My kids and cooperation

Sephardi Lady asked me here whether I overestimate or underestimate the amount of help my kids can give. It seems that they always have plenty of time to read, go on the computer and play with friends, and study occasionally, so I guess they are not overworked. I suspect they would not agree! Of course, I am overworked and wish they would do more.

Below is a partial list of the jobs that my kids do regularly. One great thing about having a large family is that you can usually find someone available to help, and at least one child will enjoy doing a particular chore. My 13yo daughter enjoys pouring the boiling water into the thermos on Friday afternoon–go figure. On the other hand, when there are a lot of siblings (or even if there are only two, I bet) they say, “Why do you always ask me?” I once asked if any of them felt that I asked him/her to do chores more often than I asked the others. They all said yes.

The oldest five have a chart delineating each one’s daily chores like setting and clearing the table, taking out garbage, sweeping, making salad, and emptying the dishwasher. The older three (13-17) also all babysit regularly for the younger ones and do their own laundry. They all peel and chop vegetables. In addition:

  1. 17yo–shapes challah, washes floor, runs errands. Usually willing to do what I need, if he is around. He’ll be leaving for yeshiva in a few months!
  2. 15yo–washes the upstairs floor/steps, fries shnitzel, prepares chicken for cooking. He has has the most patience and creativity for the youngest two.
  3. 13yo–makes the challah dough, bakes cakes, does arts and crafts with the younger ones, enjoys helping in the kitchen.
  4. 10.5yo–takes out newspapers for recycling, wipes cabinets, runs errands, prepares strawberries and stringbeans.
  5. 5yo–turns out to also be good at cabinets, washes fruits and vegetables, brushes challah with egg, dusts.
  6. 3yo–cracks eggs without spilling! She lets me know if any shell falls in. I can give her 7 or 8 eggs to crack into a small bowl; afterward she pours each one into a larger bowl.

Despite the long list I haven’t wanted to let go of certain jobs, in particular the actual cooking, and I also don’t ask them to clean bathrooms on a regular basis. I still do most of the Shabbat cooking, partially because all but one are in school Fridays. I also let them get away too often with not cleaning up after themselves and skipping or not completing chores (i.e. leaving a pile of potato peels on the table). Overall their help makes a huge difference, and I really feel it when one is gone or not pitching in. I wish they would cooperate more with each other and not need everything carefully delineated. This is an ongoing challenge.

As for over/underestimating their abilities, you can’t always tell in advance. Sometimes my children surprise me, like my daughter and the eggs. And sometimes they need more guidance and followup than I would have thought.


  1. I think that the idea of writing a list for them to pick from is terrific! Kids are often so much more motivated when there is some guided freedom of choice.
    How old is your daughter who is doing the stovetop/finally doing her room?
    And I hope you got your car jump-started by now! I just encountered a similar battery fashla myself the other week, and what a pain!

  2. mominisrael says

    She’s almost 13. Fortunately a neighbor helped us out with the car, and we got to the store in time to get a parking spot. It was already very crowded, but by the time we left it was a zoo.

  3. okay… explain about the roof! Do you EAT on the roof? or is this one of those roof/mirpeset things where you sometimes actually do eat?
    I got a mental image of a child climbing on a shingled roof washing off the shingles one-by-one… Please tell me that’s not what you mean!

  4. mominisrael says

    No, it is really more of a mirpeset but we call it a roof. It was originally the roof of the building, but the previous owners built rooms and paved the outside area.

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