Mom Chores vs. Kid Chores
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the logistics of being a mom, and all the mom chores that we keep up with each week. In the Instagram tag for that post, I used #chores – because the whole post was about mom chores. And I had a very nice commenter respond with a rant about child labor. So, I decided that I need to address the very idea of chores. I firmly believe that giving your kids chores each week – big or little – is good for them! It helps them grow up to be responsible adults.
I believe strongly that teaching your children that part of being a member of the family is doing their fair share around the house – picking up their own toys, feeding the dog and walking him, helping clear the table after dinner, taking out the trash, and mowing the lawn when they are big enough – is a good lesson! Many of my kids’ friends live out in the country, and they have farm/animal chores on top of the regular stuff around the house. They choose to keep larger animals, and part of having the animals is taking care of them.
I try to get my kids to clean up one mess – especially if they’ve dumped a whole box of magnets/cars/barn animals/tractors/LEGOs/dress up/Barbies/race tracks/trains out – before getting something new out. We have a variety of baskets/boxes/bins, one kid hutch (which contains all art supplies, coloring books, puzzles, play doh, and other easily stackable things), multiple toy boxes, bookshelves, and a multitude of storage bins for all the kid toy mess around our house. And there have been times when they literally dump every single box of toys out on the floor and it looks like a tornado hit. I make my kids help me clean it up! They made the mess, they need to learn that things don’t magically go back in their place without a little work.
Obviously, chores need to match up with kids’ ages and abilities. Our youngest is four – she helps me sort laundry, pick up after herself, dust various surfaces around the house, and clean up when she spills things. Our middle is almost eight. He sets the table for dinner, helps me clear the table after (all of my kids do, actually), clean up his messes, cleans his room, puts away his own laundry, and assists with various odd jobs around the house. And our oldest, at 15, has been mowing the lawn for several years, and also helps clean (like really clean) the upstairs bathroom and various rooms around the house, as well as helping with whatever odd jobs, chores and tasks that we need done.
Having your kids help you with general housework, and teaching them to clean up after themselves and help you is a way to teach them how to live when they grow up and move away from home. If you do it all for them and never teach them to help, they don’t know how to do it all when they become adults!
Child labor – something that we think of as happening in other countries – is something totally different! Forcing children to work many hours a day in a job that pays very little, when they should be in school learning, is very, very wrong. Giving your children chores around the house is not anything close to child labor. Allowing and encouraging your children to help you teaches them the value of helping with tasks that need doing. Being part of a family means everyone helps with all of the things that need to get done!
As a mom, while I do a good portion of the cleaning up and the day to day chores around our house, I hope that my kids know that all chores need doing, and I am teaching them that everyone needs to do their part. And, when my husband is home, he picks up and cleans up the house just as much as I do! And we both ask our kids for help along the way. I do the bigger stuff – with help from the teenager – and I don’t let the littles do anything that involves heavy cleaners. Vacuuming, anything that involves cleaning supplies, washing dishes (pots & pans, etc.), and laundry are my regular chores. Everything else is something kids can assist with!
When I was growing up, my dad managed auto parts stores. I earned spending money by helping him unload boxes of items onto store shelves when the truck would come in every week. I think I started doing this when I was 9 or 10 years old. Kids are really good at unpacking boxes and stacking things on shelves! (Keeping in mind that I maybe worked two hours a week…and I earned $5/hour when I did it).
Do you pay your kids an allowance every week? We do not. We teach our kids that part of being a member of our family is doing basic chores around the house, and we pay for all of the various things the kids need and most of the things they want along the way. If they want an extra toy or new device/game, we make them work to achieve a goal in order to get it. My son is currently working towards a new LEGO set if he can chew with his mouth closed for 5 days in a row (we have been working on this since early July and I suspect it may be several months still before he gets there!).
We allow each of our kids to get one special item (toy or keepsake) every time we take a trip. They know that they get to choose something, and we tell them to make good choices and make sure whatever they are choosing is what they really want. We also try to encourage them to wait until later in the trip to choose, in case they see something they might like better. The kids do not always wait, and sometimes they do see something else, at which point we remind them that they already used their choice.
While we don’t pay an allowance, our kids do have opportunities to earn their own money by helping with extra projects outside of regular chores – like helping their grandparents with things – and they are adept at the best kid activity summer has to offer: the lemonade stand! And like most kids, they go out and buy a new toy as soon as they can, their new money burning a hole in their pockets.
Kids should be allowed to be kids – to just play and enjoy life – as much as possible. But, it’s also good for them to know that they need to clean up after themselves. To know that they can play with all of their toys, but they need to pick up one big mess before they make another one. To put away all the play doh before moving on to something else – both to pick up the toys, but also because if they don’t put it away in the containers, it will dry up and not be there to play with next time! These are all good lessons to learn.
I’ve said before that there are a plethora of opportunities for teachable moments – both for us and our kids – and encouraging our kids to help with all of the chores around the house is an ongoing teachable moment.