Chores without Issues: It can be done!

There are many reasons why parents ask their children to do chores (or not) around the house. Some parents pay their children to do them; others don’t; others still have a mixture of jobs, some of which are paid and others expected to be completed…just because. The variations are as wide and interesting as the families.

We cottoned on to a great strategy early on in our parenting. One that means any chores our kids do, they expect to complete. Properly. 100%. No exceptions.

Recently we’ve had a skiddy-undies issues with the two older boys. Call me particular, but skiddy-undies don’t really do it for me – especially as I am the one doing most of the washing. So in the last few weeks we’ve added a real-life consequence for them. Put a pair of undies in the wash with wees or poos (even a dribble or a smear) in them and the child in question gets to wash a load of towels. (No, I wouldn’t ask a child younger than five and a half to do this.)

Due to the age difference there is a variation. The Hare, at nine, is expected to find all the dirty and wet towels and cloths in the house, put them in the washing-machine, put in the appropriate amount of powder and put the machine on. The following morning, he hangs all of them out. At the end of the day he brings all of them in, folds them, puts them away and he puts the washing basket away properly – in the correct place and straight.(His turns are restricted to weekends and holidays due to a 7.30am  bus for school.) The variation for the six-year old Owl is that he doesn’t have to do the larger towels and hangs all of the tea-towels, hand-towels, face-cloths and cleaning-cloths on to a drying-rack. But they both have to complete the job properly from start to finish, as I would. Hanging the towels all bunched-up means I will call them back to straighten them. Put them away scrunched-up means I will call them back to sort them out. When they are older the consequence will be to do a load of clothes – completely, hmmmm perhaps ironing too…

Now before you leap to the conclusion that I am being a dragon, be assured: I don’t raise my voice; I don’t hurt them; and I don’t add consequences. I also don’t go away. They can chose to go back to bed for 20 minutes or sit on the step and look at the load of washing for half an hour, but it doesn’t go away and they can’t do anything else until they’ve dealt with it. Just as in real-life where the debt stays there until you deal with it, or the car breaks down because you didn’t maintain it, or the flab gathers because you’re eating in a way that doesn’t work with your body: the consequence matches the action. As Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame says: Experience First = Lesson Second. That’s how the real world works.

This strategy works well because they know there is no getting away from the consequence of their actions. Actions, which let’s face it – at nine and six, they are perfectly capable of preventing. They don’t do anything else until the job is completed, but the job (by it’s very nature) happens in small and manageable chunks.

It also works well because we are slow to add chores to our children’s day. They don’t do a lot of chores compared to many of their friends.

But the main reason we have few chore issues, I believe is because of this expectation that all chores are completed to the nth degree. Even the 19 month-old Butterfly puts his dirty clothes in the washing-basket – with no bits hanging over the edge and has done since he could walk competently. When the older two finish eating, they put their scraps in the bin and plates either in the dish-washer or in the sink with water so we don’t end up with caked on food to scrub off.

And, as regular followers of this blog will know, there is no praise or reward – other than the task is done – the reward is in the completion – they get to raise their sense of self-assurance (that they can manage) without someone else having to tell them they’ve done a great job. They know what the completed job looks like; they know they have met that level of accomplishment; they automatically feel good about themselves –

and because we appreciate their work, I say, “Thanks.”

As the Owl said to me the other night, “Some things just need to be done, don’t they Mum? So there’s no point in fussing.”

Reckon there’s plenty of adults who aren’t that on to it!

(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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16 Responses to Chores without Issues: It can be done!

  1. Laura Weldon says:

    This is similar to the way we’ve always functioned. Our chores rotate more often and we also expect help with unanticipated tasks (that regular expectation has led to offspring who not only help cheerfully but actively enjoy working around the home and farm as teens).

    Working to keep the family unit functioning is natural to children of our species, as any look at cultures in the past will show. It’s only in the last few generations that we lifted what we thought was a “burden” of work from our children and put it entirely on ourselves, depriving them of the knowledge and self-worth found in meaningful tasks. That’s why in my family we never tie tasks to rewards or an allowance. The work has its own purpose.

  2. hakea says:

    I haven’t worked out the chores & pocket money thing yet. Which jobs should they do because they are part of the family? Which jobs should they do for pocket money? It’s not an issue yet as the kids don’t really want for anything, but I think it will become a hot topic when they are adolescents.

    There is a mum in the community I work in, who has her two boys (age 11 and 7) doing just about everything for points. She’s got this elaborate system where they tally up the points for the jobs they have done everyday. There is no pressure on the boys to do the jobs, they just don’t get the points. Every point equals a sum of money, fifty cents I think. They get paid at the end of the week. She encourages them to save 20% of their earnings. She’s got a real economy happening. She also doesn’t spend any money on luxuries for the kids like videos or games or treats, they are the kid’s responsibility. Those kids are very competent. Works very well for them. I’m not that organised.

    • That is efficient, but I doubt I could keep track of it all. Also, I struggle with teaching children to be employees. I have no issue with being an employee, have been one most of my life – but thinking outside the square and looking for opportunities to create money is also valid, and not something I want to train out of our kids. Besides, some things just have to be done to keep the house running and our kids are just not that motivated by money…yet.

    • @hakea – “I haven’t worked out the chores & pocket money thing yet. Which jobs should they do because they are part of the family? Which jobs should they do for pocket money? …” That’s easy. All chores should be done for no money. They’re part of the family. They live there. It’s their responsibility. You do them a greater service by teaching them responsibility rather than attaching money to action. Especially in this era where kids want and expect something for nothing and haven’t a clue about the value of responsibility or work.

      • Narelle Smith says:

        Hi allycat

        I agree, but my husband doesn’t. Some values have to be compromised for the sake of congeniality. 😐

        • @Narelle – That’s true and then the question is raised, what values do you hold near and dear? Seems like there’s a whole lot more compromisin’ and less sticking up for what’s truly right amongst couples for the purpose of congeniality or peace or {fill in the blank}. Just an observation.

  3. faemom says:

    I like the idea of not playing until the chore is done. That’s where I messed up. Evan used to be so happy to help, and now he plain refuses. I had no idea how to motivate him. So I’m going to try this. Thanks

    • Small snippets work well. The Hare is currently tidying-up only the blue bits of lego. He had a five minute break before then and before then he closed his curtains and window and put out his clothes for the morning. He’ll then have another five-minute break and do another chore. Good luck with Evan.

  4. adhdwith3 says:

    Good for you for hanging in there. Isn’t that the hardest part?

  5. Li-ling says:

    Karyn, thanks for sharing this. There’s a lot to be said for just doing what has to be done– very wisely said Mr Owl. A couple of months ago I read on a life-coach’s blog, that you should reward yourself when a goal is accomplished, when I read that, I realised that it was something that I hardly ever did (never more like), but could not identify or explain why. Your explanation of the reward being in the completion makes perfect sense.

    • Hi Li-ling,
      Yes, I am not big on rewarding children (as you know) and think there is a lot to be said standing back and looking at finished tasks with pride – whether that be the completion of a big task in paid work, or a cleanly mopped floor (which will probably be muddy again in 5 minutes), or a sensitive child showing self-assurance. 😉
      There is so much research now to show that constant rewards are NOT a great idea, it bugs me that people haven’t woken up to the reality.

  6. The problem with being rewarded is that no one rewards you when you leave home. So many people don’t look at the bigger picture when teaching their kids…. Instead it is all abou here now. Enjoyed your post. Have some serious catching up to do!!! Xx

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