When hearing the story of Little Red Riding Hood going through the woods all by herself in order to take a batch of freshly baked cookies to her grandmother, we are usually too much involved in the story to notice specific details, especially when the storyteller sprinkles it with tidbits of their own imagination. Hardly anyone will linger on the fact that Little Red Riding Hood was, in fact, sent on an errand by her mother.
What's the Point of Chores?
What about errands and chores? Should kids be required to do chores around the house at all, and if so, why?
When families require their kids to do chores they may do so for the following reasons:
- Participating in a family chore schedule says to a child: you are part of this family and your contribution matters. In this household the work is shared fairly.
- It stimulates kids to become receptive to the needs of other people and of the group they are a part of. It takes them out of their own little world and literally imposes a broader perspective on them from which to view their own life.
- Doing a variety of chores around the house enhances their skills and thus prepares them for life on their own or with a partner once they leave the nest.
Needless to say, I am a fervent proponent of house chores for kids, say from the age of six or eight, all the way through high school. The way parents handle a chore schedule determines whether or not the above benefits will actually be realized. Here are some pointers to help you should you decide to incorporate chores into your family life:
No one likes being presented with a dead end street. It's much more empowering if you have a choice, even if it is between two things you don't particularly fancy doing. The fact that you have a choice, puts you at the steering wheel. In our family there were always a bit more suitable chore choices than the number of kids. They could choose and my husband and I would take the ones left over. Each month the chores were split up anew, with each child in turn given the first choice.
Make sure the chores you present are age appropriate. A sixteen-year-old can be expected, with a little help, to handle washing the car, while a six-year-old cannot. For that age sweeping the kitchen floor would be a more fitting task. When introducing a new task to the child, take your time showing them the ropes. This may take more than once. It is vital that you are in a positive mood when you do, and that you show you have the patience of a saint, even if you don't.
Stay involved. By that I do not mean that you should control and supervise each activity. What I mean is that as a rule, you, the parent, are present physically and mentally when the chores are being done. It is much easier for a child to focus on a task when they see their mom or dad involved in another task themselves at the same time. This also puts you in a position to sense how the child is getting along and you will be able to lend a helping hand when needed. This will strengthen your bond.
Make sure that for each period of a month or a few weeks you have a list of chores with names and dates. Put it up in a central spot so kids can put crosses next to each item as soon as they have completed it. That will give them a sense of accomplishment and will allow you to keep track of who has done what and when.
It is vital to praise your children whenever there is the slightest reason to do so. Don't go over the top, though, and exaggerate. A genuine smile with a simple 'Thank you, Peter, for doing the toilet bowls. Now we're all set for the next few days,' will adequately communicate your appreciation for their having taken responsibility.
Families differ when it comes to linking a weekly allowance to doing chores. In some families chores are part of being in the family and no money is involved. In other families the quantity and quality of chores is in direct relationship to payment. There is something to say for each of these two approaches. In our family chores and allowance were only linked in the calendar. My kids had a week to complete their task. If on Saturday night the task had not been done, no allowance was given. - Okay, Sunday or Monday were catch-up day :-)
I'm sure that if Little Red Riding Hood's mother had followed these steps the little girl would not have been swallowed whole by a wolf. The mother would have given her a choice between more age-appropriate tasks and she would have stayed involved. But then, the fairy tale with its delightful twists wouldn't have come down to us through the ages the way it has.
Pictures by author's children
Image of doing the dishes courtesy of Stuart Miles at Freedigitalphotos.net
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