The Power of Chores- Podcast Extra

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

"What do you mean my room isn't clean?"

If you were to look up the word “chore,” you’d find many forms of the same definition: “Chores are tasks that are viewed as boring or unpleasant.” According to my children, chores have a different definition: A way to torture your kids and make them do all of the work. In my family, assigning chores actually became a chore for me! Every time I asked my children to complete a task, it became an argument and the actual completion of the task was delayed as long as possible. My children, much like all of yours, have done some inventive things to get out of chores. Their tactics were relentless and creative. Top five most common chore-avoidance tactics: 1. “I have to go to the bathroom.” Translation: And stay in the restroom until the chores were done. 2. “I don’t know how to do this.” Translation: I am going to mess this up so badly that mom will never ask me to do it again. 3. “I’m done!” Translation: The job was actually only halfway done, in the hopes that I would not notice what they didn’t finish. 4. Sloth. This one is my favorite. (Hopefully, my sarcasm can be intuited from the written word). Translation: Work so slowly that they were hardly moving. Their legs wouldn’t work, their arms were tired, and they “didn’t feel good.” 5. “I always have the most chores.” Translation: They would list all of the reasons why they were picked on and tortured more than their siblings who, they like to point out, were never asked to do anything. When those arguments didn’t work, they would bring out their second line of defense, peer pressure: “None of my other friends have to do chores.” My answer to that “logical” argument was usually an equally “logical” response: “I’m sad your friends’ parents don’t love them as much as we love you.” Finally, the desperation would set in: “I’m NEVER going to make MY kids do chores.” (Ok.); “How come the baby doesn’t have to do chores?!” (Yes, that’s a real quote.); “It’s my room, I should be able to keep it how I want” (a personal favorite). I am sure you can fill in some of your own.

It does not start out this way; when children are young, they want to help. At three or four years old, Stephanie would ask to do dishes. I would fill up the sink with warm, soapy water, add dishes, and hand her a dishrag. She would stand on a chair, washing and rinsing the dishes, only to put them back into the soapy water and begin the process over. As long as I didn’t mind wet countertops and some water on the floor (I didn’t), she would be happy for hours. However, by the time children are older, the joy of helping has long since faded and they would rather be doing anything else than what they have been asked to do. “Why do we have to do chores?” I would bet this is one of the most commonly asked questions in all of childhood. It’s a good one. As mothers, we may ask: “Why do we add this aggravation to our already stressful days?”

Every spring break, while every other child in the world was allowed to play and do whatever they wanted (I know this because my children told me.), I would engage my children in spring cleaning. We all worked together. Each day had a new cleaning goal and after we were done, we would do something fun: pizza delivered, watch a movie with treats, etc. There were days the “fun” was lost on my children, and they would solely concentrate on the “unfair” amount of work they were asked to do. One particular day, we were cleaning the kitchen. Kitchen day was the longest and required the most detailed cleaning. Eric’s last job was to clean the fridge. I have to point out that spring cleaning the kitchen did involve some creative tools. I’ve been known to have my children cover butter knives with washcloths to get the dirt out of small crevices. When that didn’t work, I would hand them toothpicks. While I thought this was genius, none of my children shared this opinion. By the end of the day, having to use a knife in this way to clean all of the dirt out of the folds of the weather stripping around the door of the fridge, Eric reached his breaking point. I got the “Why do I have to do this?” question. After I told him it was part of learning how to clean a refrigerator, Eric turned to me and asked, “Mom, why do I need to know how to clean a refrigerator?” I answered, “So that when you get married and know how to keep a fridge clean, your wife will love me.” Eric was not amused and to tell the truth, I came up with the answer on the fly.