Wednesday, May 20, 2009

my thoughts on kids and chores

We've been having a great discussion about kids and chores. Thanks to those who wrote in! Here's my thoughts. Please remember, this post describes what I'm aiming for more than what I actually achieve! I can be pretty haphazard about chores, especially during busy times of the year. I'm no expert, so please add your suggestions to the comments.

1. Why chores matter 2. Teaching the "why" and "how" not just the "what"
I have a very clear memory of a Christian tape playing while I did the dishes as a child, with this verse set to music:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. Phil 2:14-15
It profoundly influenced my attitude to chores, and I still find myself singing it, much to my children's annoyance! (Does anyone know what tape it came from?)

I have been challenged by Cathy's comments to teach our kids the "why" not just the "what" of chores. It would be fantastic to teach kids some of the principles and verses above!

I think if I had been given some of this reasoning while I was growing up, it would have helped me to do some of the hard and apparently "pointless" chores more cheerfully.

3. Should you give kids money for doing chores?
There's no right or wrong answer to this one.
Yes: because it teaches kids stewardship - that money comes through hard work, and that it should be saved and spent wisely
No: because kids should expect to help because they're part of a family, not because they get paid

Here's how some people do it:
- Jo suggests not giving money for all chores, but for the harder, dirtier ones
- Rachel suggests giving pocket money independently of chores, but taking some away if a job is not done and giving it to the person who has to do it
- my sister-in-law prints out her children's chores with a box to be ticked next to each one; pocket money is given if they're all done
- when I'm being organised(!) I give pocket money ($1 for every year of school up to $10) for Saturday chores (weeding, washing windows, cleaning the car) but not for regular weekly chores (vacuuming one's bedroom, putting away one's clothes, setting the table)

4. Should boys and girls be given different chores?
We've been having a fascinating discussion about this which you might have been following!

Those of you who've written in seem to agree that boys and girls should be given the same chores. Girls need to be prepared to care for a home and family. Boys need to be prepared to serve their wives by helping out around the home. Girls and boys need to be prepared for singleness, whether short- or long-term, or for caring for a home when a spouse dies or is incapacitated.

Cathy helpfully suggests that we distinguish between boys and girls by the way we talk about chores, rather than in the jobs we give. I think this is a fantastic idea! I've started to talk to Lizzy in terms of "helping" and to Ben in terms of "serving", preparing them for their likely married roles as a helper and a servant leader (Gen 1:18-25, Eph 5:22-33).

I'm still unsure about whether different chores should be given to boys and girls. I think there is some appropriateness in giving different chores to prepare for different roles.

I'll be training Lizzy to be a homemaker, with all the skills that entails. But I suspect I'll train my boys to run a home too. They'll need these skills throughout life, married or unmarried!

In our house, boys and girls have to do all kinds of jobs, but there's also some small differences in how we hand out chores (Lizzy does more cooking, Ben more bin-emptying - partly a matter of preference! - but both are expected to help with both).

5. When chores get tough
It's really important that some chores are just plain HARD! We give yucky, dirty jobs, not just easy ones, and expect them to be done cheerfully.

One of my favourite parenting stories is about a boy who had to carry buckets of water by hand to the family pig every day - a difficult, thankless task. The neighbour told the father how unreasonable he was. When the boy grew up, he thanked his father for teaching him to work hard.

6. Practical ideas for chores
  • it's good to teach kids to take responsibility for themselves: to keep their rooms tidy and clean, wash their own clothes, and make their own lunch
  • it's also good to give some general chores which help the family and home: dishes, cleaning, yard work
  • I like the idea of a list of chores for each child with boxes to tick, although I'm not organised enough to keep it up!
  • I've just printed out a weekly plan for Lizzy (10), Ben (8) and Thomas (5) which includes their chores. This helps me to remember all their different tasks, and it means I can send them to the list on the fridge rather than nag them! It also teaches them to be responsible for their tasks.
  • some people have a "home blessing hour" every Saturday, where the family cleans the house together. What a great idea!
  • Gail Martin's What Every Child Should Know Along the Way will give you some good ideas about appropriate expectations for different ages, and The Family Manager's Everyday Survival Guide talks about getting kids on the team
Any other comments or suggestions? We're just fumbling our way through this, and I'd love your advice.

You can read the thread on kids and chores here

images are from Millie Mott, Oh My Stinkin' Heck!, davidwilliamgold, chinweiz, Conner Prairie and naiah at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jean,

Just wanted to say thanks for this helpful summary! It has been good for us to think through some of these things as a family.