For us, a turning point came this summer when Dave had sciatica and couldn't bend below his knees. Because of this, at times, I felt like I had three dependents. And one night, I completely lost it. Something was on the rug in the playroom, and I asked Rachel to pick it up, and she said, "I didn't drop it there." (And while Rachel was the one who gave the unfortunate response, Sam was not an innocent bystander.) I went into a fifteen minute ranting, screaming fit about how many things I dealt with that I didn't do -- messes I cleaned up, laundry I folded, dishes I washed, etc, etc. Let's just say exhaustion and stress were large motivators in my completely losing it.
While I wouldn't recommend this as a good tactic, I will admit it was a highly effective one.
After that, whenever I asked the kids to do something, they said, "Yes, Mommy" and got to it. I didn't take advantage of it, but I did realize that they were quite able to do many things. And once I... empowered them... as I now refer to it, to step up around the house, they also found things to do on their own.
We have no dishwasher so they wash all the plastic dishes, their lunch containers, some pots, and cutlery. We have soft water and sometimes Dave and I drop the heavier, breakable, dishes, so I haven't had them do glass or knives at this point. They also put away all the dishes they can reach (our plates, bowls, pots, and glasses go on higher shelves) but they do most of the rest.
a selection of dishes the kids don't do
Between the kids and I, Dave has rarely shoveled snow all winter. We each have our own parts of the driveway and sidewalk we do and it goes quite quickly.
In the summer, they helped weed the hedge (as Dave couldn't bend below his knees.) Sam did try mowing the lawn but we have a non-gas/non-electric push mower and he was a little short for it. But he tried.
Rachel hung out laundry on the laundry line without me asking her and now one of them is responsible for putting all the underwear and socks on the drying rack.
They pack their lunch containers into their lunch bags and we are looking at ways of empowering them to pack more of their lunches into the containers.
They grate cheese (a job I HATE WITH A PASSION) and assist with other supper chores as I think of them -- ripping spinach, getting cans of stuff from our pantry, peeling vegetables. In fact, for tonight's supper, Rachel broke the pasta into pieces and Sam grated cheese for on top. And they did this last night so I can just throw the rest of the meal together tonight.
I have discovered that they can do, and are interested in doing, a lot more than I give them credit for. And they don't do all of the above every day, or even every week, but that is just a small sampling of things they can do and have done.
I could get them to put their laundry away and make their beds, but I am a little (a lot!) OCD when it comes to these tasks so I really like doing those jobs myself.
All this is to say, that I'm no expert but that is a small sampling of things Sam and Rachel can do, and have been doing on a fairly regular basis since about July 26 (AKA "The night of the big meltdown") of this past summer :)
All the pictures in this post are from this past Sunday when Sam and Rachel did the dishes on their own -- the first time they were excited about doing them together, which of course, I had to document.