Friday, March 27, 2015

Free labor: The case for childhood chores

Here's why I don't like Batman: He has Alfred. Because Bruce Wayne is well off, he doesn't have to sort his own socks or cook his own meals or really do any chores. He is a horrible role model for my son.

I like Spiderman. Peter Parker has to get good grades, maintain an after-school job, save the world and still take out the trash. That takes good time management skills. 

But, for now, my son is still in love with Batman. I'll have to slowly bring him over to the ways of the webslinger.

As my son has gotten older, we've allowed him to have more responsibilities. And part of those include giving him chores to do. Because something odd happened with children and chores in the past fifteen years - they seem to have gone away and been replaced by way too many after school activities. The Wall Street Journal has a comprehensive piece on the disappearance of household chores from a child's week and why they need to make a comeback.

My son has chores around the house, and they are not linked to any type of allowance. (Think about it: Do you get paid to wash the dishes in your house? No? Neither should he.) Instead, we focus the conversation on how we all live in the house and it is all of our responsibilities to take care of it.

It's time to bring back childhood chores. Here are some ways to go about it:
  • Frame the conversation: Do not complain about your chores unless you want to hear your children complaining about theirs. Neutral language only.
  • Give regular responsibilities (as in: You are responsible for keeping the family room clean) and then additional ones as needed (as in: Today we are all going to work in the yard so we have a nice place to play).
  • Make it a game. Yes, some of my games are silly, but they work really well with children.
  • Don't micromanage. Maybe it takes your child longer to sort the socks or he doesn't fold the towels the same way you do. So what? Let them complete the chore without hovering over them.
 What chores are your children responsible for? Share with me in the comments.

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