Attitude about kids helping

A few weeks ago we had a family over for lunch, when towards the beginning of the meal the 11 year old girl looked at her mother and said, “Don’t get any ideas!” Nothing unusual or remarkable was happening and I was a little mystified at to what she could be referring to, so I asked and her mother said they noticed that several of my kids got up to serve the meal.  The daughter adamantly said she didn’t want her mother to start expecting them to bring the food to the table.

A little later in the meal, the mother was describing her chore schedule to me, and her daughter grimaced and indicated that she felt she had to do too much.  I smiled at her and told her that she would feel very lucky if she knew the chores my kids do, and then told her.  There was some kind of response at how much my kids had to do, but then my dd14 who was sitting right there corrected her and said our kids don’t have many chores at all.  It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

I do expect my kids to help out, and to do it fairly willingly, and it was good for me to hear the response of the visiting eleven year old, to increase my appreciation of what my children do and how they do it.  I’m grateful that my kids find what’s expected of them fair and reasonable, since I try to be balanced in my expectations.  But the truth is that they do a lot more than most kids their ages.  Then again, they have a lot more freedom and flexibility in their schedules than most kids their ages, so I guess it all evens out!

A big part of why they do what they do is determined by my feelings about teaching kids basic living skills.  That included cooking, baking, cleaning, laundry, child care, and general home organization.  There are other important skills, too, like money management, home repair, etc, that I consciously help them to learn while living at home (my post on teaching money management was one of those lost when the blogged was hacked a couple of months ago).  These aren’t gender specific skills – boys and girls will benefit by knowing them regardless of what roles they end up in later in life.

All of these are skills you develop by doing them – you can’t just read a book!  By the time they are twelve, I want each of them to have the skills to basically be able to run a home.  That doesn’t mean that they do run my house, but that they can do it if they needed to.  I feel it’s a true kindness to teach a child these skills when they’re at home instead of sending them into the adult world without basic competencies.  That’s probably why I don’t suffer from guilt when asking my kids to help  – I appreciate their help and it obviously makes our home life run more smoothly, but I also know that they’re becoming well prepared for life.  I bet all of you know adults who are still struggling to learn basic skills – wouldn’t it have been so much easier for them have learned it when young?

I’ll try to share our current chore chart next week for those of you who are wondering how the work in our house is divvied up.


12 thoughts on “Attitude about kids helping

  1. I just taught my 8yo boy how to the basics of washing and drying clothes (and the 5 yo boy to assist) today in anticipation of baby Hanukah present coming! I know I may not feel up to shlepping up and down the stairs after this baby is born…

    I showed him what to do (verbal/action instructions), stuck stickers to show what settings we use on the washer and dryer for the majority of the loads we do and he asked me to write up instructions (which I did). He did his first load today! I will continue to separate the loads (I know better!).

    I have been bad about getting the kids to do chores, but am getting better. We have a small amount of daily stuff to get done, and since Friday is not a formal school day, they have more stuff to do. I am trying to make them self-accountable as I know the stress really piles up (for everyone) if I have to remind people of their responsibilities (like right now!). There are positive consequences and negative ones too. Some weeks they get the positive one and sometimes the negative. I wonder what will be with today…..

    1. But, then again, if my MIL had taught her son to do laundry, I would have not met my wonderful husband!

      During the first week of our boarding high school, he yelled down the hallway of the girl’s dorm looking for someone to help him do laundry. I volunteered to help the poor boy and got a husband (who did eventually learn how to do laundry) in exchange.

      Avivah, you may be preventing your children from finding their beshert. :)

      1. Well, I guess my kids will have to suffer for the choices I make. It’s a good thing H-shem is in the picture. :)

        Congratulations on getting your son involved with the laundry. I promise you, it is soooo worth it to get them involved when they’re young!

        Best wishes for a quick and good birth – please keep me posted when you give birth! (hugs)

  2. This is kind ofembarassing to admit,but I wasn’t taught many things about running a home growing up as my parents were well off financially, divorced, and nothing was expected of me in either home because there was always help to take care of things. I am living very differently as an adult and take care of the housework myself. I still have to remind myself, on occassion, that certain things will not get cleaned or straightened up if I don’t do it.
    Since, I am a self-taught homemaker, I am not sure the best time and chore to start with for my children. At what age do you begin to assign chores? Is there a typical first chore you give them?

  3. I can say that being part of the younger half of a large family, we also grew up with everyone having chores. By the time I was 12, completing our (mine and my siblings) chores meant that the house was clean and meals were prepared. I also never felt resentful growing up, it just seemed like the right thing to do – it may have helped that we all had chores and no one person was singled out. It definitely prepared me to be able to run my own home and prepare meals without being overwhelmed. It was definitely a chesed from my parents that we got this “training”. My 2 oldest, age 6 and 4, have one chore each that they are expected to do along with the normal daily clean up of their rooms and the playroom. Avivah, thanks for continuing to give us great insights into raising our families!

    1. Rena, you make some really good points about having kids helping out and not being resentful – that you were raised with the expectation of helping, it was fair, and everyone was expected to pitch in. Something that personally annoys me is when people assume that the girls should do the work and the boys should be learning and get a free pass- it may work for them, but that’s not how I do things!

      1. I can’t think of a worse way to raise boys than to have their mothers and sisters doing the work while they take a free pass for learning or being boys or what have you. There are plenty of hours in the day and more than enough for everyone to pitch in with making a household run.

  4. Orthonomics, while I agree with you, there actually are very few hours in the day that boys are home once they get older. When my ds was 14 he went to yeshiva high school for a year, and he was hardly ever home. The hours are punishingly long. He got home about nine, did homework, went to bed at eleven, and was up by 6:30 am so he could be at school on time for morning davening. Crazy what we expect of kids – we wouldn’t ask an adult to do that!

    At that time I changed my chore expectations of him during the school days, and he did most of his chores on Fridays and Sunday afternoons instead of daily. This wasn’t because of him being male but because of his very limited time at home, something I take into account for each of them and adapt accordingly.

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