What Chores at What Age?
Should Mom and Dad Do It All?
When I was younger, I used to sing a song: "Cinderelly, Cinderelly, make the fire, make the breakfast, wash the dishes, do the mopping! And the sweeping and the shopping!"
That song was from the Disney classic, Cinderella, and I begrudgingly sang it as I undertook my daily chores. I was ten.
My mom, who stayed home full-time with my brother, sister and me, was a firm believer in training us early so we would make her job a little easier. At least, that's what I told myself. By the time I was twelve, I had some serious bathroom cleaning skills and could sort, wash and fold five loads of laundry with my eyes shut.
Now I'm a stay-at-home mom. Is it too demanding of me to expect my eight-year-old son to make his bed, help with the laundry, take out the recycling and unload the dishwasher every day? He's been feeding our dog, fish and rabbit for about a year, which seemed like a more satisfying task for a youngster. But I can't help but feel perplexed when I ask him to help with the dirty work around the house. Daunting feelings from my childhood creep back in. I'm confused about what is an appropriate level of responsibility for a child.
I know it's a critical element of rearing children: teaching them accountability, organizational skills and, generally, how to be a team player. But I also can't help but feel like it's my job as a mom to take care of these mundane household tasks myself. I want my children to enjoy their years of freedom and 'irresponsibility' while they can. I sometimes feel like I was robbed of that. However, I realize it's a fine line. It's also my job to mold them into functional, healthy, responsible adults. I turned out okay, so is it too much to ask? What to do?
As we prepare to enter 2011, my husband and I are contemplating a new set of chores for our boys as they, too, gain another year. We recognize that we've been somewhat lenient in our expectations up to this point.
We never have fully committed to enforcing a 'chore chart' or an allowance. For some reason, we assumed that all would fall into place, and our children would be perfect angels with the inherent knowledge that at first light they should fluff their pillows and make their beds with hospital corners. At this stage in the game, it's becoming clear that this is not going to happen.
Perhaps there's some secret technique to convince our kids that chores are great fun. An allowance seems like more of a bribe than anything else, but maybe that's the trick. We tried to avoid that route with the idea that contributing to our family home is not something that should be a paid position.
Somehow there has to be a happy medium to encourage our kids to pitch in and enjoy it. Maybe we can pay in spiced gumdrops. That's motivation enough for me!