Updated: 5 days ago
When people find out we have 7 children that are very close in age, they are quick to say, “I don’t see how you do it!” I have heard that more times than I can count! For years people have said that to me and I kind of awkwardly laugh and change the subject. I never really know what to make of this or what to say in response, but the short answer is I DON’T! I let go of that self imposed guilt to try and “do it all” a long time ago, but that’s for another post….This is just a little bit of how we practically manage some of the chaos with a big family. The secret?! I have 7 kids to help me do it all!
Our motto is, “See a need, and if you are able, meet it.”
The Partner System….
After we had 3 kids, we decided to implement the partner system. I think I was actually expecting number 4 when we first talked about this concept. We didn’t read any great books or consult any other wise parents, we just discussed practically how our kids could help each other (and me) out. The kids were getting older and could help more around the house and we really wanted to foster that bond and responsibility between our children. Yes, even our boys need to learn to take care of babies! This is in no way a replacement for parenting, but we feel like we as a family are a team, and we should help each other out in any way we can. Some of the things we implemented were helping them get dressed (especially getting shoes on!), buckling them in the car, helping with bedtime routine, and just generally watching out for them and helping when they see a need. Christ calls us to be servant followers, and I want to instill that servant heart in them so they can apply it in any life situation. We also wanted to foster a love of family and a sense of responsibility to each other. Our motto is, “See a need, and if you are able, meet it.” At the end of the day, they are kids and not always perfect at this, but our hope is that they will always put that motto into practice, whether in family life or out in the world.
Find a system for household work that fits your family.
On top of the partner system, we give them chores to do, but we mainly encourage them to go above and beyond and look for ways to help anywhere they are needed. We started with meal time chores which consisted of setting the table, getting everyone’s drink out, clearing the table afterwards, wiping the table, sweeping, and taking the scraps outside (yes, we live in an old house with no garbage disposal 😉). The kids are at the age where they still enjoy helping me prepare for meal time so we have also added that in the mix. They each get a day to be my “kitchen helper” and this varies depending on the age of the child. For example, on my 4 year old’s day, it mainly is getting things out of the refrigerator, setting the table, or throwing things away. On the days that my older kids help, they can cut, chop, or get things out of the oven. Not only are these practical skills that I think every child needs to learn, they are also so helpful to make our mealtimes run smoothly. We make sure to rotate through table time chores monthly so they aren’t stuck doing the same things all the time.
Fast forward to a few more kids and several doing school, we realized we were doing a lot of the work of reminding them what needed to be done. Remember, I wanted them to see a need, and meet it? Plus, I wanted them to take responsibility for their days, not just me barking out orders and them following. We needed a system that would bring all that together. My sister told me about Accountable Kids and we have used it ever since! It may not work for every family, but it has been just the combination of accountability and “chore chart” that we needed. There days are laid out for them as well as their chores for the day. Anything above and beyond their normal chores, they can earn rewards or money and this helps also teach financial responsibility. We start the program at around age 4 and follow it until about age 12.
You can find the book and the kits here:
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Lower your expectations if needed.
My kids are still fairly small so I get asked the question, “How do you let them do the cleaning, or laundry or whatever? Don’t you like it a certain way?” Yes, it’s true the little ones don’t always do the best job, but as long as they ARE doing their best, I let them do the task. I try to not go behind them and re-do it. If it needs to be redone, we do it together and I explain why. Even as an adult I know there are times someone has asked me to do something and then it was unappreciated or they went back and “redid” the task I was asked to do. That is not what I want our kids to remember-that they could never fold the towels right, or so on. I’ve definitely had to lower my standards in some areas of “clean”, but you know what? If you let them practice enough, they will eventually get pretty good at cleaning or cooking, etc. Then one day, you will look around and you will have productive, responsible kids who love and serve each other….at least that’s what I’m waiting on. 😉
I remind myself often, that it’s a journey of learning not perfection…
Yes, my kids still fight and bicker. Yes, my kids still fight me on chores some days. Yes, my kids still act selfishly and don’t want to help their partners. BUT, we are all learning and growing day by day, and isn’t that what life is all about anyway?