Make it a goal to teach your children to do all of the tasks related to cleaning the house by the age of 12. Then you can begin teaching them the more skilled tasks of maintenance, meal preparation, money management, and mechanics.

Especially when your child is learning a new job, you will need to walk him through the task until he understands how to do every step, including any safety issues. Then have him do it alone, and you inspect it. Inspect it every time until he gets it right. Give ample praise for the portions he does right, and don’t expect it to look like an adult did the job at first. You might say, for example, “I like the way the floor is picked up and the trash is emptied. Let’s just straighten these towels to really make it look spiffy.” Even after he masters the task, periodic surprise inspections will ensure quality control.

In my last column, we talked about gradually increasing both the responsibilities and the privileges that are granted to children on their birthdays. We explored ideas for chores for your littlest staff members, the preschool set. Now let’s look at our school-age and young adult staff.

Responsibilities for a School-Age Child

     •   Keep his own room tidy and clean. Whereas a younger child required coaching and mini-steps (“Put all of your balls in the bin.”Wait. “Now put all of your stuffed animals on your bed”), this child is old enough to follow a list of tasks that lead to a clean room. Post a card with your definition of “clean” in his room; refer to it when you do inspections.

     •   Dusting. Begin with his own room and gradually move on to more complex areas. Put on some music and hand him a feather duster; you do the high places. Have a feather-duster dance when you get in each other’s way, just for fun.

     •   Vacuuming, first his own room, then public areas of the house. Work in pairs: one moves small furniture pieces out of the way, the other vacuums.

     •   Put away his own clean laundry. Learn to sew on buttons; this is great for hand-eye coordination.

     •   Sweep or mop the kitchen floor. Use a small janitor’s brush to sweep the dirt into the dustpan; a broom will be unwieldy for a young worker.

     •   Clean mirrors. Then move on to windows, starting with insides only while an older child does the outside. Teach ladder safety while you’re at it.

     •   Clean the bathroom. This begins as a progression of small tasks: polish the faucets with a towel, empty the trash, straighten the rugs and towels, wipe the sink and countertop, clean the sink, clean the mirror and woodwork, clean the tub or shower, clean the toilet. Eventually your child will be able to clean the entire room.

     •   Set the table. At first you will carry items to the table for him to distribute; eventually he will learn to evaluate what will be needed for that menu (and he will go back for anything he has forgotten to bring in before the meal begins).

     •   Clear the table. If each family member removes five items, there won’t be much left to clear. This chore includes putting away leftovers, wiping the table, and cleaning the floor if the toddler was messy.