The stereo-typical view of teens who won’t do chores is all too common– but are we leaving it 13 years too late to engage our teens in chores?
Most of us remember the arguments we had with our own parents over doing chores; the family setting often turns into a full-scale battlefield with forays into arguments, skirmishes, and sometimes outright war, all over chores and the attempts to get growing young adults to be contributing members of the family. Chores are not cheap labour, we know we are training our children to be independent of us, and therefore, it is our job to share how to look after themselves and work as a team in the home. In this way, they learn what it is to be responsible in their lives and their communities.
But are we on the back-foot here? Are we trying to catch up on something that should have been included in a child’s life as soon as they were mobile? We could consider a crawling baby old enough to start contributing to chores, they could contribute by putting their toys in a bag or box, handing their dirty dishes and spoons to their parents to wash up and not simply have things magically disappear! In fact, could we say that when we make things like toys and dirty dishes ‘magically disappear’ we are actually fostering and nurturing the rebellion we see in our teen’s – eeeek! Have we set it all up for them? Not convinced? Let’s look at another example.
What about making dirty clothes ‘magically disappear’? Do they disappear from the floor-drobe and re-appear in the wardrobe all fresh and clean?
That is a whole other blog but the essence is the same, they do not learn vital life skills when we do everything for them versus learning to contribute from young. For example, a toddler can learn to be responsible for sorting the colours in the wash from the whites and filling the washing machine. Of course, they are likely to need help, and will never do it perfectly, but perfection is never the point, and it should never be the issue, contributing, learning life skills and taking responsibility is the key.
If we do all the chores for our children from the moment they can move, they get to thirteen and have a sense of entitlement, that they are entitled to be in the family but do nothing to contribute to the whole, they will have no idea of what commitment to family life is. A thirteen-year-old with a sense of entitlement to a free and easy life is hard to deal with, yet we have handed them the entitlement on a platter.
We will tell ourselves that we did everything for them, and we did. We will tell ourselves we did it to ‘care’ for them, to show them we ‘loved’ them, and we did. We will even tell ourselves that they have had it easy, much easier than we had it, and they have. In short, we have taught them for 13 years that life will be done to suit them, that things will magically appear and disappear and that it is normal. In so doing, there is an absence of understanding that they are part of a family and as such, everyone is equally responsible and has a part to play to the best of their ability.
Rather, we can prepare meals and clear up together after meals, we can sort out rubbish, washing, cleaning, each taking our part, children and all! Then, when children reach teen years, they know what it is to be a part of a healthy functioning family, they are ready to go into their lives, their communities and the world and live as response-able independent young adults.