All too often I see posts and articles about how, what, and when to instil chores on your children. There are charts with reward stickers. There are books dedicated to forcing your kids to “help out” around the house. There are punishments and cash incentives to make sure they complete every little thing on their list. Some parents pay by the chore, some with an allowance, and more still with nothing.
Not in my family.
Even though I have five kids, my children do not do chores. I believe that kids have no choice in being born and no choice in who their family is. For roughly 18 years we as parents are tasked with taking care of them and our, and their, responsibility is to learn and grow into adulthood. Then, once they embark on their own, they will have a lifetime ahead to do chores.
The thing is parents, you probably think that what was good for you is good for your kids. I get it. But remember – kids today have way more school work, homework, and extra curricular requirements just to get into decent post-secondary programs than you did. Parents themselves over schedule their kids, leaving very little time for play. And that’s not happening at school either with gym classes and other more fun activities getting cut more and more. All of this means that kids are spending less time outdoors, on average, than prisoners.
Each school day my children get home at 4pm and go to bed at 7:30. Since we live out on the country, we don’t do after school activities. They do, however, often have some kind of home responsibility like reading, papers to discuss with me, or even homework. I’m positive the homework thing is only going to increase as the oldest enters 4th grade.
Instead of chores, they have responsibilities. They are in charge of their own care and their own things. Upon arriving from school, they hang their backpacks and put away their lunch containers, and so on. In that 3 and a half hour stretch they have to put their stuff away, complete any homework, eat dinner, and get ready for bed. As it is, it leaves very little time for independent play and recharge. On the weekends we have dance classes and do family activities.
There is a huge amount of argument that if we don’t force our children to do chores, we won’t teach them how to complete household tasks or take responsibility. Children can learn these skills through other means such as school, taking care of their belongings, and interacting with younger children. As for specific household jobs well, we are teaching the kids how to do things as they become interested or age appropriate. I have no doubt in my mind that all 5 will be comfortable cooking or running the wash without the need to force them to participate in these activities on a regular basis.
My children are still a part of this family and still expected to contribute to it. That means helping a sibling (or their parents) when they need it, working together as a team to complete larger tasks, and taking responsibility for themselves. Without routine chores and stickered charts I have so far raised 3 children who are, most of the time, more than willing to help out when it’s truly needed.
I have an 8 year old who gets her baby brothers up in the morning without being asked, and without the expectations of reward, just because it’s the nice thing to do. I have a 7 year old who always gets his sister a glass of juice when he gets one for himself. I have a 3 year old who faithfully waters her garden each day without being reminded.
Childhood is not a test to see who can make their kids do the most work. It’s a time for growth, learning, and exploration. Perhaps one day my children who spend their time coding over cleaning will afford to hire someone to tidy for them. If not, I’m confident by simply putting their own dishes in the dishwasher they will have the skills needed to figure it out on their own.