“This was once a land where every sane person knew how to build a shelter, grow food, and entertain one another. Now we have been rendered permanent children. It’s the architects of forced schooling who are responsible for that.”
John Taylor Gatto
There is a debate among parents about whether or not children should be given chores to do in the home. Some believe children need chores and others believe that children should have to do nothing but play, because giving them chores is “oppressive.”
Play is children’s work. This I believe, however, I also am a firm believer in families working together to create a home and a strong family, unit and in my opinion, that includes everyone pitching in on the work. I also think it is quite an elitist and privileged point of view to believe that children should not have to help out, look to developing countries, poor families, and families who live on farms, and tell them they are doing their children a disservice by expecting them to help out.
Many of the same people who are speaking out against giving children chores are also huge supporters of John Taylor Gatto, former teacher turned author who spoke out against the public school system. Gatto also spoke out against forcing children into perpetual childhood. He believed the education system itself creates a sort of dependence within children and delays their independence. He often quoted Alexis de Toqueville’s book, Democracy in America which stated the advantages American children had over their European counterparts, because they were given more responsibility early in their lives.
While I’m sure we’d all agree that we don’t want to see children working full-time shucking oyster shells, or selling newspapers on the corner, or working in dangerous mills, I think it’s good for children to have responsibilities within their homes from an early age.
I remember being a child and often being told to “go play,” when I wanted to help out my mother with something, or I wanted to watch my dad do something that was considered adult work. As a mother now, I totally understand why I was told to go play, because often when children are allowed to help out or take over, a fifteen minute chore can turn into an hour long chore, plus the clean up! It’s a struggle, no doubt.
That said, I think children need to feel included and valued in the family and a dismissive, “go play” can hamper that.
My children have all had chores. When my sons were younger, they had to make their beds and clean their rooms. They helped with the trash and the dishes.
Now, my daughter has to clean her room and feed our pets. She helps with the dusting, dishes, and folding towels. When I need other help, I ask if she wants to help.
Some may argue, “It’s their room. If they don’t want to make their beds or clean it, they shouldn’t have to.”
This is where I get to sound like the terrible parent, because here’s my response:
This is my and my husband’s home and we expect it to be clean and we expect everyone in the home to participate in making sure our home and each other is cared for.
My sons are now grown and own their own homes, so the rest of this discussion will be regarding our six-year old daughter.
Personal Responsibility & Our Place in the World
There are some days when she doesn’t want to do her work, because she wants to be on her tablet, or go swimming, or anything other than the work she’s expected to do. These are days when I remind her that we are a family and we all help each other out. I tell her that there are days when I don’t want to do the dishes, or the laundry, or go to the grocery store, or cook dinner. My husband has days when he really doesn’t want to go to work, but they are things we need to do for our family. We know that when we get them done, then we can move on to other things we enjoy doing.
Usually she sees the reasoning behind it. Other times, she just grumbles through her work, dragging it out and making it worse than it needs to be. That’s her choice, but she does the work.
The thing is though, we all have times when we don’t want to face responsibilities, but we have to face responsibilities. It’s the lack of responsibility that has the Earth as unhealthy as it is. It’s the lack of responsibility that enables corporations to produce products that are harmful to us and the world. It’s the lack of responsibility that encourages thousands to go into enormous debt to keep up with their neighbors.
Responsibility lets us know we’re important to the bigger picture. It helps us to see that what we do has a profound effect on the world around us, but especially those closest to us.
We cannot dismiss children to the yard, or to their play things when they can be playing a vital role within our families – a role that will help them grow to be well-rounded, honest, responsible, and concerned citizens of the world.
Encouraging Financial Independence
Another way having chores helps children is that they have an opportunity to make their own money. Our daughter can earn up to $11 per week by doing the chores we all worked together to come up with:
- Fold towels: $2
- Feed dog & cats: $2
- Clean room: $3
- Help with dusting: $2
- Help with dishes: $2
For her money, she has three envelopes:
SAVE, SPEND, GIVE
This is where a lot of parents will disagree with us and that’s okay, but part of our responsibility as parents is to help set our children up for success later in life. One thing I dislike about the current education system is that it fails to teach children about money other than what coins and bills are and how much they’re worth and how to add them together. Too many have no idea how to budget their money, or even how interest or a mortgage works. They are clueless and that, coupled with a lack of responsibility is why so many people are drowning in debt.
Kat puts $5 in her spend envelope, $5 in her save envelope, and $1 in her give envelope each week. This way, she is learning to budget from an early age. I was so proud of her last week when she added money to her give envelope first. Dave Ramsey says, “Successful people are generous people” and I like to believe that’s true.
We want to help her learn about finances now, rather than when she’s eighteen and being bombarded with offers for students loans, credit cards, the latest gadget, cars, and who knows what else. She needs to be prepared – and well prepared at that.