Not every parent will agree on what age a child should start being expected to help around the house, and some parents don’t think the children should ever have to, regardless of age. Even if you’re a millionaire, and you can be assured that your child will have a maid in his future, he’s still going to be missing out on some important life lessons.
The kids in my house that are actually able to share some of the workload are only 4 and 6. So they’re kind of young, but I still have certain expectations of them.
Now, I’m not a firm believer in chore charts because the workload that needs done is going to be different everyday, and I prefer my kids to do things that matter rather than just something written on a list for the sake of it. I guess someone could argue that it helps when the child is expected to get a job, helping them keep their schedule and meet deadlines, but I don’t necessarily think that you have to do it that way. School projects and homework would be a good opportunity to teach lessons like that. I use housework as a way to teach reliance, helpfulness, and to promote self-initiative.
When my four-year-old wakes up in the morning, I tell her that we are going to be doing some housework that day, and later on when I start cleaning I will tell her to help gather laundry or whatever else needs done. She can jump in and help wherever she can, and sometimes I’ll give her specific jobs, but not always. If she sees me vacuuming the living room, she can help pick items off the floor just because it’s helping me with my job. When I pick my six-year-old up after school, I tell her that she’s going to be expected to help a little with the house. There’s no thought-out plan to what they’re going to be doing each day, so it all just depends on what actually needs done.
I also don’t offer money for doing housework. They shouldn’t be paid to get things done around the house because I don’t know a single adult who gets money to clean their own house. Nobody is going to give them an incentive to do it when they are older. The only incentive they will have is pride in their home, and the threat of bugs.
The reason I do it this way is because I want my children to understand how the family unit works. The family is the group of people that live in a particular home, and it’s their responsibility to make sure that particular living space is running smoothly. Children are part of the family unit. They’re not outsiders separate from their parents who just happen to live there, but for some reason are not being expected to participate. I remind them that they also use the bathroom, kitchen, living room, and especially their own bedrooms. So when I ask one of them to rinse dishes, they understand that the reason I’m asking them is not because it’s a FAVOR for me, it’s because everyone should help. Even when I go to my friend’s house, after we’ve eaten I will help pick up plates and silverware, put them in the kitchen, and straighten up the room before I leave. The reason I do that is because I have participated in that activity. I was not paid for it, my friends did not beg me to do it, and it’s really just part of being a decent person.
When a parent decides to start paying their child to help keep the house tidy, it sends a message to the kids that they are being “hired”, not that they are actually expected to do it simply because it’s the right thing to do. What’s worse is that people who don’t expect their children to lift a finger are raising very entitled self-centered children. I realize that sounds harsh, but that’s all you could expect from someone who was never taught to think about how they affect their environment, and how they are partly responsible for their environment.
Being helpful around the house is grouped in with good behavior (for our family at least). So if the kids have been acting pretty good, they’ve been helpful around the house, and I feel like maybe they deserve something special, I will take them out to eat or read them an extra bedtime story. We might take them on a trip to the park or the library. We do things like that to reward good behavior. My oldest got her ears pierced because she has gotten straight A’s all year long, and she doesn’t complain about helping us clean the house. I’ll admit that it’s much easier for a six-year-old than a sixteen-year-old. When she’s older, she’s going to want money to go out with her friends. If she is maintaining good grades and helping around the house, I will gladly hand her that money. She has already earned it at that point. Not because she completed a list of items on a piece of paper every day without fail, but because she has tried to be a productive member of the family unit, and she’s also trying to better herself with good grades at school. That’s the real key to all of this: Is your child being a team player? Are they being an active member of the family in the best way they can for their age?
If you answered “no” to those questions, maybe it would be beneficial to sit down and figure out a way to make the family a more cohesive unit. It’s a fairly new idea that caregivers should work while children just play. Throughout history, children have followed their parent’s lead by helping with chores and holding up their share of the responsibilities around the home. We could easily sum that up to being “child labor” or stealing their childhoods away, or we could look at that as a natural form of family bonding, a family bond that I have no intention of missing out on.
That’s why my kids do chores.
Do your kids do chores? Do you have a different approach that has worked for you? Let me know in the comments!