Most parents have tried it all. Chore charts, rewards, threats, punishment. We resolve to make our kids pitch in, then give up because they wear us down with their selective listening or irresponsibility.
But chores and housework are part of everyday life. We prepare our children for life by sending them to school, but they should learn how to manage a home as well.
"I worry that this generation of kids is going to think there's a free ride out there," said Georgette Constantinou, administrative director of pediatric psychiatry at Akron Children's Hospital. She cautions that parents underestimate how important it is to have kids do chores.
Local parents echo that sentiment. "When I was growing up, I had a lot of chores to do," said Jen LaPlante, a mother of three girls who lives in Gustavus. "We lived on a farm, so we had animals to take care of and outside chores."
Start young, Constantinou advises. Make everyone accountable to be a part of the team that is the family. Even very young children can help pick up their toys or throw laundry in the hamper.
School-age children are capable of more responsibility. Kristin Woods, a Bristolville mom with two active kids, said her son, Ben, is now responsible for unloading the dishwasher when it's clean. "He's bigger and taller, so he's more capable now," said Woods. Her younger daughter, Katelyn, has to set the table and help wash up dishes after meals.
Age-appropriate chores kids can do
l Help make the bed.
l Pick up toys and books.
l Take laundry to the laundry room.
l Help feed pets.
l Help wipe up messes.
l Dust with socks on their hands.
l Mop in areas with help.
l Clear and set the table.
l Help out in cooking and preparing food.
l Carrying and putting away groceries.
l Take care of pets.
l Vacuum and mop.
l Take out trash.
l Fold and put away laundry.
l Help wash the car.
l Learn to wash dishes.
l Help prepare simple meals.
l Clean the bathroom.
l Rake leaves.
l Operate the washer and dryer.
l Replace light bulbs and vacuum cleaner bags.
l All parts of the laundry.
l Wash windows.
l Clean out refrigerator and other kitchen appliances.
l Prepare meals.
l Prepare grocery lists.
SOURCE:?Sarah Aguirre, About.com
Kids need instruction about how to do the chores, then need to practice doing them, said Constantinou. "If you expect the table to be dusted perfectly, do it yourself," she said.
"When my kids say 'I don't know how,' I ask them to do the best they can," said LaPlante. "They know how it looks when I do it, and they know what a good job looks like." LaPlante said she doesn't do the work after her kids. "If Claire (age 9) vacuums the rug, it's good enough for me," she said. "I don't go back over it or correct the job she's done."
Kids and parents lead busy lives these days. Constantinou says she is not an advocate of saying "you're so busy with the rest of your life you don't have time for chores."
Linda Allen, from Johnston, and mom of Cody, 11, works outside the home full-time. "We make time to pitch in and all work together," said Allen. "Dad runs the vacuum, we all pick up and Cody cleans bathrooms since he's the low man on the ladder."
Allen says she does some outside work that bothers her husband's allergies so Cody sees that no chores are gender-specific.
LaPlante agrees. "The girls bring in firewood if that's what needs done," she said.
Rotating chores or allowing kids to pick their chores may make it easier to get them to do their work. But if they don't do their work there have to be consequences.
"When the kids were younger, if I had to tell them to pick something up more than two times, I took it, and they had to earn it back," said Woods. "Now they've learned to at least take it to their rooms so I don't have to see it."
Some parents keep kids home until they get their chores done or limit phone or computer time as a consequence of not getting chores done in a timely manner. However, both Woods and LaPlante said that they are not in favor of having kids miss team practices or sports. "I don't think it's fair to disappoint the whole team because my kids didn't do their work," said Woods.
Weekly allowances in return for chores seem to have fallen out of favor with parents.
"We all pitch in to keep up," said LaPlante. "We don't always get everything I wanted done but we work together." She says her girls get the things they really need and, as a family, they try to work out an arrangement on the things they want.
"Some of Cody's friends get an allowance, but I don't see that happening for him," said Allen. "Maybe it would help him have a better idea of the value of money, though."
Family-based chores that everyone works on are just part of being a family, Constantiou said. Paying for extra chores or effort above and beyond could be a way for kids to earn some money of their own.