Delegating chores: 5 steps to success

“Why is it that not even the simplest job around here can be done properly?”

Every mother knows the feeling. Master Six is asked to empty the dishwasher and then you find wet dishes in the drawer. Miss Teen is asked to clean up the kitchen but when she is ‘finished’ there are still unwiped benches and the floor isn’t swept. Add in your own tiredness and the situation can be volatile…

At this point you can:

  1. Yell and rant about the poor standard of work and how you must be failing as a mother
  2. Hold your tongue, grit your teeth and do it yourself – again! Or
  3. Act like a leader – take a deep breath, pour yourself a cuppa and learn how to delegate more effectively.

When I think about delegating chores to the kids, I tend to think of getting them to do some of the chores I find most tiresome… problem is, just getting them to do the work isn’t delegation. At best, this is called “helping Mum”; at worst, it is just me dumping my responsibilities onto the kids!

True delegation is a process that takes place over time. Bill Zipp brilliantly summarises the process into these five steps:

Delegating chores successfully with this simple process

Realisation is where it must start: realising what tasks you are doing that someone else could do instead of you. (And don’t tell me that you need to do it all! I know all about that invisible cloak you are wearing – but being a SuperMother does NOT mean you need to do everything yourself!)

Before you ask anyone to do anything, still at the “I do” stage, write down all the tasks that “I do” but that someone else could be doing. Now think about who you would like to do this task, and write a name beside each one.

Well done 🙂 now onto observation. Your kids will have seen you doing the same things around the house a gazillion times (coz part of the job description for being a Mother is that you do the same tasks every single day and sometimes multiple times each day!). They have SEEN you do it but may never have actually OBSERVED how you do it. To help them observe properly, tell them that you will ask five questions about the task when it is finished. Depending on their age/stage, you could also get them to ask you questions as you work or when you finish. (This is the hardest step for me, simply because I want to get them involved ASAP.)

Collaboration is the part of the process I am best at – I love doing things with my kids, despite the messy chaos! Four or six hands in the cookie mixture always makes them taste better! Seriously, this is the stage when you can really impart a sense of fun AND achievement.

Now the game changes – “you do and I watch”. Without doing the evaluation, you are really just throwing them in the deep end. Corrections here are usually small but can make a significant difference. True story. Our older two children have a night each during the week when they cook dinner. Although they have seen me cooking countless times, and we have often cooked together, it is not until they are actually doing the hands on cooking themselves that we discover some missing knowledge! Little things can make a big difference – like mixing cornflour into cool water rather than boiling water, or heating the wok before you add the stir fry…

Now you are ready for it – delegation. Without the previous steps you would be just dumping jobs on the kids. Instead, you are now delegating like a true leader! And that means two things:

  1. you are setting your children up for success, and
  2. you have just found yourself a little more time for those Mother-Leader tasks that no-one else could do for you! Tasks like…delegating the next job 🙂

Tell me in the comments, what part of this process for delegating chores do you do well? What needs improving?


This post is a link-up to Essentially Jess and IBOT (I blog on Tuesdays).

21 comments to Delegating chores: 5 steps to success

  • We do the collaboration thing but also delegate chores that each person is responsible for. If they don’t do it properly the team falls apart.It is about that sense of ownership and responsibility as part of a team effort.
    Eleise recently posted…Struggling with my identity as a step mum.My Profile

    • Jenni @ MRL

      It was a great help to me to see the whole process and how the steps follow each other. You’re so right that it is about being a team. Team management is another critical leadership skill – I can feel another post coming on 🙂

  • God! This is brilliant! I am good at trying to get my girls to contribute, but really, I am missing all of these steps.

    The hardest for our time poor family is taking the time to show, do together and then continue to support. Of course it takes more time to begin with, but is worth it in the end.

    A timely kick up the bum – watch out kids, mum is coming for you.
    Katyberry recently posted…Run Forest Run!My Profile

    • Jenni @ MRL

      Thanks Katy! I saw it as brilliant too – really helped me!! Especially love the simplicity of I do….you do – this tired mother brain needs simplicity!!

  • We have nearly mastered this step here. We also give responsibility to individual children to keep each other accountable and create working relationships for tasks. Works beautifully!

    Great, informative post! 🙂
    carmen recently posted…Interview with… {Take 2}My Profile

  • I am bookmarking this post for future use when my kids get a little older! I think my biggest problem is the collaboration. I get impatient to easily and just want to get it done so end up taking over. Definitely something I’ll need to work on.

    #teamIBOT was here!
    Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions recently posted…I Need a Holiday… from Myself!My Profile

  • Me

    I wish I had seen this when K was younger !!! Having said that she would have seen me cook I don’t know how many times but on the nights she cooks, she still isn’t sure about what to do with some things !!! Guess it is a bit like sitting in a car – you know the route to get somewhere (you think) until you have to actually drive there and then you realise that actually you probably haven’t been paying that much attention when you were the passenger !!
    Have the best day !
    Me recently posted…Does My Butt Look Big In This ?My Profile

    • Jenni @ MRL

      So true, the driving analogy – it really does take ALL five steps for the delegation to be complete! And you have an awesome evening 🙂

  • This is such a great post – thanks for sharing!
    We have a heap of trouble getting my step kids to do chores well. Part of that is that they are only with us every second weekend, so they forget, but I big part of it is that I have just dumped the responsibility on them without the other steps.

    Time to go back to step one 🙂

    • Jenni @ MRL

      Wendy – I am guilty of dumping too!I think I do Ok to start but then totally miss evaluation. BUT as Mother-Leaders we are all learning on the job 🙂

  • Awesome tips! This is something I’ll admit, i hadn’t even considered. I’m kind of shocking when it comes to delegating, cause I find it hard to make the time to show them how to do it right
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…A Wisdomous WeekMy Profile

    • Jenni @ MRL

      You’re not alone there, Jess!! I loved how simple this was and easy to remember. Thanks again for your lovely encouragement 🙂

  • This is such a great post and really quite powerful. My kids are still a bit on the young side to do anything major yet, but I love the idea of asking them 5 things about what I do – that way they might actually be taking something in!! Thanks xxx #IBOT

    • Jenni @ MRL

      Thanks Robyn. Consider getting them used to the process, even for little jobs. Even packing up toys could be done with the five steps. Having them used to the process could make the coming years a bit smoother – something that is always good as a Mum!!

  • I have to say Jenni I’ve not very good at delegating, well as my kids are too young to help, well the schoolie isn’t. But I love this post, will try and take positives from it, especially while they are young! I might have to whip the hubby in to shape! Em
    Emily @ Have a laugh on me recently posted…The movies – a place where you can undo your pants and enjoy two hours of pleasure!My Profile

    • Jenni @ MRL

      Hey Em, you’re not alone in the “not-very-good-at-delegating” stakes! In business they say that the lack of delegation skills in the leaders is the greatest reason for plateau/failure to grow. I wish I’d started using this earlier with my kids, even if it’s in something as simple as packing up the toys…it will make the bigger delegations much easier in the future. Meanwhile, hubby might be happy to be whipped into shape! 😉

  • Fiona

    That’s fantastic! We are so good at working hard, it’s the little things like these that help us to work smarter… 🙂

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