Well, I talk about work and responsibility and being a team and a family a lot. It's sort of an ongoing conversation.
We talk about how Daddy's job is to go to work to make money so that Mama can buy the things that we need. It's Mama's job to take care of them and keep the house clean and comfortable. What would happen if Daddy and Mama didn't do their jobs? What will happen if the kids don't do their part?
I heard a blurb a long time ago about how Americans (and especially children) have a high rate of mental illness, specifically depression. It was suggested that children fall prey to depression because they don't truly have a place in the family that matters.
Dh and I work really hard to make their place in the family important and clear to them. If the table doesn't get cleared off...we won't be able to eat supper. If they toys aren't picked up, Mama might break her toe again, or the toys may get broken. If you don't go down to feed the dog, she'll get hungry and die. As they get bigger, we are expanding their roles and responsibilities. But, the point is, we talk frequently about being a family and a team and needing each other, and that we all have to help.
We talk about being a good steward of our money and of our time. We only have so much time everyday, so if they'd like to play play-doh, then they will need to get their jobs done quickly or there won't be enough time. Mama has to use some time for the dishes, they have to use some time to clean off the table.
We start with the real little ones. Everybody helps, and even our 1yo likes to throw toys in a box, or help stack wood. (She's funny...you almost can't get anything done because she's "helping" so much!)
There's some practical things, though. It all sounds good, but how do you get them to really do it? I've found I have to make them. It's a habit now, but we had to work at it. We also talk about "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." We talk about how what you do tells others how you feel about yourself, and that when people see what you've done it tells them what kind of person you are. That leads in to "what kind of person do you want to be?" And, "what makes you feel good inside?" A sloppy job, or a good job? When the job isn't done right, I first make sure they understand what I expected, and then I send them back, over and over and over again until it is done. I remind them that they are making the choice to use their time poorly. If it isn't done when the timer goes off, they won't have enough time to play a game with me before bed, or whatever. Also, if somebody is having a bad attitude about working, I remind them again that we all need to work to make our household go. If someone is grumpy about it, then they must need more practice. And then I give another job. I tell them frequently how much I appreciate their help, and point out that since all the work is done, we have time to do (insert fun thing).
It sounds like a lot, but really it's just little things we talk about here and there along the way. And I'm not an ogre about work either. I expect them to do it, but mostly it's fun and not a big deal to them. My 5yo does a lot more than the 3yo, obviously. He takes a lot more encouragement to get it done. I mean...he's 2 years behind in the conversations.
My 5yo can...
water the flowers
clean off and wash the table and chairs
retrieve just about anything for me
feed and water the dog
make the beds
get clothes off the line
tidy the house (still needs broken in to manageable chunks. I'm teaching her how to do this for herself, too. Pick one category of things, and then another)
get drinks and set the table
help her younger brother and sister get dressed
clean out the truck after outings
help her daddy in the woodshop
do things in the kitchen (like get grapes off the vine and wash them, wash celery, get cereal for everyone)
entertain the 1yo for long periods
dead head the flowers
unlock the front door
help carry in groceries
fold kitchen towels and all the washcloths
My 3yo can:
help pick up toys (needs to be broken down into very small chunks. like...put this pile of cars into this basket.)
retrieve some things (but he still gets distracted along the way...sometimes he never comes back, lol)
get himself dressed
take himself potty (though he isn't to be trusted to go when he needs, or not to goof around in there..."Look, Mama! I got a horn!" Uhm hmmm...and the toilet paper is all over the floor.)
help set the table
can take one or two items anywhere
use the shop vac to sweep up sawdust in daddy's workshop
pull a wagonload of groceries to the front door, carry a few
get clothes off the line (though he likes to throw them on the ground)
My 3yo can do quite a bit, but very little unsupervised. It's been interesting that he starts to really misbehave when he feels like he's not being asked to help enough. He gets into fights with my 5yo frequently, and tries to beat her to whatever I've asked of her. When I remember to have him help, too, the issues just disappear.
This post is beyond long enough, but I also wanted to add that I use all those little jobs to help me throughout the day AND to keep them busy. It's the 5yos job to clean off the table after each meal. That keeps her engaged and occupied for about 10 to 15 minutes three times a day. After she's done, she's ready for a minute to herself and entertains herself for an additional 10-15 minutes. Having her water the flowers takes her about 10 minutes...and then she plays in the water for a while. A lot of the other little things...like getting drinks, or unlocking the door, or running downstairs for diapers or clothes or whatever, relieves me of the task and lets me do something else. It also means that the younger two don't have to wait for me to do it and it saves a lot of fussing. Dd2 and ds typically follow dd1 around, trying to help do whatever I've asked her to do.