Home large families Balancing Your Life: Delegation & Family Team Work

Balancing Your Life: Delegation & Family Team Work

by Kelly Crawford


Balancing Your Life:  Delegation & Family Team Work

Delegation is one of your most important jobs as manager of the home. Delegation is NOT abdication, but rather just a distribution of family jobs among the members.

Delegation is an important key to balancing your life.

Please don’t be guilty of buying the lie that “housework is my job”, robbing your children of the crucial lessons of responsibility, of feeling valued as an important member of the family, and creating unnecessary burdens for yourself.

We all live in the house.  We all make messes and we all benefit from the daily uses of home.  We should likewise all be maintaining it.  I think of The Little Red Hen as I write that 😉

Begin early.

The earlier you begin requiring your children to “play a part” with household responsibilities, the better.  Even a two-year-old can take things to the trash, place toys back in a basket, take objects to another room, etc.

Training them to pick up their own messes is so important and yet time-consuming enough to keep many moms from doing it.  It’s much easier to bend over and pick up Susie’s banana peeling off the floor if she has gone outside to play. But, one of those little things that turn out to be big is taking the time to call a child back from play, asking her to pick up her mess, and briefly explaining why. “We are all a team here and it’s important not to leave extra work for other people to clean up.”

In addition to picking up their own messes, I try to train their little eyes to see other things that need to be picked up or put away.  “If you walk by a piece of trash, throw it away….if you see something out of place and your headed in that direction, take it with you.” These little training moments can make a big difference in a large family with lots of clutter.

Fostering the right attitudes–the key to family teamwork

It should be natural for your children to understand the “team concept”.  They won’t always be necessarily excited about doing chores, but it should be a normal part of their day and taught properly, (emphasizing the opportunity to serve) will make them feel valued as a family member.

This is often the greatest challenge moms face in the area of delegation.  If attitudes are rotten, she is prone to avoid delegation to keep them at bay.  But ultimately, are there many life lessons more important than learning to work and serve with contentment?

The underpinning of contentment is gratitude in all things.  So to foster the right attitude you must always be fostering gratitude.  This doesn’t mean your children should be jumping up and down to do chores; just that they are willing to do them without a grumbling spirit.

Practical ways to foster gratitude:

  • Read/tell stories—We love the old stories that uphold family unity and a spirit of contentment and gratitude between children and parents.  The Lamplighter series is a great set of books for character development and we also love short stories from Moral Lessons of Yesteryear.
  • Replace wrong responses.  Often, especially with littles, the habits of the will are formed simply by pointing out wrong responses and replacing them with right ones.  A child who snarls at the request to sweep the floor is merely acting on impulse.  But helping him form the habit of contentment and keep the right perspective is an important part of our job.

“Johnny, I know you may not like sweeping the floor, but the Bible says that we are to do all things with thanksgiving.  Sweeping the floor is an opportunity to serve if you do it with the right attitude.”

  • Give more jobs for the wrong attitude.  If a bad attitude is a recurring problem, it may be that they need to be given extra work to help them be grateful for a lesser amount.  I try not to make too big a fuss about this approach:  “OK…since you aren’t content with the job I gave you, you can do ____ too.”
  • Praise.  Pointing out a right response–sometimes even to the whole family, can really bolster a child’s desire to respond correctly.  I especially try to “catch” a good attitude in a child who has been struggling and make a big deal about it.  I tell him, “That’s it…that’s the right attitude for serving–now you’re getting it!”

Nuts & Bolts of Chore Time

There are as many ways to delegate chores as there are families.  And, the system will always be changing as abilities, numbers and needs change.

A good rule of thumb: don’t give a job to an older child that a younger child could do. And, don’t underestimate jobs your children can tackle.  The end result should be less work for everyone.

I’ll list a few different ideas I’ve learned from others over the years, and I’m sure many of you have great ones you could share:

  • Zones

Dividing the house into parts, each child is responsible for keeping his area clean.

  • Rotating Chores

A list of chores is posted and each week/month the children are rotated to a different set of chores.  This prevents monotony and also makes sure they are being equipped in every area.  Of course age-appropriateness must be carefully considered.

  • Buddy system

This works better in some families than others, depending on numbers and ages. A small child is assigned to work alongside an older child to better learn how to do a certain chore.

Other ideas:

  • Kitchen helper

We have a different kitchen helper each night.  They help empty the dishwasher, set the table, help cook and clean up.  However, everyone is responsible for taking his plate and cup to the sink and maybe clearing the table.

Also, we try to get our older children in the habit of cooking on a regular basis, whether it’s one time a week or less often for the younger ones.  My oldest does a meal or two a week by herself; my next two do simpler meals like pancakes or omelets, and they help with making bread or desserts, etc.  Learning at least basic cooking skills is something all children should learn, and I think our girls should be well-equipped to prepare complete meals before they leave home.

  • Cleaning Day

It works well for us to de-clutter during the week and do our main cleaning on one day.  Part of this arrangement requires me to just “let go” of unrealistic cleaning expectations.  We clean on Fridays and one of the reasons I think it works so well (sneaky mom trick ahead), is that Friday night is “movie night” and the kids are naturally in a better mood than usual which makes them more eager to clean cheerfully.  Told you it was tricky.  We still do school on Friday, but we do more reading and less seat work which also lends toward a happier day 😉

Assigning chores, training everyone to pick up after himself, fostering a spirit of contentment and keeping realistic expectations–it’s a full time job, but these things will lend to a more balanced life!

Part one of this series:  Balancing Your Life:  Define “Everything

Part two of this series: Balancing Your Life: Simplify

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Elly April 13, 2011 - 1:37 am

Wow Kelly, what a great post. Thank you SO much for this! And I hope that you’re getting enough rest! I noticed you posting this quite late! Though I’m familiar with late nights and newborns 🙂 I’m praying for you, and I am SO grateful to God for the wisdom I’m able to get from your blog. May He continue to be glorified through your life.

Word Warrior April 13, 2011 - 7:07 am

Thank you, Elly. And just so you won’t worry ;-), I had worked on and off on the post for days, and just hit “publish” before I went to bed last night…we kept later hours because my brother and his wife were spending their last night in the state with us. I am getting lots of rest and feeling better each day EXCEPT for a post-epidural headache which is no fun at all!

Kelly L April 13, 2011 - 6:24 pm

If the headache is really bad, Kelly, you should pray about going in. It may be that you need a spinal tap and have a headache because the fluid is leaking out…. Praying that is not the case.

Word Warrior April 14, 2011 - 8:39 am

Thankfully, the headache seems to be subsiding. I read up on it and did see the “blood patch” as an option if it didn’t get better. I was waking up in the middle of the night with it, and on into morning, but once I took some pain meds and gave it an hour or so, it would usually subside. Thankful!

Kelly L April 14, 2011 - 11:01 am

Praise God! I was praying for you, glad it is going away!

Sarah April 13, 2011 - 3:08 am

Loved this-thank you. Any thoughts on training slightly older children? We had a cleaner for years but now I have “come home”, we do the cleaning but in effect that means me plus our eldest daughter. We are training the little ones but this is a difficult thought to grasp for older children who haven’t had to do much before. My fault, I know, but still an issue.

Narelle April 13, 2011 - 3:52 am

I totally agree and was thrilled today when my almost 3yo noticed the sticky tape in the wrong place and put it away ‘just because’ with no prompting. I encouraged him, and you could see his little face glow as he asked “I get a high 5 mum?”
“You sure can Timothy” and “great job!” as we clapped hands together

Word Warrior April 13, 2011 - 7:09 am


Sara April 13, 2011 - 11:17 am

I’m looking through your archives to see if I can find your opinion on Christian moms doing day care a their homes. I know this is kind of off topic, but I’d like to know your opinion.
I’m often approached by women in the church who figure, “You’re home all day, maybe YOU can watch my kids instead of daycare. I’d rather have a Christian lady I know and trust doing it, etc.”
On the one hand, adding more kids would probably drive me crazy. On the other hand, it would force me to become more efficient. Then, it would be nice to have extra income and still be at home with my kids. There’s also the idea that those kids would probably be better cared for by me, than in a large daycare.

I think however, that my main qualm with this idea, is: am I encouraging someone else to do something I wouldn’t do myself?

I do believe this is somewhat of a gray area, esp. if the mother has flexible hours and it interferes very little with home life. But God did convict *me* about not working outside the home, and I wouldn’t want to enable someone else to do something that may be permissible but isn’t beneficial.
Also, how do you convey this concept to someone (if it ends up being the deciding factor) without making them feel judged and looked down upon?

Word Warrior April 13, 2011 - 1:23 pm


I have mixed feelings about it too, pretty much described just by what you shared. I could see it as a ministry, perhaps. I would also approach the thought cautiously from the standpoint of being too overloaded. Having additional children within your home instantly changes the dynamics. You would want to be sure you were prepared for that.

Sara April 13, 2011 - 6:29 pm

Thanks, Kelly. I respect your opinion.

Melissa April 13, 2011 - 11:24 am

Great post.

Nicole April 13, 2011 - 11:52 am

In the spirit of 2 Thessalonians 3:10 we have the family rule, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We take this very literally. My 5, and 3 year old boys (not the one year old) have before breakfast chores (feed the chickens, gather eggs, feed the dog, open shutters, water the garden, get dressed, etc). If they don’t do those chores, mommy is fine with that, but then they will not be served breakfast when everyone else is. I just sweetly say, “Oh honey, if you don’t do your work, you won’t eat” and remind them of 2 Thess 3:10. The kids love breakfast the most, and we have never had a day where a child missed a breakfast because they always do their chores!
They also have after breakfast chores (brush teeth, and do one household cleaning chore). While the chore isn’t done to the standard I would do it when accomplished by a 5 year old, I love that they are learning. It really helps! My kids are proud of their hard work, and love that they are helping our family!

Mrs. Zwieg April 13, 2011 - 12:00 pm

I grew up in a house where my mom was excellent at delegating! I could NOT believe how many people I had to teach how to clean or do laundry or iron when I had moved out (I had no clue about Stay At Home Daughters until this year). I was very sorry to see so many people incapable of managing their own households. That was a great lesson in itself to make sure to teach my children how to manage a home before they have their own someday. ***THANK YOU MOM!!!***

Heather April 13, 2011 - 12:23 pm

Since you mentioned movie night Friday night, do you have any good movies/videos that you can recommend? I have a hard time finding good ones on a budget. The ones we have bought (like children’s Bible stores re-enacted) have turned out inaccurate and ones series had *very* immodest women in almost every one of the episodes. VeggieTales has some good ones but I find them too flippant and not always faithful to the gospel. Would love to hear any good recommendations. Thank you!

Word Warrior April 13, 2011 - 1:32 pm

How old are your children? We watch a whole genre of movies, including Disney, which I know many will not even consider (though we try to keep those to a minimum).

Our kids love series like “The Little House” and “Andy Griffith”. They also love “Swiss Family Robinson”, and the Sherwood films–Facing the Giants, etc.

You may consider some of the Moody Creation Science and similar educational films.

Vision Forum is beginning to produce some fun films from the Film Festival producers. Also, try browsing our recent advertiser, Family Vision Films.

Sara April 13, 2011 - 5:08 pm

We have really been enjoying the Torchlighter series about missionaries, and other well known Christians.

Also, there is a animated version of Pilgrims Progress that my kids just love.

Heather April 14, 2011 - 1:40 pm

Thanks girls. My kids are small. The oldest is 4 but he LOVES any and all videos. We are reading a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress so I know he will love the animated movie. I will look into some of the others as well. The Torchlighters series looks awesome!! We have considered the Moody Science ones but found them too expensive. Ok, well thank you both again!

Sarah L. April 13, 2011 - 1:18 pm

Thank You so much for this post! This is where I am majorly struggling. I find it easier to just do things myself and also my kids put up a huge fight when I do ask them to clean and then I get upset and I end up doing whatever it was myself. I am glad to hear that you are getting plenty of rest and are recovering well.
Sarah L.

Dawn@OneFaithfulMom April 13, 2011 - 1:47 pm

Your house sounds a lot like ours!! One thing I do for children who don’t want a particular chore any longer: if one of their younger siblings would like to take over that chore, the older one must thoroughly train the younger one to do it. Then, if they can do it to my satisfaction, they can trade, or I will give the older something else. This has worked on numerous occasions, and seems to frequently involve either sweeping or emptying the dishwasher. LOL!!
With 9 of my 10 children still living at home, and 7 of them students in our homeschool, I hate to think what it would be like if they expected ME to do all the work!!

Joyfull April 13, 2011 - 3:43 pm

I have a chart in a sheet protector and a white board crayon. Every day at 3:00, we start chores, and kids choose their chores and mark them off. We work together for about 40 min. The key is that the same job is allowed to be done multiple times in a week. My oldest just turned seven, so none of the jobs are done as well as I would, but my toilets get cleaned about 3X’s a week by the 2 year old, my oldest vacuums about 4x’s a week, and the middle boy loves to clean the bathroom sink and counters and wipe down things in the kitchen.

To me, teaching them to work is the most important part, and if they hit the same jobs several times a week, it stays kind of clean too.

6 arrows April 13, 2011 - 5:25 pm

So many excellent points here! I think the one about starting young with chore training is the most important. They’re so eager to help when they’re very young!

Case in point…just this afternoon I walked into the kitchen soon after a little mishap had occurred involving a pitcher of juice and my 3-year-old daughter. (Don’t worry, the pitcher wasn’t very full, fortunately!) There was a chair pulled up to the counter where the paper towels are kept, and a little girl kneeling down on the floor wiping up her own mess, one paper towel square at a time. She wiped up every last bit, threw the used towels in the wastebasket, and proceeded to pour the last couple ounces of juice from the pitcher into her cup (without spilling!)

Boy, was I proud of her for taking care of the job herself! (Disclosure: She might have to train the rest of her family, including her parents, who STILL struggle with cleaning up after themselves! We’re not perfect here by any means!)

Thank you for this series, Kelly. I’m enjoying reading what you have to say, and looking forward to future installments. Keep up the good work!

Kelly L April 13, 2011 - 6:30 pm

Wonderful post!
I know many of adults who were done a disservice by their parents and struggle to run a house because they were never properly trained. What we do now effects our children’s future. It is so important!

R. F. April 14, 2011 - 10:06 am

I have to agree. Too many people do not know how to run a household. I was one of them. My parents pushed academics, and very little on taking care of a home. I learned after I got married and realized, no one else is coming behind me to clean up.

Ginger April 14, 2011 - 10:13 am

I used to have a laminated chore chart for each child, but they would get lost, so now we use the Simply Charlotte Mason planner for all their chores (in addition to school work). I love it! It never gets lost and I always know exactly what everyone is supposed to be doing.
We rotate chores annually. It seems like high-maintenance to switch out chores every week or month. I want my kids to be proficient in a chore before moving onto another one.

Renata April 14, 2011 - 9:55 pm

Hi Kelly
Thank you for another wonderful post – I’m catching up on the ones I’ve missed & I just have to tell you how much I appreciate your writing. Organisation & delegation are areas that I definitely need to work on in our family. My copy of large family logistics has just arrived & I am just loving it & it’s ideas – kinda along the same lines as this post!
Hope you are keeping well & looking after that precious new baby

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary April 18, 2011 - 5:03 pm

This post is a gold mine! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom. And congratulations on your newest blessing!

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