Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kids and Chores

Ok, I'm writing this post out of frustration. That means I may say things I later regret, but for right now I need to put this out there.

I know that I cannot be the only one who has children who resist helping out at home. I am sure that there are other mothers out there who, like me, dread asking their kids to help because of all the whining and complaining that will follow. I know that my children are not the only ones who believe that they are put on this earth only to play and think they should never be disturbed by parents asking them to help around the house.

There are different ways of handling the chore wars. One extreme is not to expect anything of children. I know many mothers who bear the weight of running the household alone, never making their child do so much as cleaning their plate from the table. Other families are able to afford maids and/or nannies who clean up after the child and do much of the housework.

The other extreme is to expect too much of the children, putting so much work on them that they are not able to keep up with their schoolwork, let alone enjoy being a child. These mothers often are so busy with their own pursuits (hobbies, social activities, work) that they fail to see that they are unfairly burdening their children.

There's got to be a happy medium, right?

I try to balance it all out, making sure that my kids have plenty of time to play, plenty of time to do their schoolwork and still help out. I honestly believe that helping around the house is important, for a variety of reasons. I want them to know how to take care of a house (yes, even my boy!), I want them to understand that families work together, I want them to develop a work ethic, I want them to understand the value of a neat and uncluttered home, I want them to know the satisfaction of a job well-done.

I don't seem to be getting through to them.

Just a short while ago, I asked one of my little darlings to unload the washer and put in the next load of clothes (which I had sorted and brought down). We are starting to pack for our trip in ONE SHORT WEEK (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and getting the laundry done so we actually have, you know, clean clothes to pack is top on the list. You would have thought I had asked this child to climb Mt. Everest. It didn't get done, the child kept stalling and finally I picked up the laundry basket and went to do it myself, slamming doors all the way.

On more than one occasion, my kids have told me that I put all my work off on them. Well, this child is going to get a chance to see if that's true. As punishment for not doing the laundry, he/she will be taking on ALL of the household responsibilities for the next three days. Cooking meals, doing dishes, unloading the dishwasher, laundry, dusting, picking up - all of it. Without any help from me or the other child.

Now this may seem unfair and extreme, but I thought it was more than appropriate for this child to get a taste of what a big job it is to care for a house and family and to help him/her realize why I ask for help.

What do you think? Too harsh? Not harsh enough? How do you manage chores in your house with your kids?


ValleyGirl said...

Ugh, I struggle with this one. I WANT to teach my children exactly the way you do, but at their ages (4 and 6), it's almost always easier to just do the job myself. It takes less time, too. In my case though, it's my own selfishness and impatience that are the problem. I just don't feel like spending the time. Clearly, you're trying to do that on a regular basis and have been for several years longer.

I'm sure I would have reacted much the same way you did. I get frustrated almost every time I ask them to do something.

Catherine said...

I don't have any answers, just lots of sympathy! The Bible says that our children will rise up and call us blessed. I just want them to rise up and clean their rooms!!


Nancy M. said...

I understand your frustration! Mine does the whole whining thing even if I just want him to take a bath. Apparently that is a crime.

Usually he helps without too much whining, but when he was younger, I usually just finished stuff myself. Now if I tell him to do something, he knows he can't watch TV, play with his toys, or anything but sit in his room, unless he does what he is told.

I think that is an okay thing to try depending on the childs age. It will teach them just how little they actually do. We do have to teach them or they will never learn.

Pennie said...

I feel the same way. Mine are 5 and 3, so I can't expect too much from them, but I do want them to know that everyone has something that they need to do around here. If I even ask them to pick up their toys, I hear a variety of excuses, and I end up screaming at them and then doing it myself. A definite struggle. I don't think you're being harsh at all. If I'm correct, you're children are old enough to take on those responsibilities for short periods of time. He/She will be able to handle it, despite the whining that is sure to ensue!

Mom To Six said...

I think you're a great Mommy! I have one of "those" children that I ask her to do things quite a few number of times, and then end up doing it myself because I am so tired of asking. Until I finally blow up and do what you did...(although I don't think I'd ask her to cook..heh!)

I just think that as a parent, we need to stay on top of them. And EVERY child should have responsibilites. Our 2, 3, and 4 year old must pick up their toy mess and put it back in the toy box when they are done. They are so used to it now, that they have no issues doing it. Hopefully it will remain that way in 10 years. :)

melissa said...

Great idea, Lori! I'd love to know how it all works out. Our kids never really know all that we do and this will give your child a chance to live it. A lesson they won't soon forget, I'd imagine.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a great idea! My own is only 5 and complains from time to time when I have her fold towels. I remind her that it is her responsibility to be a blessing to her family. I believe that they need to know how to run a household by the time they're around 12. Not that she'll have to do it, but she should be capable. Maybe your experiment could be put into regular rotation as each child gets a few days a month to do it all, including the menus for the day. Who knows they might enjoy it. I can't wait to hear how everything goes.

Erica said...

Feel free to laugh at this since you know that my kids are only 2 and I don't know what I'm talking about. I did teach, though, for a couple years before I got pregnant. :)
First, I like your punishment. I believe in natural punishments. For my toddlers that means if they throw their peas when they're angry, they have to help pick them up when they've calmed down.

Second, in the future, I think it may help if you present it as a choice. For instance, would you rather change the laundry or clean the bathroom? That way, they have a little control over it. The third implied choice in that question is if they don't choose either of those, they are choosing punishment of some kind.
When my brother and I were about your kids age, maybe a year or two older, my mom started giving us all of the house cleaning responsibility once a week (bathrooms, vacuuming and mopping, tidying the kitchen, and dusting)and she paid us $15 each because up until then she was paying a housekeeper $30 a week to come in and clean once a week. (Ummm, yeah that was more than 15 years ago.) We didn't get any other money from our parents for things we wanted beyond the basics. That was a great incentive. I would come home from college just to clean my mom's house for some spending cash.

Kathy - mom of many said...

I don't tolerate whining. Nip that in the bud. I think your punishment is appropriate. Your children are certainly old enough to do chores without help from you. One of your jobs as a mom is to train them in being able to run a home...that means they need to be practicing it over and over.
Taking away privileges like computer time, ice cream and tv work in our home.
Glad you stopped by my new site.

Claire said...

Oh, boy, can I relate.

As background: I was NEVER required to do chores as a child. I never even made my bed. At 25, I got married, and didn't know how to cook and clean. At 43, with two kids, 14 and 12, I am just starting to enforce the chores strongly. My 14yo recently lost the privilege of being in a play with her friends, because she can't seem to remember to unload the dishwasher without being told every.single.time. My 12yo (boy) is much more willing to do things I ask him to do; he has a servant's heart, for sure.

I have a friend whose children clean toilets, pick up after themselves and their siblings, help put away the (unbreakable) dishes after washing, etc...starting at age 3. I so wish I would have known to do this with my kids. The older they are, the harder it is.

I don't think your punishment is too harsh; in fact, I admire your tenacity. Just don't get mad and then do it all yourself. :)

Emmy K said...

I don't think it should be 3 days....


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