This article is brought to you thanks to the surprise I got when my son thoughtfully got out cups for him and his sister without my asking him to at breakfast this morning.
Do you give your small children chores or jobs in the house? Is it ad hoc or a regular thing? My kids are 5 and 3.5. They are expected to help around the house, although, not with quite as much regularity as there will be when they’re older.
Jobs we give:
Laying the table for supper
Helping making fizzy water with the sodastream (although to be honest, I think they think this is a treat)
Taking their dishes to the sink when they’ve finished eating
Helping put away clean dishes from the dishwasher
Getting things out the fridge and freezer for us
Putting shopping away
Helping turn on the dishwasher and washing machine
Putting their dirty clothes in the washing basket (until recently they were left all over the floor for a slave parent to pick up for them)
Putting away their clean laundry (and sometimes helping me sort it)
Helping hang out the washing
Clearing up toys and books in the living room and their bedroom
Fetching things in shops and restaurants
Carrying bags home from shops and carrying swimming stuff
Going to the letter box for me (the sight of the two of them running down the road together is adorable – I stand and watch them the whole way)
Why do we do it? Well, for me it feels pretty obvious that a kid´s natural state is one of laziness in the home. I well remember my mum being really fed up with my brother and me just stepping over the rubbish we’d left all over the stairs, rather than taking it up with us. I also remember seeing stuff on the floor that clearly shouldn’t be there and not giving a rat’s bottom about it. Not my problem, you see! And that was my default attitude in a home where I, too, was given responsibilities and expected to help out. So in order to not have our kids grow up as lazy little fuckers we also provide work for them. Their default may be to not help but if we start young, when they’re older, they’ll be just fine. Just as my husband and I were expected to help in the home as kids and now we are both perfectly capable of running a home.
I am not married to a man who leaves his socks on the floor for me to pick up and I sure as hell will not be raising that sort of wo/man either!
The kids live in this house, they use the facilities and they eat the food, it stands to reason that as soon as they’re big enough they should help out as much as they are able.
Of course, if we don’t actively tell the kids to clear up, they don’t do it, I think I’d be concerned if they did! But they also rarely now sit at the supper table and hold out a cup to me while saying ‘more water’. They have learned that a) saying please may get me to do it for them but it’s far more likely that the answer is going to be b) you can get it yourself.
I am finding that my kids are rising to meet my expectations. They are learning what’s expected of them. They may not always take their clothes to the dirty washing basket without a reminder but one of them may well offer to take the clothes of the other too. They see Col and me working as a team and they are creating their own little team as well as finding their place in our family team. My SG is so proud of herself when she lays the table for everyone (although woe betide me if there are olives or gherkins on the table as then I’ll lose her until she’s eaten every last one). And SB is super proud that he can now make breakfast for himself and his little sister. They are proud of themselves for their contribution.
I think that by giving our kids jobs around the house we are telling them a number of things:
- You are an important member of the family
- We believe in you, we know you are big enough to help with xyz
- We all chip in to help the house run smoothly. This is how a team works.
- There are times when we work without expectation of payment or reward
These lessons are entirely unspoken but through having expectations of assistance we are teaching our children important life skills that I believe will make them in to more capable (and likeable) adults.
What chores do your kids have? Or do you not make your kids do anything around the house?