I’m a farm kid. And I probably had much fewer chores than the average farm kid, but I guess because I grew up in the country as a child of two farm kids and I find myself surrounded by farm kids-turned-adults all day, every day, I must have absorbed the mindset.
My kids work. They work hard. And while my mom is sometimes reminding me that there aren’t many eight year olds out shoveling the driveway for their mother at 6:30 am so I should probably cut him some slack, I think making my kids work is the exact right thing to do for us.
In response to this article, I’d like to offer up the five things my kids and our family gain because they have jobs around the house.
Note: My kids do not have a chore chart or a list of things they are supposed to complete every day. I just know what they can do and I assign tasks ad nauseam. They probably get the short end of the stick compared to kids with a designated chore chart, but … life isn’t fair. They’ll get over it.
1. Teamwork: Sometimes, I think it’s ok for my kids to work together against me. And when I assign them a job that is too big for one of them, they figure out that if they work together, it will go faster and they can return to their fun quicker.
Yesterday was a snow day for us and after the myriad of snow days we’ve had recently, we are all getting on each other’s nerves a little bit. So when I announced at 2 pm that they had two hours to play together while I decompressed alone, I wasn’t shocked when 15 minutes of fighting followed. I solved the fighting with an announcement that we were going to clean the living room. They weren’t happy, but they vacuumed, cleaned under furniture with the swiffer, washed windows, helped me move furniture, and in one hour when the three of us had deep cleaned the living room, I reminded them that the job would have taken me three hours alone. And then they quickly retreated to playtime together – minus the fighting – and we all lived happily ever after. Everyone is happy when we work together.
2. Charity & Kindness: I am forever asking one or the other of my kids to pick up the school bags and coats that were thrown in the doorway after school. Or please empty the lunch boxes. Or pick up the dirty clothes in the hallway that didn’t quite make it to the laundry basket. I am often met with “I already picked up MINE, those are his/hers.” To which I usually reply, “Then I’m only cooking dinner for myself tonight. What are you planning to eat?” Or “I guess I’ll wash my clothes then … would you like to learn how to wash yours?” I think it’s a wonderful lesson for my kids to learn. Its “Love your neighbor as yourself” in action.
3. Family Solidarity: When we have a big job to do and someone complains, I remind them that we are all in this together and we are a family. Sometimes things just have to be done. We rake leaves together, we shovel snow together, we clean together, and we paint together. And yes, sometimes its sad to watch the neighbor kids riding bikes or sledding while we’re still trying to clean off the drive, but I like thinking that they are learning a lesson about family responsibility. It’s our house together and some things just have to come first.
4. Delayed Gratification: In my head, our society has a huge problem with instant gratification. I hope I’m doing my part to ensure that at least two members of our future will understand delayed gratification and use it to live a happy and prosperous life. Is it fun to have to put away your clean clothes before you can play outside? Nope. Is it fun to have to put away your clean clothes a second time when your mom realizes you’ve messed up your drawers in your haste to get outside? Nope. But over time, I hope they will understand the value of working hard THEN playing hard when they are making a decision to study for their final exam or go out with the guys instead.
5. Do It Right the First Time: One thing I’m very strict about – my kids always make their beds and I like for them to look perfect. They don’t always look perfect, but when they make their beds and I can tell they didn’t even try, they get the opportunity to do it again. This is about a once a week occurrence, and it doesn’t make anyone happy, but I don’t see anything wrong with doing a chore over and over until you get it right. When they vacuum, they sometimes get to vacuum again if I can tell they’ve done a crappy job. When they fold towels, they fold them again if they don’t meet my expectations – after all, an eight and a nine-year old can totally fold a rectangle in half and in half again without messing it up. And someday, when the stakes are higher than folding towels and are, instead, finishing that report for the boss, I hope they are less tempted to half-do it.
If I were living in the country, these jobs might look like feeding the animals, helping in the garden, mowing, or even following dad to the field to give him a ride home. But I think the lessons are the same. And just because I’m a city dweller now, doesn’t mean I don’t rent my kids out to help the neighbors spread a truckload of mulch or help carry lumber for a deck or something.
Trust me. That sort of work builds character.