Chores Are Not A Punishment: They Are An Investment!

As COVID-19 roared and ruled the world, I heard the cries of dismay from many parents lamenting the woes of what to do with their bored, home bound children. One such parent was a friendly cashier at my local grocery store. Both she and her husband were working overtime and were exhausted when they arrived home. There, they would be faced with more work—dinner to make, dishes and laundry to be done, etc.  She shared that their 13-year-old son constantly complains that he is bored! He is home alone all day with nothing to do. The boy wants to visit his friends, he wants to go out to eat…on and on it went. As a retired vocational teacher, I shook my head and wondered why were these parents were paralyzed, overwhelmed and frazzled?  What has happened to good old American ingenuity? This is the time to turn to our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ stories. When they were kids, they had “major” chores to do. They were expected to help their hard-working parents without whining. Heaven forbid if they mentioned being bored! There would be more cows to milk, manure to shovel, and acres to plow. When they were young, children were expected to share in the day to day survival of the family.  Sacrifices were endured. My darlings, I shudder to think; gone are the days when parents instill a work ethic in their children. 

My dear parents: a good work ethic starts at home.

Chores are not a punishment but an investment in a child’s future.

Chores are not a punishment but a commitment to the family unit. 

It does not matter what that family unit is; two parents, single parent, or if a child is in the custody of other relatives. Chores instill a sense of accomplishment and teach responsibility. Chores make a child more self-reliant and increase self-esteem as they see themselves contributing to the family. Well managed chores can relieve the burdens of the family and can lessen every family member’s stress.

When these weary parents reached out to me, my darlings, I felt it was my duty to share what I learned from nearly forty years of teaching teens. Yes parents, you are tired and  your nerves are frayed,  but NOW is the time to invest in teaching your children how to handle a few household chores. 

Settle your nerves, straighten that backbone and Take Note: Teach one new household chore a week and let your kids practice with gentle guidance.  This will take patience but will be worthwhile in so many ways. 

This is an excellent time to teach all children, how to do the laundry!  There are lessons appropriate for every age group.  Teach young children to sort garments by color. Teach older children to read labels carefully for laundering instructions. Patiently, explore the controls of the washing machine—this is actually exciting for a young person—they feel very responsible getting to use such an important piece of machinery! Check out those multiple temperature settings, numerous cycles and the load sizes.   Show them what load sizes really looks like so they do not overstuff or under fill the machine.  Of course there is the lesson of measuring detergents and fabric softeners—junior high school students should be capable of handling these safely.  Then there is the dryer! Hurray, there are more settings and cycles!   Be sure to explain fluff air and high heat.. Oh my, please make sure to share the joy of the warmth of the dry garments..o-o-oh and the smell of clean clothing.

Next folding the garments. Yea! Teach your children how you would like to have the garments folded.   When it comes to Ironing…be careful. I suggest, delegating this task to older teenagers. Once again, teach teens too carefully read the care instructions.

Try introducing and supervising one new household chore each week. Do this on a weekend when everyone is well rested—not right after a long day of work. Kids can certainly learn how to properly wash and dry dishes. Cleaning the kitchen, bathroom (ugh!) and vacuuming are all well within the capabilities of children over eleven years of age. 

Oh and if one of your brilliant children should raise the objection… Please explain that you are not breaking any child labor laws! Yes, dear parents, your children may moan, groan whine and complain. They may even roll their eyes. (oh, what children are allowed to do now!)  Some of us boomers and generation X ers, cringe to this day if we think about the lectures and consequences of “rolling” one’s eyes!  My darlings, remember, YOU are the parents. These are times of sacrifice and surviving them will take teamwork.  You are preparing YOUR child to be responsible, hardworking team players. Believe me darlings, they will THANK you one day. 

Of course life cannot be all work and no play.  After a day of homework and chores,  consider a family pizza party and fun game night! Ask your children what family activity they would like to plan. Even better, ask them to teach the family something new–turnabout is fair play! (hint: if they cannot all agree amongst themselves, draw straws to see who gets to choose the family activity this weekend).

Parents you must restore chores and no bribing with money. Your children are part of your family, they must learn to contribute. It is an important investment in their future. Who really wants to support a helpless adult! There my darlings I have said it! You know I am telling the truth…

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