Workin’ for a living.

Recently a woman who does not really know me or my family remarked that my children seem to have “too many chores” to do and that good parents have children to love them….not to use them for child labor.

It is at moments like this that I think God is right in not endowing me with supernatural, mutant-type powers like Cyclops in the X-Men series.  Because if I was Cyclops, that woman would be a 2 inch high mound of ashes on the floor right about now.

After I stopped seeing a red fog and  ceased hyperventilating from repressed fury, I took a few moments to think: “Does this woman have a valid point and it makes me uncomfortable so I am incredibly upset?  Or is this woman completely off her rocker and what I’m feeling is righteous indignation?”  Because, honestly, if I get this mad after conversing with someone, it is usually because of these two reasons.

After much deliberation, I finally decided that the commenter is, in fact, officially off her rocker.

My children do have chores.  Each day they are responsible for cleaning a specific room in the house (either the library/office or the living room) and vacuuming the poor pathetic covering on the floor that one might call ‘carpet.’  They must also make their beds and tidy their bedrooms.  I don’t feel particularly bad about all this work because 94.8% of  the mess in these rooms are caused by the two children responsible for cleaning them.  So really, I don’t call this chores, I call it justice.

However, we are a homeschooling family.  This means instead of my children having 7 or 8 hours of schooling, they typically have 4 hours.  This leaves a lot of time for playing, imagining, and exploring, which is fantastic and one of the reasons I enjoy homeschooling so much.  However, I feel it also gives our family opportunity to train our children in various domestic duties around the house.  I picture it a little bit like a trade school in the household arts.

So, additionally, my children take turns learning how to set the table, clean a bathroom sink filled with toothpaste graffiti, empty the recycling, or some other small domestic chore.

The four year old is not exempt from chores either.  Right now, she is in charge of picking up her toys and emptying the silverware out of the dishwasher, preferably when it is clean.  Next week after she starts preschool (prepare yourself for a heart-wrenching post about babies turning into actual people <sob, sob, beat my breast> ), the four year old will be taught how to make her own bed and feed the cats.

Does this make my children out to be little modern day Cinderellas, scrubbing their life away in an endless cycle of chores?  That thought had never crossed my mind before, but evidently that is how a few people would see it.

I see it as my children learning to gradually take care of themselves, so that one day they will eventually be able to live by themselves away from me, and not die of scurvy, hantavirus, or the bubonic plague.  I want them to be independent and know how to cook good food.  I want them to take more than one set of sheets to college because they will know how to change their bed and wash dirty linen.  I want them to be able to balance a checkbook and write a grocery list.

I don’t think this is too much to want.

Lately, as I stare out at the world in my own admittedly myopic glasses (this is a figurative metaphor, I actually wear contacts), it seems that everywhere I look there are overly indulged, under worked children.  Children who take parents and nice things for granted.

I don’t want my offspring to be among their number.

So I am putting it out there.  Do you think children today do enough work around the house?  How much work is too much?  Do we really need to teach our children any type of household chores because in the future we are going to be taken over by our computers and live a repressed life in the sewers escaping technology?

Rest assured, I have no laser-beam abilities to fry you to a crisp if you happen to disagree with me, sadly.  Let’s just keep the discussion clean, civil, and polite.

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23 Responses to Workin’ for a living.

  1. Sarah Enz says:

    Okay, I could go on and on. You are clearly doing the right thing. Our job as parents is to raise responsible independent children. There are enough adults in this world who rely on others for everything and even expect it.
    You are enabling them. And teaching them values of hard work which brings forth rewards, blessings, etc.
    I’ll stop now. But GO AMI!!!

  2. OH my WORD, I can’t believe someone would say that to you!!! I think the chores you described are absolutely perfect! It is HARD WORK to teach your children to be good workers; not for the faint of heart, or for the lazy who want child slaves.

  3. Meredith says:

    Ami- I say the lady is OFF HER ROCKER! If kids are doing chores. you are making them responsible for something and you are teaching them that life is not all about play. If you teach them while they are young that there is work to be done, then later in life they will be productive adults. If you make kids pick up after themselves and have them help you, they are contributing to the household and you do not feel like you are doing it all, even though you are close to doing it all!! =) In reading your blog, you are not a slave driver. I make my six year old clean up his room, take out the recycling and a few other things. I say keep up what you are doing and your kids will turn out just like you…a very hardworking parent!

  4. floridakotan says:

    You are doing the right thing. Your children (and their future spouses!) will totally benefit from their domestic-duties-know-how and their ability to take responsibility for themselves. Thumbs up!

  5. I just love your myopic glasses! You crack me up. My children do a boat load of chores! In fact, when everything runs smoothly, which is rare, they even have done their own laundry AND put it away. I am officially responsible only for my laundry. Okay, I do towels and linens, but I don’t do laundry for everyone, including my husband. (Our first marital fight was over his laundry and he’s been doing it ever since 🙂

    My children are each assigned a day of the week in which they are in charge of dinner. They must choose the meal and then I help them cook it. If I have done enough advance planning, we put together a menu for the week so that I have all the ingredients on hand without a mad dash to the store for something as simple as hamburger buns. Grr. My teenagers are capable of cooking from scratch and following a recipe!!! This means they will not starve on their missions and in college and just might eat something more than Ramen noodles! My younger boys love helping me cook all of their favorites and slowly gain cooking skills without needing my assistance. Hurray! My husband even has a night of the week! That leaves me with two nights, as well as helping my two younger boys on their nights. Not too bad!

    We found a white dry erase board at the craft store that is a wall sticker! I have the kids chore chart on the wall beside the fridge so they know without a doubt what they are responsible for each day! Depending on the day of the week, they each do 3-5 chores. If we are doing a more thorough cleaning, then I ask them to help with more.

    My hard working children also get an allowance, which means they have to save up for all the “I wants.” A candy bar at the cash register: “Did you bring your money with you?” I don’t buy them anything unless it’s birthday, Christmas, or an occasional date with mom! Oh, there’s also always a list of things they can do for extra money!

  6. Mindy says:

    I think Crazy Commenter either has 1) a cleaning lady or 2) no children.

    Am I right?

  7. whitney says:

    We, my brothers and I, use to complain to my mom that we didn’t get paid for chores (actually we probably only complained once) and she responded, ” You eat here, you sleep here, you have clothes, and transportation. If you don’t like the petty chores, get out.” That’s paraphrasing.

  8. Tina says:

    Totally agree with you, kids are part of the family, they do chores to help out. My goal this summer was to give them so many chores they’d be ready to go back to school! 🙂 Just kidding–kind of. But really, now that they’re back at school all day I’m missing the help, and they’re only 8 & 5. They still have Saturday chores, but I liked how we had it organized per day and I had to do some things so they could do what they needed to do and the house maintained much better. Now that they’re back, and its just me and the toddler, I feel the toddler is winning! I read this and then a little bit later read this post in my reader–this is written by a more, um, mature mother who’s kids are almost all out of the house. She now uses her blog for her and the girls to share via long distance what they were doing as well as no-nonsense parenting advice and today it was on kids helping! http://ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com/2011/08/what-can-children-do-guide.html

  9. Just Shireen says:

    Now, I don’t have children of my own, but I’ve taken care of plenty of other people’s children. And I wholeheartedly agree with you. There’s an entire generation of kids being raised with the mindset that nothing should be unfair, or hard, or work. Which is a nice though, but harmful in actual practice. In my humble opinion.

    Lovely post, lady.

  10. Kacey says:

    I’m right there with you. My 3 year old cleans up his toys before bed, feeds his cats, helps set the table, folds washcloths,and is learning to put his clothes away in his dresser. Additionally we have a deep cleaning day and a baking day written into our homeschool plans and he works beside me all morning dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing. Beyond preparing them for adulthood it gives them such a sense of accomplishment, everyone likes to feel useful.

  11. Tricia Vail says:

    Ami, oh my dear, I am glad it was you the lady said it to and not me. At least you can keep your anger for a blog post. I’m proud of you for that:)
    My opinion is when you are raising children you are raising them to be productive, responsible people who will someday have their own homes, spouses, children, careers, church callings, and various places in society. They NEED to be able to solve the problems like how to get puke out of the church carpet during sacrament meeting (that actually happened to me today), how to manage money, how to clean their son’s pee off the seat, how to cook so they can host family functions, how to do laundry so that they don’t smell like my dirty patients, the list goes on and on.
    They will thank us someday, and we will be super proud of the awesome people they become because of the things they are learning right now. I love my kids and sometimes you have to do things that aren’t fun in the moment like homework and teaching them to clean. Take care, and happy cleaning:)!

  12. That attitude (the commenter) is the reason this generation is being raised to be grown up babies. When did being a child mean being exempt from participating in the household? When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time alone (children services would frown upon it these days) while my mom worked. During summer vacation, I woke up every day to a list. Once I finished the items on the list, I was free to do what I wanted with my day.
    I audited a college class to brush up on some info a couple of years ago. I was shocked at how the students were treated. The professors gave them extensions, spoon fed them information before tests, and generally held them responsible for very little. I am concerned for what the future holds.

  13. Stacey says:

    I agree with your philosophy. Only how do you get your kids to do it? Please let this be your next post! My three year old already gives me so much resistance when I try to get her to help around the house.

    • Woodstockgurl says:

      Hi Stacy. I had an admittedly harsh rule in my house, as my grown kids still remind me: take care of your stuff, or lose it. If I have to pick it up, it’s going away. In our case, “away” was in garbage bags in my closet, to be doled out little by little as they proved themselves able to maintain their possessions (clothes & toys). If your stuff is all over and you can’t pick it up, you obviously have too many belongings. I started this young, before preschool, and didn’t have to do it often. Always with reason and never with malice. My daughter is now grown and she lives however she wants, but she recently told me she plans on using the same strategy with her own children. So something worked!

    • bunkersdown says:

      I agree with Woodstockgurl. I took their toys away when they didn’t clean up like I asked. The trick is to do it calmly and consistently. You also have to steel yourself against their freak out tantrum and be strong. If you cave you’ve just given the power to the three year old. And three year olds are natural tyrants. You can do it!

      • Nancy says:

        We had a box in our closet that held all toys that were still out of place after they went to bed. The box was emptied on the first of the month. We held FIRM to this practice, and each month there were less and less to return. With six children, there was a rotating list of chores they completed every morning before they left for school. In the summer, the chores doubled and had to be completed between breakfast and lunch. Many of the chores had something to do with the vegetable garden. I have kept those lists and my “now-grown-all-over-30 children” love to show them to our grandchildren and are very proud of how they contributed to our home and family.

  14. Laural Out Loud says:

    I recently ranted on my blog about a woman making a negative comment about a friend’s parenting AT THE MALL. I’ve come to think that all negative comments handed out to parents about their parenting are by people off their rocker (as you so kindly put it), especially when they’re strangers. If what your’e doing works for you and your kids are happy, then just smile a pitying smile and move on, even though you really do want to smite them. And it sounds like you are raising some really great kids that will not live in filth when they’re finally on their own.

  15. Woodstockgurl says:

    As the wife of a man who had serious chores as a child, and as the mother of two who had chores of their own, I salute you for teaching your children at a young age that there are no free rides. If you want a nice place to live, you have to work to make it nice. If you want money to spend on essential and frivolities, you have to work to earn it. If you want to eat a nice meal every night, SOMEONE has to make it, and it may as well be yourself. My husband came into my life completely self-sufficient, the owner of a high-end vacuum and with the ability to make a mean chicken parm. My grown son works four jobs and still finds time to play just as hard as he works. My grown slacker daughter may not put into practice any of the lessons she was taught as a child, but I do know she at least possesses the necessary skills, should she ever wish to apply them. Good for you and let crazy comment lady deal with her rash child-rearing decisions when her kids are teenagers!

  16. this comment is a little late, since i’ve just discovered your blog (which i love already), but i feel strongly about this subject as well and wanted to throw in my wholehearted agreement with what you’ve written and what others have said here. i had 2 sets of chores as a kid, since with divorced parents i had 2 households. while each household had different philosophies about chores, the idea was the same: you have to contribute as a member of the family. my husband had chores in his house as well. we just recently enrolled our 18 mo old son in a montessori preschool/daycare, where the philosophy and curriculum are tied to teaching the children respect and independence. therefore, they’re responsible for putting away their toys. we’ve instituted this at home as well, so i suppose you could technically say that i’ve just started my 1.5 yr old kid on the chore train, since we ask that he clean up his toys in the playroom whenever it’s time to move on to a different activity (i.e. nap or a meal). i hope to be able to institute as well organized a chore set as you when he gets older!

  17. Marlene M. says:

    Bravo to all the smart moms who make their kids a real part of their families — which means CONTRIBUTING something and not just TAKING! After living through many decades and seeing lots of kids grow up, I absolutely believe that there are way more spoiled, selfish kids around today than ever before — thanks to their silly parents, who would rather work themselves ragged than demand some assistance from the little darlings. And those little darlings are growing up to be very unattractive people, people who expect life to be all about them and their wants and needs

  18. We teach out kids to make their bed as soon as they move out of the crib. Pulling up the sheet and comforter and smoothing it out at age 2 is not unreasonable. They feel accomplished and part of the family when they pitch in.

  19. My kids are only 3.5 and 2 (and newborn, who is still exempt from this, lol), but they have “chores.” They’re not regular chores yet, but if they make a mess — they have to clean it up! If they spill on the floor I hand them a towel. If they throw their toys around, they pick them up. If they pull the blankets off their beds, they put them back — the RIGHT way, not in a pile. They unfold my laundry, they have to refold it. And sure, at their ages it takes a lot of patience and I have to help them and teach them how to do these things sometimes. But they understand that we don’t just make messes and leave them.

    Which means they are actually eager to help sometimes. They like to help cook, empty the dishwasher, or clean the table (I keep cloths and a bottle of vinegar-water around for them to clean with). As they get older they’ll do more. We are ALL members of the house and we ALL have to pitch in. Even at 15-month-old can throw away a piece of paper. I used to sit my son in my lap at 9 or 10 months and hand him toys and tell him “put it in” (while holding a box) and he would. You can’t expect much at that age but you can start teaching them! My 3.5 YO can clean her playroom now with minimal help from me. Both are responsible for putting their clothes in baskets and shoes in the closet. And so on. What is wrong with teaching them to care for themselves and pitch in to help the family? That’s the right thing to do, in my opinion!

    My husband and I both worked hard as kids and appreciatethat now because we still work hard and think nothing of it. Meanwhile our younger siblings weren’t made to work so hard and they’re lazy and whiny now, much more so than we are (they’re adults, in their mid-20s). We don’t want our kids to turn out that way! And we’ll do what we have to to make sure they don’t.

  20. As an teacher at a large university, I can only say that I wish more parents gave their children reasonable and increment responsibilities — such as those that you are giving your children — as a way to help them grow into responsible and competent young men and women. Props to you!

    As a mother of three young children, I’m totally on board with this as well. Granted, my one-year-old and three-year-old aren’t yet too helpful, but your post gives me something to shoot for in the future. (Beat my breast and sob… they, too, will one day be actual “people,” too.)

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