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The Importance of Chores

Chores as Teaching and Consequences

Chores teach kids responsibility, and the skills to start, work at, and complete a job. Most parents believe that kids should help out around the house, even if it's just taking responsibility for straightening their own rooms. Some families assign specific jobs, and some ask their kids to help as the need arises.

Other parents don't expect their kids to do any household work at all, feeling it's not worth the agony of trying to get their kids to do it, and then having to do them over themselves because they were done so poorly. This is a valid point of view, but these parents should figure out alternative ways to have their kids learn responsibility.

Chores are used by some parents as consequences for misbehavior. Remember that consequences need to fit the three R's; they need to be related to the misbehavior, respectful to the child, and reasonable in their scope and duration. As long as a chore fits within these parameters, chore away! For example, if a school-aged child scribbles on the walls, an appropriate consequence would be to clean the wall and, perhaps an adjoining stain or two as well. It would, however, be unreasonable to have her clean the whole house. It would be disrespectful to have her do it in front of all her friends. And it would be unrelated to have her mow the lawn.

Chores as Earning Power

Some parents pay their kids for all the “work” they do. More often, parents pay their kids only for special, optional jobs. Paying your child for average, maintenance types of tasks strikes me as putting your entire family into an economic model. I don't like it. Your child will be participating in family life because he's being paid for it, not because he's a member of your family community. Of course, if you have an extra job, and your child is interested in making some money, why not hire him?

If you're going to hire your child, make sure that you:

  • Establish your job expectations ahead of time, both in terms of what your child will do, how well he needs to do it, and how much he'll be paid.
  • Treat him like a professional on the job, as much as possible.
  • Pay promptly and fairly.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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