Written by: Cally Worden
Do your kids pull their weight when it comes to household chores? Not all parents agree that children should be asked to participate in keeping the home running smoothly. If you do encourage your kids to get involved, it can sometimes feel like it’s more effort than it’s worth. The constant need to nag and remind them to do their jobs can wear you down. So how can you avoid this daily battle and help generate a sense of responsibility in your children?
Should Kids be Involved in Chores at all?
Opinion is divided on this. Many parents feel that the responsibility for running the home lies squarely with the grown-ups. After all, this is your choice of lifestyle, not theirs. Other parents see it as their role to teach their children about responsibility, believing the best way to do this is insisting the kids get involved. Personally, I think a balance is healthy. Kids are not slaves to be worked to brink of exhaustion … but neither are parents.
Taking responsibility for their actions
I want my kids to grow up knowing that adult life involves taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Often, the best way to learn this is through experience. If you don’t tidy your room, you can misplace toys and lose out on a space to play. If you don’t put clothes in the laundry basket you will run out of clean things to wear. If you don’t hang up your wet coat, or towels from the bathroom they will not be ready to use next time you need them. If you don’t feed your pet, it will get ill and may die. And so on.
Parents are the role models for children
And as they grow older, I see it as the parent’s role to help prepare our kids for independent living. You don’t learn how to clean, iron, wash or cook without practice. I’d never ask my kids to do all of these things, but over time I will involve them in various versions of these activities, making sure they grasp the basics. Many kids grow up with a sense of entitlement – they expect food to be there to eat, clothes to miraculously appear folded and ironed in their drawers and money to be provided on demand. And for sure, most of these things are done by the caring parent. To an extent. The trick is to help kids learn an appreciation of the effort that lies behind them.
My children are 7 and 4. My eldest helps lay and clear the table at mealtimes. If she wants to do other kitchen stuff like baking with me, we clean up together. My youngest knows it’s his responsibility to bring his plate to the sink when he’s finished eating. And he loves to vacuum – I don’t ask him to do this yet, but he’s interested, so I make time to show him how. And you know what? The children have a pride in these little things they do. It makes them feel good inside to have these little responsibilities and to succeed with them.
Of course, there are days when, just like adults, neither child can really be bothered. In these moments I’ll cut them some slack, or lend them a hand, or (if they are just being lazy) insist they complete their chores anyway. It doesn’t happen often; there are things we do to help them out at a general level regarding chores:
1. Make sure they know what they are responsible for – it’s unfair to chop and change, then berate your child for not doing something that wasn’t their responsibility yesterday
2. Offer praise in abundance – when my son brings in his plate without being reminded, I show him how delighted I am
3. Keep to a routine – when the kids are young, a lot of the hard work around chores can be taken care of by creating habits. Step outside the routine, that’s when things get tricky – basically, give them a fighting chance
4. Review your expectations regularly – with young kids, simple regular reminders are enough, but with older children a more structured chat can work wonders. Growing kids have a lot going on it their world – household chores are not top of their list of priorities. You need to make the effort to elevate them to that position temporarily from time to time, so they stay on your kids’ radar
5. Consider invoking consequences – in an ideal world, we would never need to resort to consequences in order to get our children to comply with our wishes. The very best scenario of all is to have your children accept and embrace their responsibilities to the extent that they actively want to participate. But this isn’t always possible. Consequences could involve a loss of privileges, or for older kids, a realisation that if you don’t do stuff for yourself when you are independent, no one else will. Want that shirt for a date on Friday night? You need to make sure it’s in the wash, maybe put that wash in, then dry and iron the shirt yourself. If you don’t, it won’t be done. Little consequences like these can make all the difference to the way older kids think