The stereo-typical view of teens who won’t do chores is all too common– but are we leaving it 13 years too late when we start to engage teens in chores rather than teaching children from young that we all contribute to the smooth running of the home?
Most of us remember the arguments we had with our own parents over doing chores; the family setting often turns into a full-scale battlefield with forays into arguments, skirmishes, and sometimes outright war, all over chores and the attempts to get growing young adults to be contributing members of the family. Yet have we got the emphasis all wrong?
Chores are not cheap labour, or hard work as the word suggests. We are training children to be responsive to what is needed in the home and ultimately, to be prepared for life beyond living at home. Therefore, it is our job to share how to look after and clear up after ourselves and work as a team in the home.
In this way, we all learn what it is to be responsible in our lives by seeing where there is a need, such as a food shop to be done, something to wash, clean, iron, put away, and to then be able to respond. To be response-able (to coin a new phrase!) is our responsibility in our homes and in our communities.
Are we starting too late?
Are we on the back-foot here? Are we trying to catch up on something that should have been included in a child’s life as soon as they were mobile? We could consider a crawling baby old enough to start contributing to chores, they could contribute by putting their toys in a bag or box, handing their dirty dishes and spoons to their parents to wash up and not simply have things ‘magically disappear’!
In fact, could we say that when we make things like toys and dirty dishes ‘magically disappear’ we are actually fostering and nurturing the rebellion and, setting children up to be ‘entitled’ as teens – eeek!
Not convinced? What about making dirty clothes ‘magically disappear’? As little children did they see their clothes magically disappear from the floor-drobe and re-appear in the wardrobe all fresh and clean? Have you noticed that there is an expectation in the same children that nothing will change? That is a whole other blog, but the essence is the same:
Children do not learn vital life skills when we do everything for them
A toddler can learn to be responsible for sorting the colours in the wash from the whites and filling the washing machine. Of course, they are likely to need help, and will never do it perfectly, but perfection is never the point, and it should never be the issue.
Contributing to the home and learning about responsibility in life is key.
If we do all the chores for children from the moment they can move, they get to thirteen and have a sense of entitlement, they are entitled to be in the family but do nothing to contribute to the whole. A thirteen-year-old with a sense of entitlement to a free and easy life is hard to deal with, yet we have enabled this by handing them the entitlement on a platter and are then surprised that they have no idea of what commitment to family life and the running of a home is.
Our waaaambulance moment
When we are exhausted from all the cleaning, tidying and are fed up with being ignored and unappreciated, we tell ourselves that we did everything for them, and we did. We will tell ourselves we did it to ‘care’ for them, to show them we ‘loved’ them, and we did. We will even tell ourselves that they have had it easy, much easier than we had it, and they have. In short, we have taught them for 13 years that life will be done to suit them, that things will magically appear and disappear and that it is normal. In so doing, there is an absence of understanding for them that they are part of a family and as such, everyone is equally responsible and has a part to play to the best of their ability.
Instead, we can prepare and clear up our meals together, we can sort out rubbish, washing, cleaning, each taking our part, children and all! Then, when children reach their teen years, they know what it is to be a part of a healthy functioning family, they are ready to live their lives as independent, response-able adults.