When I was a kid, my parents gave me chores and an allowance. The two were not tied together; we had chores because we were part of the family, and we got an allowance because we were part of the family. I continued that with my kids.
At our school, the students have chores as well. We teach our kids that leadership requires responsibility, and we require a group effort for five minutes at the end of the day to take out trash, put chairs up, and return everything in the room to its original place. I never cease to be shocked when a student tells me, “I don’t do chores at home.” If the student is in middle school or older, my response is usually, “ Oh, your mother wants you to live with her forever.” Usually the kid gives a confused look, so I add, “She’s crippling you so that you’ll always need her and never leave.”
Obviously, I feel pretty strongly about chores. I cannot stand it when kids just get up and leave a mess for someone else to clean up. I’m not just mad at the kid when that happens; I’m mad at the parent for always doing it for him!
The chores a child does should, of course, be tailored to the age. Even toddlers can pick up after play or help set or clean up the table. Taking out the trash, loading and unloading the dishwasher, helping with laundry, and keeping one’s room clean (to include making the bed) are perfect for elementary-aged kids. Teens can add lawn-mowing, food prep, vacuuming, and the such.
The goal of chores is to help our kids transition from living with us to living on their own. It is not to get the house clean. Using the kids as cheap labor is never a secret; your kids know the parent is just being lazy (or too cheap to hire help). Our goal is the same at school: helping them to see that it’s the leadership that keep things tidied up and moving. And we’re in the business of training leaders.
Moms, please don’t do everything for your sons. Your relationship with your future daughter-in-law depends upon how much she has to do for your son! I’ve often told my boys that they can have a “hot” wife or a “mom” wife. But we wives cannot be “hot” and their “mothers”!
As long as we explain why the chores are part of helping our kids to become adults, kids are usually pretty open to chores. The key is to start light and add. Just remember: at the same time you are adding a chore, add a privilege. Your child will feel he is actually becoming an adult!