Just a few days ago we touched base on sharing chores with your spouse so as to avoid resentment, bitterness, clutter, mess, etc. But now I think we should focus on our children. Especially since I am now living with one and learning all the complexities that come with. Communication is key and now is the time to talk about what chores we expect a child to do, how we expect them to do it, and if there will be compensation, etc. So I ask:
How much time a day do your children spend doing chores and or their household/farm responsibilities? I read a study by the University of Maryland Population Research Center (the link escapes me although I made a note of it so as not to forget the stat) that children today are doing less than ever around the homestead. In fact, they spend only 24 minutes a day fulfilling their duties. What does this decrease mean though and how do we combat it?
I think one of the primary reasons for this decline is that there is less of a focus on children helping out around the home. Too many parents coddle their children and offer them ways out. Just because a child is 4 or 5 doesn’t mean he/she can’t help put his/her toys away or fluff the pillows or even throw some chicken scratch in the coop. A pre-teen at age 12 can certainly keep his/her room and bathroom clean as well as learn to do dishes, wash clothes, cut grass, etc. Such an emphasis on personal responsibility and community involvement will serve them well in future roles.
Granted we have more efficient appliances now (dishwasher, vacuums, auto-clean ovens, riding lawn tractors, etc) there is no reason a child can’t help with those tasks until complete. I want to point this out. I firmly believe that as a child the responsibilities I had helped me learn valuable lessons! Cooking (mostly Mac & Cheese, egg sandwiches, and PBJ, mind you), scrubbing the toilet, and picking up dog poop in the yard helped me learn how to care for myself and the world around me. When I think of Tilly Madison I think I won’t be on this Earth forever. Our job as parents is to prepare her for independence. I am not planning on dying anytime soon, mind you. But I don’t want to forsake my obligation as a parent either. It would be a grave disservice to our daughter.
Perhaps we should all think about this too. It is not just girls that needs to learn these lessons. It is also our young men. Remember the post the other day? Teaching boys how to do household chores now will mean that he can share the chores with his spouse when he’s grown. What a gift to another human being, huh?
So in that vein here are a few tips to sharing chores with your child now in an effort to begin your own Chore r(E)volution.
- Give them the gift of accomplishment. Most kids will likely complain in the beginning regarding chores. No kid wants to take time out of his already “busy” life to clean anything. They don’t usually mind wet clothes on the hardwood floor or smells socks in the hallway. In fact, they could take or leave the pets outdoors. Afterall, they’re just pets, right? But if they stick with it, they’ll learn responsibility and gain a sense of accomplishment for contributing to the family. And that is a gift you can’t buy.
- Let’s get physical. Let’s face it. Childhood obesity is on the rise and children need all the exercise they can get. Pushing a lawnmower, hauling bags of feed, chasing after pigs, and even scrubbing greasy dishes can provide much needed activity.
- The world is a classroom. Did you know that your kitchen is a science lab waiting to happen? Think about that last orange you let sit in the crisper drawer too long. Instant penicillin, right? Well kitchen chores can also reinforce weights, measurements (liquid and solid), temperature, chemical reaction, etc.
- Sew what. My dad is 6’4″, pretty muscular for an old man, and can sew a quilt like no grandma can. How you ask? He learned to sew as a boy. His momma made him take home economics in school. What started out as mending socks and trousers turned into a business at one point (he sewed on sailors patches) and then a lifelong hobby. Chores such as cooking and sewing and cleaning might help your kid turn his eyes on being a future tailor or chef or hospitality manager or organic farmer.
- Serve it up. Chores teach kids the satisfaction that comes from serving others. End of story. They may not get it now but they will one day and that is something that we as parents will delight in.