“Do I have to?”
“Why do I have to?” or “I don’t want to”.
If you’re a parent or someone who cares for children on a regular basis, you’ve heard it all (along with plenty other whines and complaints) about any number of subjects: chores, homework, picking up toys, taking out the garbage, fill in the blank.
It’s no shock. Universally, children always have and always will be childish (I think it’s in the definition…”to act like a child”). The beauty of childishness is easy to put into words: innocence, playfulness, curiosity, and more. The ugly underbelly of childishness is a self-focus and generally speaking selfish nature. (SHOCK – not my Johnny!) Really, it’s how most kids come wired.
Our goal as parents is to help our kids grow out of childishness and become self-sufficient adults. (Unfortunately, we probably all know someone who never made it out of childhood!) And, while childhood is good and sweet and full of wonderful things, it is neither good for us or our children to let them stay childish.
So, this article is not about parenting but a look at just one area that we always seem to get “pushback” from our kids. Chores.
See if you recognize this. “Hey, I’d like you to pick up your room and straighten the living room and clean up your bathroom.” says mom at breakfast. “Do I have to? We were going to work on our fort today.” says a huffing and pouty 10-year old.
“Yes, you have to. Before you go out.” Mom is resolute. Two hours later, nothing is finished. It’s questionable if anything is different in the room. And, it’s coming up to lunch time. “What have you been doing? I asked you to take care of a few chores and it’s almost lunch and you’re not done.” says a frustrated mom.
“I’m cleaning my room.” ambivalent child moving slowly.
Next time, after the question “Do I have to?”, stop your child right there. Explain that each person in the family contributes to make the house and family run smoothly. Each person has very important things to do and everything works better in the house when everyone’s work is done.
(Give a time-frame, goal, and optional help.) “And, if you stay on task and work hard for 30 minutes, you should be very close to being done. If you need a little direction, come get me.” Small children need only five minute tasks while school-age children are capable of increasing times as they get older.
When small children express interest in helping with the chores, it’s cute and touching. We let them help and then go back to our normal routine. Next time your small child asks to help, find a chore that is easy enough for them to do and make it a regular chore. It may be to search the wilds of the living room and see if they can find any bits of trash on the floor. Or maybe putting all the pillows on the couches as fancy as they can. You could put socks on their hands and have them dust. Or find wild, stray clothes and put them in the hamper.
As your children get older and responsibilities increase, you could have them empty all the garbage into one container, dust a room in the house, take the laundry out of the washer and put into the dryer, clean their bathroom counter, and, of course, clean their room.
Every person whose spouse was never trained to clean up around the house knows that it is an important part of growing up that shouldn’t be missed. Teach your kids how to clean up when they’re young and you’ll find it much easier to navigate those duties when they’re older.