Thursday, July 19, 2012

{Messy Parenting} Chores

I have a strange dislike of the word "chores."  It sounds so malicious, to say "do your chores or you can't do X!" I feel like running away when it's described thus.  (I don't think people who do use that word are malicious, I just connect that word with malice for whatever weird reason.) Like most people, I don't enjoy cleaning, per se, but I do manage better in a clean, orderly house.

With my kids, rather than assigning chores, I explain to them that if our house is not picked up, the laundry is not folded, and the dishes are not washed, then we can't play, find clothes, or eat. We work together to put our house in order because we are all equal contributors to the messes.

Sometimes, in the middle of teaching and persuading, I wonder if what I say is making an impact.  My kids help me, sure, but it takes a bit of cajoling to get them going.  At least, it usually does.  But something changed on Tuesday.

We woke up from our nap, ready to eat snacks.  I told the kids that before we could eat our snacks, we needed to pick up the living room and their room.  I came out of my bedroom (they had already escaped to the living room) - ready to rally the troops - and found the room already clean with Emily asking for help to put the last cushion on the couch.  I teared up.

Together, we finished picking up the rest of the toys, clothes, and shoes and moved to the kids' room.  Once there, she helped me put the toys away in the bins, put the clothes in the dressers, and pick up the trash.  Meanwhile, Andrew found lingering toys around the house and brought them into the room to put away.  Within 20 minutes, the rooms were clean and we were ready to eat a snack.

I placed the kids on my lap and thanked them, profusely, for helping me keep our house in order.  I cried, a little, and hugged them plentifully.

It reminded me of something I learned in my undergraduate - kids are willing to help if you give them the opportunity, especially if you gently persuade rather than harshly criticize or direct.

Once we were eating our snacks, Emily looked at me and said, "Are you proud of me for helping?"  I responded, "Emily, I am always proud of you.  I feel so lucky to have you as my daughter."  You can imagine her excitement as she relayed this story to her dad later, and the tears that traced my cheeks as I listened to her sweet voice, with great pride, telling her dad all that she had cleaned that day.

What about you?  Do you have your kids help?  Do you use chore charts?  Do you have an equal dislike of that word, or am I just odd?

**Just a reminder, the book club has started!  Join in on a fascinating discussion about Women Who Run With the Wolves.


  1. My kids help out and I do use a chart, but the chart is more of a routine chart than a chore chart. It includes brushing teeth and their daily reading, their morning routine and their bedtime routine. I've been doing it since my oldest was about four to prepare him for school. Now it's just routine in our house. Some of my kids are better at it than others (I have one that is totally driven by being able to check off his chart) but for the most part, it helps everything to remain orderly, as orderly as possible in a house with five kids.

  2. Yeah, not a fan of the word "chores". But it gets the job done. And it sounds so rural. I like the rural sound of the word....sort of.

    I have to eat BEFORE I clean. I'm too grumpy otherwise. Then I eat after as well. Messes and eating are our routine when it comes to cleaning at our home.

  3. I never liked the word "chores" either. I never used chore charts. The boys had certain responsibilities (school was top priority, as was polite behavior), but in retrospect, they could have done with more responsibilities of a physical helping nature around the house - and the fact that they didn't - I chalk up to single parent guilt.

    All things considered, they're pretty good about helping now. I have to ask and remind, but it isn't onerous, and they're responsible and hard-working in all the ways that I hoped.

    (But dammit, why are there always so many "tasks" to be done???)

  4. Sounds like you're doing an amazing job.. How sweet of Emily and Andrew to help out so willingly.
    I'm not a big fan of the word 'chores' either. I'd rather say 'there's things that I need to get done' than use the word chores (and save myself half a sentence).

  5. Exactly!! I really don't know what it is about the word chores, but when I hear it I cannot get anything done. So I use "tasks" or the phrase you mentioned. :)

  6. I don't know! I feel like I spend 75% of my day completing tasks. /:

  7. I hear you on the eating thing! I usually can't eat when things are dirty - one of my strange traits - but I definitely eat after I clean.

  8. A routine chart is fantastic! I think it helps both you and the kids organize their day - right? Kids do well with routines, heck I do well with routines. I would love to see a picture of what yours looks like.

  9. There is a picture of my chart on my blog here:

    Of course, I do have chores listed as part of the routine, although, we don't really call them chores, just jobs. Maybe I should change that on the chart too. I never really thought about it before. We call them jobs but I have them listed as chores. If you look at the chart, each day has the "chore" listed twice, but some jobs are only done once a day. It depends on what their job is for the week (we have a weekly rotation system for things like table setter, dishes, dog duty, etc.). And honestly, I'm not brilliant or creative. I stole the whole system from my parents and tweaked it a little.

  10. What a sweet momma moment!

    I am a big fan of the family mode of work, although it's taken us years to 'get' how well that works for us. We do have the kids have assigned things so they have the opportunity to have regular responsibilities/learn how to prioritize/do things that aren't necessarily fun but necessary, but I love it most when we set aside time to work as a family. It just feels good.

    I also think one reason that is the case is that sometimes 'chores' can be code for 'you work while I rest.' Kids aren't slaves, and yet I think it can be tempting to use chores to treat them as such.

    I also think when we work side-by-side with them (if we do it with love as you did here), they can feel our love and support and that we are willing to practice what we preach. I also think it can open up great opportunities to chat and teach little life skills. e.g., Sometimes I'll pull a child next to me while I'm cooking or doing laundry or something to show them a new trick. And then another time, I'll just step aside and have them do it.

    I'm very random with it all...kind of depends on the day. ;) But I just love it when it flows like this. I also end up feeling that work is often more about the process than the result (although the result can be extremely beneficial).

  11. OK, I'll disagree a little. I do have a chore chart and I don't mind the word chores. That's what they are. They're work. And that's o.k. I feel like part of my job as a parent is to teach my kids how to work. I don't want to have lazy or entitled kids. I want them to understand that work is a necessary part of life. I DO want them to understand that if you don't do X (chores / your job), you can't do Y (play with friends / pay your rent).

    My chore chart is pretty simple. Just a list on the fridge of the things they are expected to do that day - the normal stuff (clean their room, make their bed, practice the piano) and their chores for that week (stuff like pick up, vaccuum, and dust the family room (for example)). (My kids are older than yours though.) So basically they spend about an hour or so doing chores and things, and then they have the rest of the day to play. I don't think this is mean or strict. It's teaching them to contribute to the family, and teaching them that I am not their slave.

    I also don't feel like I owe them a ton of profuse thanks or gratitude (or allowance) for picking up their toys. These aren't MY jobs and they aren't doing me some big favor by helping. They are THEIR responsibilities. (Again, my kids are older - but when they were younger I was also very matter of fact about it - helping isn't special it's EXPECTED.) Helping and working together is just what's expected when you're part of a family. Not a big deal, just a part of life.

    That's how I see it anyway.

  12. Chores are a never ending battle around here. Kudos to you - I will try this method with my little ones, but I'm afraid I've resorted to bribery with the bigg'ns.


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