It's a while since I touched on the topic of household chores.
Writing recently about pocket money and allowances brought it to mind.
I suggested that an allowance not be paid for specific daily chores. The chores are done as part of being a family team - "We're all in this mess together, so we all share in doing the clean-up".
A home isn't a luxury hotel in which Mum mostly does the work, Dad mostly relaxes and the kids mostly play or, if teenagers, mostly use it as a restaurant and laundry.
Children need to feel that they're worthwhile people, and one of the ways they can feel this is from an expectation that they contribute to the family in an age-appropriate way. Even very young children can gain a sense of pride and achievement out of their contribution to the team.
There are lots of things that they can do from age three onwards, and not "to help Mummy". Helping Mummy implies that taking care of the house is Mummy's job not the job of everyone who lives in it.
The attitude to develop is that they're "helping to take care of our house and our family".
Since the main aim of parenting is to prepare children for an independent life, what better way to start them off? They also learn that sharing and contributing is an important part of what family life is about.
The best time to get them started is when they want to help. This usually happens when they're two to three years old.
A three-year-old can tidy away toys, set the table and help with a variety of tasks - planting and collecting vegetables, handing you pegs at the clothesline or ingredients in the kitchen, ironing hankies with a cool iron, getting required items off the supermarket shelf, taking weeds to the rubbish pile, feeding a pet and so on.
By the time they're six they can distinguish between work and play. If you haven't got them accepting that work is an established part of the household routine by then, it's going to be more of an uphill battle.
By their mid to late teens, boys and girls should be able to run a household on their own - from shopping and cooking, mending and cleaning, to growing and mowing, maintaining and basic repairing. They should also have gained an appreciation of the costs involved.
There are chores they won't enjoy, just as adults don't. But running a household isn't all fun so why pretend otherwise. It can be fun to have a fry-up and less pleasant cleaning up the mess, but they go hand in hand and this needs to be understood.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.
- The Timaru Herald