I read a lot of articles related to kids and chores. There are experts who believe kids should have assigned chores and it's a necessary part of growing up. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. What I know for sure is that arguments and tension in families are often centered around getting kids to do their chores.
Growing up we had very few chores to do. I don't really think it was a conscious decision on the part of my parents. I think it was just easier for mom, who was the person in charge of all the housework, to do it herself. My dad just went along with what ever she decided was appropriate or not when it came to issues relating to us.
My best friend had a lot of chores to do. I vividly remember knocking on her door many Saturday mornings to ask if she could play. She couldn't because she had to stay in and help with the chores. I was always disappointed because I wanted her to come outside to play with me. We never had to stay in the house to do chores so it was hard to understand.
I've been very inconsistent as a parent around getting my kids to do specific chores. What ultimately ends up happening is that I have to step in and finish the job because it's usually only half done. I forget that I've assigned something to be a chore and end up doing the whole thing myself. I've often said to myself: "Oh, I forgot, I asked one of the kids to do that. It's too late now."
Do I think kids should have responsibilities around the house? Absolutely. The family home is a communal space that a group of people share. Each person is responsible for cleaning up their own messes, hanging up their own coat, putting their shoes and bags away and cleaning up any garbage they accumulate. It shows respect towards the other people who live in the house. The earlier kids learn to clean up after themselves the earlier it will become automatic.
When my kids were very small we used plastic dinnerware. They were taught to clear their dishes away as soon as they finished eating. It didn't take long before they did it automatically without being reminded. Because their plates were plastic I never worried if something fell out of their little hands. They cleared their dishes away when they ate at someone else's house as well.
When they entered preschool we installed hooks at their level so they could hang up their own jackets. It usually just took a simple: "Hang up your coat please" or "As soon as you've hung your coat up, you can go and play." Being consistent meant it took no time at all before it became automatic. There were a number of other steps we took to make it easier for the kids to put away their things and the expectation was that it was their responsibility and not ours, to do it.
In our house, my husband does the majority of the vacuuming. He's a perfectionist so does a very thorough job. Its one example that I can think of, that if it was assigned to one of our kids, my husband would not be satisfied with the result and would end up doing it all over again. Does this mean our kids will never learn how to vacuum a room? They will keep their floors and carpets clean because they've grown up seeing the carpets being vacuumed regularly. It's been role modeled. Will they never know how to clean a bathroom? As with the vacuuming, there's a standard they've become accustomed to and one they're likely to mimic when they're on their own.
I made a decision long ago that I wanted my children to grow up in a home where people respect one another, communicate openly, love for each other is expressed regularly and tension and fighting is kept to a minimum. I wanted laughter to be something we often share. Now that my kids are soon to be adults, I can proudly look back and say, I think we've achieved that.