Communicating Chore Expectations

I know I can’t be the only parent who has ever dealt with the following situation.  It’s Saturday morning and it’s time for everyone to do their weekly chores.  You give the orders and you proceed to attend to your own weekly duties.  You march full steam ahead, hopeful that each child has their zone under control. Periodically, a child will come to you to inform you that they are done with their responsibilities.  You smile to yourself because you know that you are well on your way to an orderly house and fun times as a family.  When you finish with your tasks you breathe a sigh of relief and you start to tour your clean home.

Only … it’s NOT clean!

Inspections of each zone reveal atrocities overlooked by each child.  Missed dusty surfaces.  Half-cleaned toilets.  Neglected mirrors.  Toys under beds.  Crumbs in the corners.  Sticky drinks rings on the counters.   Perhaps a stray napkin or two.

How could the kids POSSIBLY think this is CLEAN?!?!?

I used to get angry at this scenario.  Week after week I would have this experience.  Same show, different episode. I was so frustrated with what I perceived as  laziness and indifference to a job well done.

One day it occurred to me that the kids did not have a clear picture of what my expectations are.  I was looking at their attempts with perfectionist adult eyes.  From their point of view, they DID do their job and often seemed confused over my dissatisfaction.

I realized that I needed to come up with some kind of objective way for them to self-evaluate whether or not they had completed their tasks at hand.  It needed to be specific. Better yet, it needed to be VISUAL.  I did a hybrid of both. First of all, I made a checklist for each zone that served as a guide for all of the things I expected to be done in each area:


Red Bathroom

Ducky Bathroom


Homeschool Room Corner


Dining Room

Living Room



Homeschool Room Corner


Family Room

Upper Stairs


Homeschool Room Corner


Playroom and Exercise Room

Lower Stairs


Homeschool Room Corner

Once I clearly explained what was expected for each zone, the kids each volunteered (or were selected) for a zone to be assigned to for a year.  I then also divided the kitchen into zones and divided the assignments up in much the same way, including assigning owners for specific meal preparation times.  I asked my husband if he could capture all the details regarding the Zone assignments on one sheet of paper and here is what he came up with:

2013 - Zone Assignments

Then, I actually took pictures of each zone cleaned to my expectations to give them a reference of what I wanted to see when their zone was complete.  They were told that if their zone did not look like the picture, then they were not finished. Here are some example shots of some of the zones:

I learned the zone concept from The Fly Lady and adapted it to suit our family.  I realize that this type of control and detail irritates some people and my apologies if this post grated at your nerves.  But if this post resonates with you, I encourage you to leave a comment on how you implement chores in your household.

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