When you're assigning tasks, you might choose to simply rotate responsibilities, you might decide to give each child (and adult, too) an area of responsibility, or you might do both. There are advantages to each approach (but I suggest you try number 3!):
- Chore rotation works well when there's a similarity in skill and independence level among the kids in the household, and there's a variety of household tasks to be done (some more unpleasant than others). Rotating chores means that sometimes you get off easy with folding laundry, and sometimes you're mucking around in toilets, but everybody has an equal chance for easy and hard jobs. The advantage is that, because you're changing jobs all the time, nobody gets bored, and nobody gets stuck forever with the “yucky” stuff.
- Chore ownership is a system where each person has responsibility for a certain chore, or chores. “Danny cleans the birdcages and Cindy wipes down the counters before bed.” The advantages to chore ownership are that, should there be a breakdown and something doesn't get done, you don't have to go searching for a schedule, kids can gain a sense of pride in “their” jobs, and that pride will reflect in the quality of their work. Also, lots of experience in one area leads to increased skill. Downside? A bathroom that doesn't ever quite get clean and boredom. If you decide to assign permanent or semipermanent tasks, make sure you're being equitable (even if it isn't equal) and involve the kids in the decision about who does what jobs. They'll have preferences, try to accommodate them.
- The big combo factor. I believe the secret to making chores work for your family can be found in one word: options. If you assign certain chores (such as cleaning bedrooms and, say, taking out the trash) as “owned” chores, and rotate others (say, the bathroom and mopping floors, 'cause nobody loves doing it all the time), then your child will feel better about the chore system. Use family meetings as times to set up rotating chore charts, and allow your kids to choose from a variety of options.
It's a Good Idea!
Most household chores (unless they involve toxins or sharp edges) can be done by a small child with adult support. As time goes by, the child can “grow into” them.
You can also provide “trade-in” chores. Say Paula is scheduled to clean out the refrigerator, but she just can't stand the idea. She can trade in her refrigerator chore for the chore of washing the car, or cleaning the attic. (See the sample chore chart, below.) Kids also sometimes like to trade chores. Develop a policy that trading chores should happen at family meetings, or with the agreement of a parent, to ensure that the trading is fair, and nobody gets the shaft.