Could Chores be the End of Complaints?


Recently, my kids had become a little too critical, a little too disrespectful and a lot too unappreciative. Complaints were rampant over not getting the right color dinner plate, over not getting sprinkles on their ice cream, over their favorite t-shirt not being clean, over my cooking, over my grocery shopping choices… The list grew and grew.

What had happened? I was exhausted and angry. The last thing I needed was the demands of two tiny tyrants adding to my work load and making me feel lousy about all that I do. A change was in order.

As I reflected on my hurt feelings regarding my children not stopping to consider the lengths I go through to keep them happy and healthy — ice cream and all — I realized I was literally doing everything for them and furious at their inability to help. Turns out, they didn’t know how. I was giving them nothing to do but offer their commentary. How did I go wrong?

Taking it to Google revealed that by not giving them responsibilities of their own, I was not only taking away opportunities for them to learn as well as depriving them of crucial confidence building skills, but I wasn’t allowing them to do enough to relate and appreciate the effort it takes to make a house and a family run.

The answer was simple: introduce chores. The balance required enough to give them responsibility for being part of the household and enough to allow them to earn pride in their contribution without overwhelming them and creating a two-headed monster of further complaints and bad attitudes. This solution was said to offer perspective for all as well as a well needed break for Mommy.

To be honest, the idea of assigning chores was daunting to me. Like most adults, I have a habit of liking things done a certain way and cringe at the timeliness of having to teach (and often re-do) chores that may have been done in haste. I didn’t have time to do all the house chores once, let alone twice. But my role of a parent required me to tackle this challenge.

There are lists upon lists of age appropriate chore charts online so finding chores to dole out was easy enough. And through this, I truly learned how much I was keeping from them. The chore suggestions for my children’s ages of 5 and 7 seemed far too advanced, too mature. Surely they weren’t old enough to vacuum… and put away my breakables from the dishwasher… and clean the windows… and make dinner salad… and fold their own laundry… and sweep the porch… Turns out they were. And they loved it. And they wanted more.

Now with a list of daily responsibilities, they’re learning all the work that goes into having a home, having a family, and generally being part of a bigger unit. They’re gaining life skills and I’m hearing a lots less complaining. They’re proud of their accomplishments and additions to the home. Their eyes sparkle when I comment in their efforts to help out. The icing on the cake could be the irritation in my 5-year-olds voice as he asked why people don’t put their own shoes away so he wouldn’t have to do it. To this, I bit my tongue. All I could hear was BINGO!

The success of this has me now pondering the allowance aspect. I believe their minor chores should be done without financial reward and as an understood role of being part of the family. I prefer gratitude, praise and explanation to their importance. But when does money play a role? And for what reason? I’ve yet to find these answers though their importance certainly looms.

The constant challenge of raising kids can get exhausting but as I relax on the sofa after dinner, watching the kids put dishes away, I think, maybe something is working.


The Beginning
About Brienna McWade

Brienna lives in the great Pacific Northwest where she writes and grows a family. She travels, watches baseball and loves live music. She has previously written parenting articles for and music reviews for Seattle Wave Radio.

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  1. Brandy S says:

    Love it! My girls have chores. Nothing set as a “daily responsibility”, although we have had those, but just a general understanding of what needs to be done and a “hey you, could you do *this* please?”. But, my girls are older (18, 16, and 13). Given the opportunity my oldest will bargain chores for privileges. My middle daughter will do the dishes without being asked because “no one else does them like we do, Mom. And I have to eat off those later”. The third daughter is still finding her way and struggles a bit but she’s getting better. All three do their own laundry and have for years.
    I struggle with just doing it because it’s faster and done “right”. I have learned to relax and just enjoy the fact sometimes even poorly done by someone else is better than done well by me.
    You’re doing great. Eventually the new will wear off and you’ll fight over chores. They’ll fight over chores (who’s doing/not doing what). It’s all part of this weird parenting roles our parents never let on about.

  2. Awesome! I have this conversation often when people discover that my 6 and 4 year old participate and contribute to household “chores.” They especially can’t believe it when I tell them that I don’t pay them to contribute to the family. That said, they do get paid when they go above and beyond by doing a task that is not typically assigned to them. For instance, when my six-year-old son recently wanted to buy a new toy, he asked what he could do to help his mother and I. He gets it, it’s about serving his family.
    But, make no mistake, we still get complaints, criticism, and disrespect. That’s when we have an energy drain and they have to recharge us by completing a chore without payment.
    Love your insight on this.

  3. The BINGO part with your 5yo cracks me up, but at the same time, maybe the coolest part of all this? We can show and teach them all that we know, but when the light goes off in their heads on their own, that’s the special stuff.

    I won’t lie, we are struggling with chores and our boys right now and I feel much as you describe in the beginning of this article. They seemingly take out all of their toys, somehow play with none of them, and yet look at me like I have two heads when I tell them it’s time to clean everything up. The stuff not directly tied to their mayhem they seem to love helping us with – putting away laundry, emptying/loading dishwasher, big cleans to places like the garage/closet/bedroom – but things that are a direct result of them – cleaning up toys, putting away their shoes/jackets, even just getting dressed or just putting ON shoes/jackets – are often knock-down, drag-out fights.

    You’ve got me thinking that we need to involve them in more in chores that we’ve probably assumed they were too young for – sweeping, vacuuming, folding laundry – and bring them into the fold more with the overall care and upkeep of a household. For their benefit and ours.

    From the sounds of it, what you’re doing is definitely working and I’m glad you shared the experience with us. Great writing, great insight, and very glad to have you contributing to the community.

    Welcome and thanks!

  4. Brandon P. Duncan says:

    Very cool. And bravo to you for starting them early (and I dare say when it might actually still feel “fun” to them.)

  5. A checklist on the whiteboard easel is surprisingly effective, especially with my 6 and 3yo. What helps is having a prize at the bottom that they want to work towards.

  6. happiestdaddy says:

    Great post! My kids are still too young for most chores — 2 1/2 and 1 year old — but you’ve inspired me to begin introducing more little things that they can do to contribute.

    Since our house looks like it was decorated by Little Tikes, we need all the help we can get.

  7. JB says:

    I like this idea… Providing MORE structure and expectations of our kids brings them in line.

  8. We’ve done the same thing. It’s great, most of the time. My daughters each have things they like to do, so I plug them into their strengths. I think an unexpected consequence, a nice one, is that they get a little taste of what it’s like for us Every. Single. Day. Great post!

  9. brickwade says:

    Glad to know we’re all in this boat together. Just this past week, with blue skies and sunny warmth, I hit a wave of resistance from the kids on doing their daily tasks.

    I see this being an interesting summer.

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