As a kid, I thought of chores as punishment. Clean my room? What did I do to deserve this?! As a dad, I’ve doled out chores with a similar attitude. And for that attitude, young lady…chores!
Consequently, chores were completed by me/are completed by my children with – well – something less than enthusiasm. There’s more of a chain gang spirit to the effort than anything approaching a kind contribution to the family.
Some recent reading and conversations, however, have helped me shift my thinking a bit, and I’m in the process of assigning (and completing!) chores differently. Three things are key to this endeavor.
We Need You
In place of the typical “You’ve gotta do this” or “Here’s the consequence of your poor behavior” chore assignment, communicate chores as an important, needed way for your kids to contribute to family life. Chores may not tap into our deepest giftings and skills, but – hey – the trashcan needs to be emptied, bathroom sinks need to be cleaned, laundry needs to be folded, grass needs to be mowed, etc.
Part of family life is leaning on each other, and there’s something rewarding – even (especially?) for little people – about knowing others rely on and recognize your contribution.
Think Long Term
I naturally want an assigned chore to mean less work for me…and that may not be the case for a while. Learning to do a new task well takes practice, and even learning to practice the completion of a new task takes, well, practice. Consequently, I’m working to think longer term, recognizing that kids’ “help” may not look like it for a while…but the exercise of attempting new things and receiving constructive feedback will – eventually – pay off for both parties.
A central dadcraft skill is that of storytelling, and that’s true on the chore front too. Few things loosen up an annoying chore assignment like hearing about dad’s mowing mishaps or pet poo pick-up problems. The benefits of such tales are two-fold: your chore apprentices are encouraged that you too once struggled to master new skills (however mundane) while you’re reminded that, well, you too once struggled to master new skills. Hopefully patience with each other is one of the results.
Chores remain chores, of course, but hopefully the application of these three things will make them less onerous and a bit more rewarding…for your kids and you.
Working hard on chores build grit, a critically important character trait to instill in kids. And don’t forget that when you do chores and serve your household, they’re watching.
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