves as mentors and role models for our kids and leave space for them to come to us and share their thoughts and ideas, then we are doing a great job. Kids need to know that it’s OK to fall and that someone is their to pick them up. It’s all part of learning to grow.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  • What a fabulous article, Claudette! ALL kids need to learn responsibility and prepare for adulthood through chores. I love that you and your husband took on the chores for your daughter when she wasn’t with you so your son didn’t take on more. I imagine that would have made him feel resentful if he had to do double duty. I taught my kids how to do their own laundry when they were around 11 and they’ve been doing their laundry ever since. Dishes, sweeping, helping prepare and cook food, taking out garbage, vacuuming, cleaning floors and bathrooms are all things my kids did growing up.

    Thanks for this article. I hope parents of young kids take heed and take the time to teach their kids responsibility through age appropriate chores.

  • This is a really helpful article, Claudette. I think there are many who don’t realise the importance of chores for helping children grow into independent adults. As you pointed out, even the littlest kids can help out with some things. The two-year-old Goddess is really good about packing up the toys she uses when visiting my place and the older ones love to help with preparing food. Your scheduling idea offers a great solution for families with stepkids who may not live in the house full time.

  • Claudette this information is so helpful! Your wisdom would be great for parents in general! It is the accountability that becomes a problem – for the parents. I find that children need the structure and when parents don’t structure their own lives, they automatically teach that to their kids. I also like having the input of the kids when making the chore list or schedule. Just like adults, when they are enrolled in the process they are less resistant to comply.

    Wish I had all your wisdom when I was a young mom!

  • Hi Claudette,

    This is a great article. I agree – chores are more than just picking up after yourself. You are teaching kids to be self-sufficient and well-equipped adults. For us, we have the kids clean their rooms, sort and put away their laundry, pick up their dishes after food and wipe down the table. They also (we have a six-year-old and a pre-teen – and a baby on the way) clean all the floors upstairs. They now do a great job and understand that when they can’t find things, it’s probably because they have a mess!

    All the best,
    A. S. Noraford
    http://www.blendedfamilysurvivalguide.com

  • Jackie, love your analogy of goalposts are always moving. What I find is that parents tend to want to delay as long as possible doing the “hard stuff’ with their kids, especially if they work full time or they only see their kids every other weekend. These parents want to be see as cool and fun parents. Unfortunately, the consequences can be high if these parents don’t start young. Having kids doing chores is an easy place to start.

  • Thanks for dealing with this important issue, Claudette. Family life is a work in progress, and the trouble with kids is the goalposts are always moving. They grow up and, before you know it, they’re capable of doing much more than just the dishes but sometimes, as parents, we’re a bit slow to catch up with the changes. Thanks for the reminder to stay pro-active!

  • Outta curiosity, what kind of chores did you expect from your stepkids who were only at your home a few days out of the month? My husband thinks if the kids are not there for too long that they shouldn’t have to do a weekly chore. I am not sure how to compromise with this as I agree with this article.

    • Hi Janae. Great to see you here. When my stepdaugthers came over only every other weekend, we still had them take care of their room (this was a non-negotiable rule) as well as help with the dishes. Now that they are in their 30s, they thanked us for showing them how to take care of themselves. When they were at University, they say so many kids not able to even do basics like sorting for laundry, making simple meals and keeping their very tiny space tidy. These students had the most challenging times at school, not because of the subject they were enrolled to learn, but in basic life skills.
      I would suggest to ask your husband what is the one thing he wants his kids to learn from him? That he will do it all for them or that he taught them everything they need to in order to be happy and successful in adulthood?
      Thanks for the question Janae. Let me know if there is anything else you need.

    • Thanks Amar. I believe that as parents, we have good intentions in raising great kids. Sometimes we just want to “protect” them too much. The best place for kids to learn how to become productive and happy adults is at home, when they see their parents do the same.

  • I think that chores are completely important in running a household and kids should definitely be a part of it. When my daughter used to visit with her dads on weekends, he always had a chore pending for her – whether it was to walk the dogs, or do the dishes, he never acted as though she wasn’t part of the overall family and was a “guest” he got her right down and dirty..

    Keep it Touched,
    KG
    http://www.kgstyleblogs.com

    • KG – that’s exactly why chores are essential for kids that don’t live full time in one home. You don’t want them to feel like guests but a part of the family. Families contribute and support one another in creating something unique and fun. We all need to feel that we belong and yes, doing chores is part of that too.
      Thanks for your thoughts. I always like to read what you have to say.

  • I totally agree that children should have their chores around the house. My four year old always takes his plate and cup to the sink after eating and when I ask him to tidy his room, he does a stellar job (for his age). I try my best not to sound like a nag and tell him how helpful he is and how nice his room looks. I do lose it sometimes and go off on a rant about toys on the floor, etc., but like I said, I try my best! 🙂

    • Ann-Marie, as parents, we all lose it at times. We lead hectic lives, trying to fit in so much in so little time. I also think that kids need to see us as human beings with all our greatness and flaws. If we can see ourselves as mentors and role models for our kids and leave space for them to come to us and share their thoughts and ideas, then we are doing a great job. Kids need to know that it’s OK to fall and that someone is their to pick them up. It’s all part of learning to grow.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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