I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night about the helpfulness (or lack of helpfulness) of her daughters. She was having trouble getting them to help out around the house and do their chores. Her kids weren't motivated by money and had no innate desire to help mom and dad get stuff done around the house. Chores always seem to be a battle with kids. From age 4 to 18, kids don't like to do work. As a parent it's incredibly frustrating to do everything it takes to keep a household running and then have to fight over things like putting your clothes in the dirty clothes and feeding the dog.
There are days when I think it would just be easier to do the chores myself. It would certainly be faster, and I wouldn't feel like an ogre. Yet, not giving our kids responsibilities around the house is a disservice to them. It deprives our kids of the opportunity to learn about the benefits of hard work and the consequences of not doing that work. I'd rather my children learn that not doing their work results in consequences at 8, when the punishment is no Nintendo DS for the day, than at 24, when the result is losing a job.
We need to teach our kids the importance of working hard and doing a good job, not because we want the praise of people, but because God calls us to it. When we put all of our effort into a task, we do it not to gain the accolades of others but to please God. God wants us to reap the benefits of our hard work. Proverbs 14:23 says "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."
Over and over again in his letters, Paul commends those who have worked hard for the Lord. In Romans 16:6, he says "Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you." And in Romans 16:12, he says "Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord."
If our kids don't learn to put effort into the small tasks we ask them to do at home, then it will be difficult for them to "work hard in the Lord" when it comes to the big tasks God sets before them. Giving your kids chores to do helps prepare them for the work God has for them as they get older. It teaches them work ethic and encourages them to pull their own weight in a group setting.
Yet, finding the balance between giving your kids responsibilities and expecting them to do them and nagging them to do them is difficult. We've tried numerous chore systems around here. Some have worked really well but have taken too much time or energy on my part to adminstrate. Others have been abysmal failures all the way around. There's no one system that works for everyone, but here are some things to consider in setting up a chore system with your kids.
- Set the expectations from the start. Let your kids know exactly what you expect of them in each chore you give them. Do the chore with them the first time and give them an example of what you want it to look like when they're done.
- Decide if you're going to pay your kids for their chores. Our kids have chores they get paid for and chores they do just because they're part of the family.
- Make chores a priority. Set a deadline for chores being done. My girls can't play anything until their chores are done.
- Create some type of chore chart, then expect your kids to use it. My girls have a list of things that have to be done every day on a dry/erase board in the kitchen. When the tasks are done, they check off the box for the day. This lets me switch up their chores when I need to. I don't nag to get chores done. My kids know where the list is. If they ask to play electronics or watch TV, I check to see if their box is checked off. If it's not, then I simply say "No" and leave it to them to figure out why not.
- Institute a no complaining rule. If kids are whining and complaining as they do their chores, they're not learning how to do a distasteful task with a good attitude. Institute a punishment for complaining about chores. Ours is that I don't pay for chores done with a bad attitude.
Most of us would never choose to do hard work, yet God often asks us to do things that are hard or that we would rather not do. Giving our kids the responsibility of chores is simply preparing them to work hard for God.