Chores – Are Parents Being Selfish?

Chores – Are Parents Being Selfish?

I’ve recently been having chores wars with my kids and it got me thinking about the “why” behind chores.   My kids respond well if I can explain my “whys” rather than just a blanket Because I said so or Life’s not fair, get over it.   To be honest that’s what I want to say.  Just do your chores already!  

But now that they are in school and I have some time to reflect, I’m thinking out loud (or at least via typing) and I’m wondering if I’m having them do chores just because it’s the thing to do.  Am I following the herd mentality of – I had chores, other parents make their kids do chores, so it must be the right thing to do?

Why do we have kids do chores?chores wars fight boxing kids

Chores To Pitch In

There’s the obvious, self serving reason:  We just plain don’t want to do everything.   It’s nice not to have to unload the dishwasher or take out the trash on top of fixing dinner, doing groceries, helping with homework, cleaning the house, doing laundry, driving to and from practice … you get the idea.

Supporting them is taking more of our time and attention as we add practices and games to our schedules.  Plus they have homework and projects and reports that needs to get done which also take our time away from getting our chores done.

They expect more from us, so we should expect more from them.

Sounds good right?

Here’s the problem though.  I know my kids and I have a feeling their filters will translate that to something like…

She’s just lazy.  She makes me do everything.

To be honest, if taking things off my plate is the only reason I’m asking them to do chores, it would be easier to just do them myself.  Avoid the chores wars altogether?  Sign me up!

It is exhausting to continually remind them that their chores need to get done.  The battle of wills (which I will always win) is a pain in my arse.  The constant figuring out appropriate repercussions for ignoring me or suddenly finding a gear 5 times slower than tortoise so they “didn’t have time” to get their chores done before practice or school or going to Dad’s.   The eye rolling and heavy sighs and amazing ability to convey irritation and annoyance without saying a word…

Yeah, I could do without that.

But is there another reason for chores?

Chores For Learning

I’ve been very aware lately of how quickly the kids are growing up.  I realized that I only have 7 more summers with my oldest.   Even if I think I can’t afford to take a vacation, I truly can’t afford not to.  I only have 7 more opportunities to make those memories.

What does this have to do with chores?

That also means that I only have 7 years to teach her the skills she needs to learn to conquer the world!   A bit ambitious?  Alright, then I at least need to teach her the skills she needs to function on her own.

So what are those skills as they relate to chores?

  • Laundry
  • Cooking 
  • Cleaning
  • Shopping
  • Paying bills
  • Taking care of your things

Intentional Chores

vacuum cleaning chores

When I started looking at chores as a learning mechanism rather than just something that should be done because everyone has chores, it affected how I want to handle them.

If the only chore my son ever has is to take the trash out, then he will be a very good trash taker-outer, but never learn how to cook or clean.  Or if I only ever ask him to set the table, then he will be a very good tablesetter but never learn how to wash pots and pans.

My next step is to make a list of chores that covers the things I think they need to know.  I’m going to rank them by difficulty so they are age appropriate (which also gives me the “why” for my oldest when she complains that hers are harder than her siblings).  Then to get buy-in I’ll ask the kids to select from the list.

THEN we’ll discuss how often we’ll rotate chores so they go through the whole list and master each skill.

Can you see downsides to this idea? Or have suggestions to improve it?

Right now the only downside I see is that I can’t always have them match socks because I hate it so much. ;)

What do you think?  Will this solve the chores wars?

6 Responses to Chores – Are Parents Being Selfish?

  1. IMO Kids should have chores because mommy isn’t going to be there to wash their underwear forever. I hear of way too many young women who can’t even boil an egg nowadays. Teaching your kids homekeeping skills should be right there at the top of the list of things to do as a mother. Call me old school, but my girls are grown and can take care of themselves very, very well. Not to mention that having responsibility doesn’t hurt a bit, nor does learning the rewards of hard work.

    • True and I want them to learn to contribute and pitch in and build that feeling of responsibility and also pride in their work and role in the family.

  2. When I think of giving kids chores, I want to get the right kid doing the right job. If my son likes taking out the trash—or at least didn’t fuss as much—or some other task, I would let that be his chore most of the time. Sure chores are good for teaching kids practical skills, but I’m more concerned that they get the idea that families work together to keep the household going.

    • REALLY good point Nicole. I’ve been thinking about your comment for the past week and I’ve been thinking that it doesn’t take long to learn how to do most things. I don’t have to have the kids unload the dishes 50 times for them to “get” it. So, that concept really doesn’t work and the avoidance of the “war” is well worth finding what fits each kid best. Thank you for your response and helping me figure this out.

  3. We’re just starting out with chores for our 6 year old. He is also learning about money so we are tying the chores to allowance. Plus, the chores are things he needs to learn. So far, so good. No wars yet :-)

    I like the idea of rotation as they get older. Our 3 year old helps “clean up” but still far from connecting allowance with chores. We’ll see how it goes.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks Steph! It’s a learning curve for me. I am looking for ways to avoid the “chores wars” while teaching my kids to contribute and pitch in while also teaching them life skills. So far I haven’t found the right combination/balance to get what I want without attitude. I may be dreaming…

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