Why Kids Need To Do Chores

Canada’s National Post newspaper ran a front-page article about a Calgary mom who went on strike because she was tired of working all day and cleaning up after her 2 daughters, ages 10 and 12.  Here’s the article.  Click on it if only to view the mess:

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/10/11/setting-them-up-for-failure-calgary-mom-tired-of-cleaning-after-messy-kids-goes-on-strike/

How did it get to the point that this mom felt her only option was to go on strike?  At some point, I think all moms – all parents – have fantasized about plunking ourselves down and saying, “Go away.  Leave me alone.  I’m not doing another thing.”  But to feel that your only recourse is to actually stage a strike, now that’s extreme.

I don’t walk in the other mom’s shoes.  I don’t know the family and I don’t know the circumstances, other than what’s been in the media.

However………

Shouldn’t a 10 and 12 year old be pitching in and doing household chores?  At 10 and 12, shouldn’t they know how to unload a dishwasher, mop up a spill, sweep the floor, run a vacuum, pick up after themselves?  Shouldn’t they be responsible for  assigned chores and suffer some sort of consequence if they don’t do them?

Chores aren’t just for maintaining relative order and cleanliness in the home.  The home is a microcosm of the wider world and it’s parents who are primarily responsible for teaching their kids how to behave appropriately in that world.  I don’t want my kids going through life thinking that someone else is going to pick up after their proverbial (life, stuff) mess.  Nor do I want my kids driving people around them crazy because they lack consideration for their neighbours’ belongings and space.

By assigning age-appropriate chores, children learn to contribute to the household.  In our home, we instituted a chores list years ago so that everyone knew what they were responsible for on any given day of the week.  Over the years, the list has had many revisions as schedules change and kids get older.  With some minor glitches, the chores are always completed.  The kids know it’s part of the family routine.

Lately, a new phenomenon has emerged.  Increasingly, revisions in the chores list are becoming harder to make since the older kids have erratic schedules and a few of them are hardly home.   From the 20-somethings right down to the youngest, our kids have started assigning chores to each other.  They’ve got a barter system in place where one trades sweeping the kitchen floor for washing dishes; one will substitute cleaning the bathrooms on Tuesday for  Wednesday – compromise and cooperation.  It’s not perfect.  Sometimes arguments happen when one feels unfairly treated, but over all, they work things out and the house is acceptably clean.

What children learn at home, they will carry with them in the wider world: responsibility for themselves and their actions;  cooperation to get the job done;  consideration for other people’s space, belongings, feelings; integrity from looking outside of themselves.

I know that training kids to clean up the mess is difficult.  How many times have I grabbed the broom myself just to avoid a looming conflict?  But there’s a larger, more important issue at stake here.  It’s not really about the gleaming floors or the squeaky clean dishes.  Ultimately, it’s about children growing into responsible adults,  taking their place in the world and being contributors, not liabilities.  And it all starts with making them pick up their toys.

Deo Gratias

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This entry was posted in Catholic, Catholic family, children, Christian mom, family, large family, parenting, working mom and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Why Kids Need To Do Chores

  1. Teresa Rice says:

    She obviously let her kids do whatever they wanted for way too long and now she is paying the piper for that. She can complain but it seems like she brought this on herself. It is apparent that she failed to teach her kids certain principles like the ones you mentioned above. I can remember helping my nieces and nephews pick up their toys and I know my sister assigned them chores to do when they were old enough.

  2. Mr. V. says:

    Terry,

    I was tossing around the idea of come December, getting several of us Christian bloggers to post audio posts of ourselves singing our favorite Christmas hymns and carols. What do you think? 😀

  3. Could not agree with you more. I’m still in the starting stages of assigned chores as opposed to just “go clean up”, but my oldest is only 7. By the time I was 10, I was responsible for a kitchen chore, a floor related chore (like sweeping), and anything else my mom needed done. I want my children to understand that being party of a family means taking care of each other physically as well as spiritually. Great post!

  4. red1263 says:

    Ohhh man, like so many others, I agree with you that Children should do chores, it helps them build character and teaches them about hard work, ha ha ha, upon reflecting on my own life, I was doing the dishes at 12 years old, and doing lawn work at 15+. It’s pretty shocking how people are raising their children now a days, and then they wonder “Where did I go wrong?” when they find their children doing all sorts of crazy things.

  5. vftmom247 says:

    The barter system is at your house too? Don’t they get creative with this system?! Seriously, as the mother of only boys for a long time, I felt it was my duty to my future daughter-in-laws to teach laundry, cleaning, and rudimentary sewing skills. Cooking can be learned from a cookbook, but only the actual experience of pink socks will ensure 1) checking what goes IN the washer, and 2) learning what a cold cycle is. You, in all seriousness, make a good point in how turning a child into a responsible adult can begin with “just” being responsible enough to pick up their toys.

  6. Me says:

    If my two and five year old can do chores, most certainly a ten and twelve year old can too! My boys fight over dusting or who cleanes up a spill. Some moms think I am harsh having them do toy pick up before nap and bedtime, but I am glad I do.

  7. Melissa AtLee says:

    Another fantastic article. Thanks Terry!

  8. Great post Terry. It is always amazing how the wives get things done when the kids are so uncooperative at times. We men seem to just get mad and dish out punishment but then the chores don’t get done. My hat is off to all the mom’s out there that have been given the grace to have patience with their children and mold them into productive members of society.

  9. Super post, 8kids!

    As a father of two wonderful boys, I agree. Work instills the pride that only comes from responsibility and achievement. It gives children confidence as they acquire competence.
    And it gives them skills that nothing can take away.

    Not allowing/insisting that a child take part in the household chores is a form of abuse, IMHO.

    If we don’t teach them why and how to work, ,.. who will?

    Again, excellent job.

  10. I think it’s cool that your children have a free labor market in their home. They’re learning a lot.

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  13. Biltrix says:

    Great post! It brought back memories from checking off the items on two chores check list while disciplining a hyper-active brother (Love the man! He’s a real worker), to chopping wood, to the many, many, many reminders my Dad gave me (verbatim):

    “Son. I don’t mind if you use my tools. You can use them whenever you want. But please, put them back where you got them when you are do using them. Now go get pick up that power saw laying in the back yard and put it back in the garage.” (Love that man too!).

  14. annedesa says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you Terry. Its just that sometimes in the desire to not let our children go through all what we did, we become over protective. In a hope to give them everything, we forget that giving valuable life lessons is also a part of it.

    But your post says it as it is. And I loved it.

  15. Susan says:

    Agreed!

    One of my favorite quotes on this matter is:

    Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.
    — Robert A. Heinlein

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