Are you a Work HORSE or a Work FORCE?

Honestly, if I hear one more time how hard it is to have “kids” home with this quarantine, I might scream. For two reasons:

1-It is hard to have kids home all the time and with no break (and trying to work from home, too), and I’d want to scream at times! And let me add, I have at times, and I have a grown 38 year-old still at home (special needs=24/7 care)!
2-It’s the perfect time to teach the children something that could make your life a whole lot easier if you just took the time. And that scream would be one of rejoicing that they learned a new skill that you could then take off your plate!

Which one are you doing? Are you screaming because you are the WORK HORSE in your home? Doing all the work, getting little thanks or appreciation and going to bed so exhausted you’re actually feeling dizzy, and then waking up in the morning and doing it all over again? Or are you in charge of the WORK FORCE available in your home by getting the kids ready for their day with some work for them to do that will help lighten your load?

It takes a little time, but the results far outweigh the work and effort it takes as a parent at the front end of things. Here is how it works.

FIND OUT WHAT MOTIVATES each child. Ideas:

  • Going to youth group.
  • Playing in their band with other kids.
  • Hanging out with their friends.
  • Playing video games.
  • Screen time.
  • Watching a movie.
  • Playing in the back yard.
  • Jumping on the trampoline.
  • Making a fort in the back yard.
  • Watching Netflix.
  • Playing a sport (going to practice is included.)
  • Sleeping in.
  • _________your idea!

They don’t “get” whatever it is that motivates them until their chores and helping is done. If you, as the parent, miss this point, the rest of what I’m to write doesn’t and won’t matter. This is the “allowance” you will give or not depending on whether the child finishes what is expected of them. You don’t let them get what they want if you don’t get what you want.

Write up a list of things in your home that you see needs to be done and can be done by your work force:

  • Dust the house.
  • Swiffer the floors.
  • Mop or Swiffer the floors.
  • Collect the laundry from each room.
  • Throw in the laundry.
  • Dry the clothes.
  • Fold the clothes.
  • Deliver clean clothing to each room and that person puts away.
  • Help put the groceries away.
  • Get out beverages for each family member (or get their own) at mealtime.
  • Bring dirty plates to the sink.
  • Load the dishwasher.
  • Run the dishwasher.
  • Put the dishes away.
  • Make beds.
  • Add your own_____:

Below is a list of what a child should be able to do at certain ages. (If the child has special needs, they may not be able to do age appropriate helping but look for ways they can help within their own abilities.)

Age 3: Learn sorting, organization, and following instructions by:

  • Setting the table with silverware
  • Folding face towels and small rags
  • Putting silverware away from the dishwasher
  • Putting away toys
  • Always showing and teaching through each age and stage how to serve and care for others (preparing meals for others, helping the elderly, loving others well)

Age 4: Learn a sense of belonging and responsibility to self and others:

  • Empty small wastebaskets
  • Dress self
  • Pick up toys and put away
  • Help mix things when cooking
  • Fold towels
  • Replenish toilet paper rolls and tissue boxes

Age 5-10: Learn the value of money, greater independence, and goal setting by:

  • Earning money for chores or be given allowance
  • Match and fold socks, towels, etc. and put away
  • Help younger siblings with learning their roles
  • Care for family pets
  • Take out garbage
  • Help with recycling
  • Make lunches
  • Dust furniture
  • Basic cooking help (measuring, mixing, tasting)
  • Scheduling school projects and working on them

Age 10-15: Learn the value and ways of working together, caring for a home, and following through with assignments by:

  • Helping grocery shop
  • Helping plant a garden and tend it
  • Vacuum
  • Clean floors (Swiffer, scrub, etc.)
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Reading recipes, cooking full meals, measuring, etc.
  • Begin to observe the paying of bills
  • Seeing school projects to completion on their own
  • Making plans with family and friends and following through

Age 15 -18: Learn further details of reading, measuring for recipes, organizing, prioritizing, paying bills on time, balancing accounts, account transfers, insurance etc. by:

  • Do all laundry (sorting, washing, drying, folding, putting away)
  • Paying of all bills
  • How to handle credit cards
  • Getting a drivers license
  • Running errands (planning to completion)
  • Making lists to organize one’s day
  • Balancing checking and bank accounts
  • Learning about saving money
  • Learn about making investments
  • Learn about insurance
  • Discuss roles we have as a roommate and someday a spouse!
  • How to interview for a job (what to wear, how to speak, etc.)

Our goals as a parent is to prepare our child(ren) to leave our nest for college or career at age 18 on their own. That doesn’t mean they can’t come home for summer or a season until they can be on their own, but if they aren’t prepared, it will be a lot of back peddling before they’ll get back on track.

The idea is consistency in having them perform their chores and tasks (on their part) and following through in giving them what motivates them (on your part.) And if we do/did this right, at age 18 when they leave home for school or career, they are prepared to be on their own, and you have also benefited from having their help all while teaching them to be responsible grown ups not expecting you to do it all for them.

It’s a conversation and a dance that has a nice and happy ending if you do it. You just can’t quit swimming mid-stream and say it didn’t work for you!



Book suggestions and resources:

Balancing the Active Life by Cindi Ferrini- the above list from page 217 has been added to by the author for the purposes of this blog and can be ordered here:


Adulting 101 by Josh Burnette and Pete Hardesty can be ordered here:


The Ferrini’s newest book Love ALL-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey is now available here:

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