Written by: Cally Worden
When I was 14 my best friend told me she’d have to delay our trip to town by an hour so she could finish her chores. Her parents both worked full time and she was expected to help out around the house. I didn’t get it. My Mum was a stay at home parent and apart from a few minor jobs, like feeding the dog and regular washing-up nights, I was never asked to contribute much in the way of household duty. Although my friend was content with her family norm, I thought her parents were mean and she was hard done to.
Now I’m a grown-up (allegedly) and have my own house to run, I can see both sides. When I was growing up, for various reasons, my Mum wanted us to enjoy a childhood uncluttered by jobs that are unavoidable once you’re an adult. My mate’s parents needed their help with these jobs in order to keep their family life running smoothly, and felt it important to give their kids a sense of responsibility for their environment. We both seem to be relatively well-balanced adults, neither selfish nor resentful to any great degree, so whose parents were right and does it really matter?
Chores and Discipline
I’m not talking about the punishment type of discipline here, but self-discipline and a sense of responsibility. Doing chores at any age means putting aside other things that you’d probably rather be doing in favour of completing a task that is necessary to keep normal life on track. This is an important skill to learn, and one that will carry you well through life. You simply cannot navigate life successfully without assuming some degree of responsibility first for yourself and later for your family. In this way, chores are important.
Age Appropriate Chores
I guess if we don’t engage our kids to help around the house in at least some small ways, then we could end up with children who have an inflated sense entitlement. There are some chores that kids of all ages can help with, if you feel it’s important that they do:
- Preschool Age – tidying toys, carrying plates from the table, putting clothes in a pile as they take them off instead of leaving a trail across the floor
- School Age – putting away coats, shoes and bags after school, helping care for the family pet, placing clothes in the washing basket, washing up
- Tween Age – taking out rubbish bags to the bin, helping clean the car, vacuuming around
- Teenagers – cleaning the bathroom, doing washing, cooking a meal
For Tweens and Teenagers it can help to have an incentive, such as pocket money or tech-time associated with completion of the chores for which they are responsible. In this way they learn the idea of ‘earning’ rewards.
A Middle Ground
I got to thinking about whether I follow my Mum’s model, or my mate’s model of chore activity in my house. My kids are still relatively young (7 and 3), but if I’m honest I think I’m currently operating somewhere between the two extremes. I do ask my 7 year old to help lay and clear the table at dinner, but wouldn’t yet expect her to help sort the washing or get involved with any other general household jobs. My 3 year old is invited to help with chores (he loves the vacuum cleaner) and has to help tidy away toys after play, but that’s all for now.
I want them to understand that if they make a mess they should assume some responsibility for clearing it up, but while I’m not their ‘servant’, nor are they mine. My house, my jobs. For now. I don’t want them leaving home unaware of how to look after themselves and their environment so will make sure they develop these skills, but at the same time adult life is full of responsibilities – I’m happy for them to chill out a bit while they can, as long as they are ready and able to step up to the tasks when the time is right. What happens in your house? Do you agree, or do you think kids should do more?