Teaching Kids to Be Responsible & Do a Job Well

how to clean the kitchen

On Monday night, I had a mega meltdown about the state of my house.

And not just the state of it — but the fact that my children are not contributing to keeping it under control. In fact, just the opposite.

As I stood in my kitchen, cleaning it up for the bajillionth night in a row, a light bulb went off: There is no reason my children can’t do this!

They are 12, 10 and 6. They are able-bodied and competent. They can clean the kitchen — not just help clean the kitchen, but be fully responsible for this chore. They just have to be taught.

So yesterday, I spent a few minutes breaking down the job of cleaning the kitchen into its component parts, like putting away leftovers, doing the dishes, wiping down counters, sweeping the floor. I typed up the chart you see above and laminated it (may G-d bless the inventor of the laminator).

{If you want a copy of the chart, I made it into a Google Doc. Feel free to save it, and then change it as necessary to fit your family.}

Last night at dinner, I introduced the concept to my family: Each child is responsible for one night a week. My husband and I will split up the remaining four nights. I will work with them until they are able to do it well and independently – and then they will do it on their own. (For my 12 year old, this may only take two or three weeks; for my six year old, it may not happen for another year or even more. But no matter what, they’re learning and I’m working myself out of a job!)

My 12 year old was up first. He grumbled a lot, but he did a rocking job. The kitchen looked great when he was done. I guided him verbally, but didn’t do any of the tasks myself.

The first thing my 6 year old said to me this morning when she woke up was, “Is it my night to do the kitchen clean-up?!”

The first step in teaching-my-kids-to-be-responsible is done. Wish me luck, patience and the all mighty follow-through on implementing the next four million steps!

Have you worked on teaching responsibility to your kids? Pleas share your success stories in the comments. We can all learn and gain inspiration from each other.


  1. Just as a different way of breaking this up, I would make an even number of tasks and have two kids do the same night, with each doing half the tasks (I would have felt a bit daunted by the whole list when I was a kid). Then I would make a rotation of 6 days and clean the kitchen myself on motzei Shabbos. So it would go MA, AN, NM, MA, AN, NM. Also then each kid gets a chance to do teamwork with both of their siblings.
    I’m not saying this is how you *should* do it, it’s just another idea. But only you can decide what’s best for your family.

  2. I can not imagine my six year old doing that.

    • She did her night last night – and she did great! I was there the whole time, doing much more of it than I had to with my 12 year old, of course. But she’s learning. Even if she can’t do it independently for a few more years, I have to believe this is laying the groundwork!

  3. I have 2 daughter’s ages 10 & 12. They do the kitchen Friday thru Monday, they each get 2 day (we have a 4 day School week were I live). I have taught my girls exactly what you have written down. But they do not do all of them unfortunately. So I think I’ll print out this list to make sure that they do, do everything on and do it properly. Thank you for this 🙂

    • I’m glad you found it helpful! I definitely think the checklist has been good for them. It also takes me out of the equation a bit, as they aren’t asking me, “what’s next, mom?” every two minutes but rather checking the list. It makes them more independent – or at least less dependent on me!! Please update us how it goes for you and your girls!

  4. my oldest is 7, I think that is too young to do the kitchen… right now each kid is supposed to clear off their plate and run water into it. I dont think they can do dishes – or even load them into the dishwasher or wrap leftovers up well enough etc!

    • Each mama knows what her kiddo is capable of and I definitely didn’t mean to imply that this is the one right answer for all families.

      My only word of encouragement is that I have found with my own kids that they often live up to the expectations that I set, but never the ones that I don’t. 7 is young, and admittedly my 6 yo is nowhere near as independent at the tasks as her brothers. She’ll get there eventually and in the meantime she gets to work on it with me!

  5. I delegated laundry to my kids this year. Mostly because my daughters were stressing me out with things like “I’m out of …., you need to do the laundry now.” So I announced that everyone is on their own for laundry. After the initial looks of horror, here’s what ended up happening: my super organized 11 year old decided that the arrangement was actually great because it would solve her problems. She’s up at 7:30 on Sundays humming as she does her laundry. My 13 year old girl, who makes plenty of money babysitting and tutoring, but likes her beauty rest, pays her sister to do her laundry! (I did step in to coach the younger one to negotiate a fairer salary. ) the oldest, my 15 year old boy was not really open to the task. After reassessing with my husband (who thought I was crazy to delegate the job in the first place), I agreed that his schedule is really tough to add laundry too. He has school on Sundays and gets home after 6 on weekdays. We settled on this: he sorts his laundry, checks the pockets, unrolls the sleeves and socks.

    I’m a much happier camper!

  6. Mara, what great ideas. This is also “Home Work”. Learning how to live together/run a home is very important. They learn to plan ahead, make and keep to a schedule, and be creative, while gaining self confidence. And Mom gains respect when they realize all the things you have to keep track of to keep the family functioning cheerfully!

Leave a Comment