Zoning — the solution to getting my kids to help out

For years, I have been hearing the way to get your kids to do something is by charting their chores and responsibilities. I have some problems with reward parenting, so I’ve never tried it. I have tried cajoling, bribing, screaming and blackmail. Some would say, and they’d be right, it was time to try something new.

We spend the summer near the beach in our happy place. It is a small house, so should be manageable to clean, but it is always filled with kids, fun, sand and more sand. Finally, I had it. I had a calm sit down with the kids. I explained I am not a maid and that constantly cleaning up, doing laundry and yelling were not my idea of a fun summer. Then, I pointed out that if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. They got it.

Together we came up with a plan. The kids made a chart. (Erin has lots of great pre-made chore minders this week under Fort.) We divided the house into four zones, and collectively decided who would be responsible for each zone for the summer.

Madelyn took the mudroom and family room. When her sisters, brothers or friends left a mess, she actually noticed and made them clean it up. Each day she did a little tidying and the room never got out of control.






Serena had the living room, porch, boys’ room and upstairs bathroom. Everyone is a little afraid of Serena in our house, so this area stayed the cleanest all season. Notice, she is using my trick of listening to music to dull the pain of the chore.





Lorelei, at only 8, took on the girls’ room and the downstairs bathroom. She used too much cleaner, but the beds were always made and the house smelled like Clorox … in a good way.






I took the kitchen, bathrooms and everything that was left, and when I was cleaning, the job was so much less overwhelming.

Once a week (give or take) we did a group clean up. We blasted Taylor Swift and went at it. In less than two hours, we would be putting on our suits and heading to the beach. No screaming, no tears, no resentment. We even got the boys involved.





There are two things, I believe, which led to the success of this experiment. One, we made the plan together and everyone was on board in a democratic way from the beginning. The second was the zones. By having their own manageable area to pay attention to, the kids realized how hard it is to keep a house clean when no one is helping out. Each of them wanted and expected their siblings to respect her zone, and in turn, she respected theirs. It was a great lesson, one that will be harder to implement now that school and activities have restarted, but we are going to give it a try.

Oh, and did I mention I offered to compensate them for a job well done? They haven’t demanded payment yet, so it couldn’t have been too bad!

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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