Young adult: “My mom was so mean to me! She made me do chores!”
Me: “What kind of chores?”
Young adult: “Dusting, mopping, vacuuming, and washing dishes.”
Me: “How old were you?”
Young adult: “I was in High School.”
Me: (stunned silence)
This type of conversation has been increasing over the years, and I think that I need to address the issue of chores.
1. Doing chores is a part of teaching children responsibility, obedience, a sense of accomplishment, inclusiveness in the family, and learning independence skills for adulthood.
2. Before age one, children pick up and drop items, exploring and learning to manipulate them. Why not start teaching age appropriate chores then? For example, during bath time, have your child grab and drop his floating toys one by one into a mesh bag. Celebrate with a “splash time” and then take him out of the bath.
3. By age two children can put toys into baskets, “do dishes,” help with meal preparation (e.g., washing potatoes for boiling), and choose clothes to wear when given two choices. These can be fun chores done together.
4. By age five children can “help sweep” with you, dust with a sock on their hand, wipe a sink after using it, and put dirty clothes in a hamper.
5. Between ages nine and ten, your child can learn how to wash, dry, fold, and put away their laundry, make a meal, keep their room clean, vacuum, mop, clean the entire bathroom and kitchen.
With all things there needs to be balance, so here is a list I want you to think about.
1. Just because a child/teen can do all the chores listed in number five above does NOT mean that they should clean the entire home by themselves. Your children are not your slaves.
2. You are NOT your child’s slave. Divide up the household chores and do the big ones together.
3. If you have a tendency to be perfectionistic, do not require this of your child. Seriously, having your child pull out the stove or refrigerator every week to clean behind and under it, might really be your issue!
4. Mix the chores with fun. If you wash the car together have a friendly water fight. When pulling weeds talk to each other, or lay down in the grass for a break and watch the clouds.
5. Stop arguing over the uncompleted chores. Use natural consequences instead. If your son fails to pick up his toys by an agreed time of day, you might try this: pick up the toys; tell him that when he picks them up he gets to keep them in his room; when you pick them up they go into your room. For older children do the same but add, “How will you pay me for doing your chore?” Give suggestions.
6. Do NOT invent last minute chores before your teen goes out. Could this be your way of avoiding the real issue of you not wanting them to go out?
7. Stay calm. It is a big mistake to allow anger or resentment to show as this will give your child permission to argue with you.
It is never too late to help your child develop the necessary skills that it takes to be a functional adult. The question is when will you start?