"Time to clean your room!” How many hundreds of times have you said that to your children?
And how many thousands of times have they responded with, “But why, Mom?”
We often fumble for the right words to try to convince our children of the importance of doing their chores and say something like, “Because I told you so. That’s why. Now go do it.”
Unfortunately, after arguing with them, we often end up saying, “Oh forget it. It’s just easier to do it myself.” The reality is that we have to expend a lot of energy to corral our kids, show them how to do the task, and keep them on track until they finally complete the job.
It’s often less stressful, quicker, and takes less nagging for us to just do the job ourselves. Whether picking up toys, making a bed, or putting away laundry, involving the kids seems like more work than it’s worth.
It might seem like more work than it’s worth, but over the years I’ve learned that while it definitely IS work to train our children to do chores, it’s more than worth the effort. As the saying goes, “Anything worth having takes hard work.” And the same is true with training our children. The training will cost us in time and effort, but the results are priceless.
Once we make up our minds as parents to put forth the effort, how can we possibly convince our children of the value of doing their chores? What else can we say besides, “Because I told you so”?
Here are five things I’ve told my children in order to instill in them the value of participating in household work.
1. “Everyone who lives in this house must contribute to the upkeep of the house.” In our house, we make chores a family affair. On Saturday morning, we all—Mom AND Dad included—head off to our assigned chores before we play. After family dinner, we ALL work together to clean up the meal.
2. “If everyone works together, then we’ll finish the work faster and have more time together for fun activities.” If Mom ends up doing all of the work, then she won’t have as much time to play games and enjoy activities with everyone.
3. “Chores help prepare you for adulthood and I want you to be a successful adult.” We talk about the skills necessary to succeed in life and explain to our kids that childhood is their opportunity to practice those skills, and perhaps do even better at them than Mom & Dad.
4. “Learning responsibility means gaining privileges.” When our children demonstrate they are diligent with a new chore on a consistent basis, we give them a new privilege. In other words, if they show adult-like responsibility, then they prove themselves ready for adult-like privileges, like later bed time.
5. “Serve one another over self. S.O.S.” In a “me-first” culture, we must struggle to teach our children the value of self-sacrifice and how to look out for the needs of others. Chores are a way to help our children serve. Even when they didn’t make the mess, we can teach them to S.O.S. as a way to help ease the load of others.
Question For You: What do YOU say or do to convince your children of the importance of work?