If you are anything like me, you grew up with chores. In our family, we didn’t have beneficiaries of home and family but rather were expected to be participants and part of that was taking responsibility for tasks that benefited our daily lives and the environment in which we lived.
In most households, both parents work. It was the same with my parents and it was a benefit to the overall family for all of us to work together to ensure the smooth operation of our home. It relieved my parents from working all day to provide for the family only to have their every moment away from their jobs consumed with household chores.
It not only allowed them time to relax and recharge but provided a way for them to spend more quality time with us. The most significant advantage to delegating chores was for us. What we gained from it would equip us for life beyond our parents home.
I learned what it took to manage a home, how to do those things for myself without needing help from others and how to care for the needs of the family I would one day have.
My childhood home had a catalog of things that needed to be done on both a daily and weekly basis. Instead of assigning specific chores to specific people, our parents allowed us to work out between ourselves, to a large degree, which of us would complete which tasks.
We learned negotiation skills, how to barter and a fair amount about bribery. Only when we became too entrenched in our chosen chores would our parents intervene and rotate chores so that I was as equally adept at yard work and caring for our animals as my brothers would become at cleaning bathrooms and kitchen duties.
My brothers and I learned to be self sufficient. Our parents wanted us to leave the nest, fully capable of caring for ourselves. They too assured that we would not hasten into marriage as a means to replace them as our caregivers but would enter into relationships for the right reasons and be helpers and partners to and with our spouses.
As we got a little older, we recieved an allowance each week. It wasn’t very much but it gave us a little money that we could spend any way we wished, however, we were encouraged to think of others, our younger siblings. If we spent our allowance on candy, did we get enough for everyone? (This was simpler back then when there were penny candies.) If we wanted a pricey toy, we would have to save for it which also taught us important skills like saving, budgeting, patience and weighing the value of a purchase instead of impulsiveness.
Now when we were young, our allowance was not at any time attached to nor dependent upon chores. As a young woman and mother, I of course had the idea that I could do parenting even better and assigned an allowance price to each chore. What a colossal mistake! Very quickly, I realized my parents were by far, wiser than myself when my children could no longer extend a simple courtesy nor perform a task without asking how mucht they’d be paid for it! I had to backpedal fast!
What my parents knew and taught us, firstly was respect. My parents required respect from us. They were the parents and whatever they asked us to do, we would do it, period.
Although they very often would explain the reason for certain chores and duties, it was for our understanding of how things worked, why it was important, it’s benefit. It was for our development of critical thinking and problem solving, never because an explanation from them was to be expected or required. .They did not and would not, beg, reason with us, barter nor bribe us to do it.
All of our lives, we have those who have authority over us in one compacity or another. We learned to be respectful and respectable. These qualities command respect from others. And, we learned to do what needed to be done and to do what was right for the sake of doing rightly, not for reward.
Within our hectic lives as parents, we can easily slip into the habit of, “it’s just quicker and easier to do it myself.” This literally helps no one. Little kids are eager to help mom and dad with whatever they are doing. It takes a great deal of patience for parents to allow them to help, show them how, knowing it’ll make a quick job take much longer and most likely, less well done but taking that time now, pays off later. It’s an investment in their future.
Raising children begins at birth, not when they are “old enough”.
If your toddler wants to help you dust, hand them a rag and allow them to rub it over the tables. Let them stir the bowl in the kitchen or wash the Tupperware in the sink or wipe down the counters.
Explain to them how washing away dirt and germs helps us stay healthy, how much nicer it looks when we’ve pick things up, how easy it is to find things when they’re put back in their place.
When they ask to help, let them in small ways then encourage them. Thank them for being a good helper and praise them for a job well done. You may just discover that performing mundane chores together, are valuable teaching moments that will equip them with the skills they’ll need for tomorrow and secures the bond of being a participating member of home and family today.