Over the past, oh, five years since I've had children of a helpful age, I've been terrible about assigning and following through with chores. When the house was so messy that I just couldn't stand it anymore, then I'd insist that everyone clean until it was clean-ish. Invariably, during one of these sessions a child would ask, "Whose coming over?" Unfortunately, they knew full well that we generally didn't clean unless someone was coming over.
After church Wendell might say, "Oh, the Home Teachers* are coming over in a half hour." Then we'd try to clear the toys and clothes and books from off the couch and the floor so the HT would have a place to sit and hopefully wouldn't trip on the way in. We'd often have a look out so I could shut the vacuum off and put it away as they knocked on our door.
In my defense, the situation did not stem from a lack of trying. I had chore charts galore. For a while there it seemed every family home evening** was yet another attempt to keep our house clean. And at first it would be very exciting for the kids. They'd do chores for two solid days, easy. Then it got less fun and the rewards seemed less rewarding and once again it was just me trying to keep the house clean by myself.
After a lot of trial and error, we've found a system that works. IT WORKS!!! Each child has a list of chores posted on his or her door. Each chore has a value in "X's." Beneath the list is an "X" chart, which is just a series of boxes (8 x 11) from off of an Excel spreadsheet. There are 88 boxes total. When the chart is filled in, the kids can redeem it for a prize from the prize box. The prize box contains toys, books, games, jewelry, etc. each item with of value of $4-$7.
In addition to regular chores, the kids have Saturday chores as well, which is, as it should be, more labor intensive. On the Saturday of the third week of the new chores, I announced it was chore time. My announcement was followed by obligatory grumbling. But once they got to cleaning...attitudes changed. That week both of my boys individually told me that they love Saturday. (This pronouncement was either during or just after finishing the chores.) I can't be happier. And they seem to feel an obvious sense of accomplishment. And I'm pleased as punch that there are a few things I no longer have to do:
Sort the kids' laundry
Clean the kids' bathroom
Empty the dishwasher
Vacuum the living room, family room, kids' bedrooms or hallway
Can I even tell you how much more I get done in a week not having to do these things? It's heaven.
(*Mormon 101: Every man in the ward has at least 2 families that he and a companion (just like missionaries) visit each month. They offer a spiritual message, visit with the family and leave with a prayer. If the family is in need of something during the month, they may call on their home teachers to help them. This is one of the main ways that we take care of each other.
**Family Home Evening: Every Monday night (or other night as chosen by the family) is set aside as a special family night. The family gathers together and sings songs, have a lesson with an uplifting or helpful message, play a game or some kind of activity and have a little treat. It is an incredible amount of fun and a great way to address the needs of specific family members in a non-threatening way. We encourage everyone who can, a member of our faith or not, to have a special family night once a week.)