When I was a kid, we had daily chores. My job was to wash, dry, and put away the dishes. I also had to sweep the kitchen floor and wipe down the stove, tables, and countertops. This was my job, every day. I didn’t get off for weekends or holidays, and nobody had to tell me to do it. I just knew that every night, before I laid my head down, the work had to be done. And that wasn’t my only job. On Saturdays, me and my sister were violently awakened by the thunderous bang of my father’s very big fists on our bedroom doors. Shaken out of our slumber, we knew what the human alarm was for. It was time for Saturday chores. My weekend chores consisted of dusting the living room and dining room furniture and cleaning the bathrooms. Does any of this sound familiar to you? What type of domestic torture did your parents put you through as a child?
Well, though it may have felt like torture initially, after a while, I became quite fond of my nightly kitchen duty. I would put one of my favorite tapes into my Walkman Cassette Player; usually Envogue, Bell Biv Devoe, or LL Cool J. I would turn my headphones up real loud, and jam endlessly while I worked. Reminiscing about those days as an adult, I can see that chores were more than just help to my hardworking parents. My mom was a Maryland State Police Officer who worked full-time, attended the University of Baltimore for her Bachelors, and still managed to prepare delicious dinners for her family every night. My dad was a savvy, well-dressed banker, who worked night shift, so he got his sleep during the day. As a teenager, another chore I inherited was to iron his shirts before he woke up to get dressed for work. He wore a suit and tie every night, and a slightly wrinkled shirt, thanks to my less than superior ironing skills. Looking back at that time, I understand that doing those chores taught us several valuable lessons:
- Helpfulness. Parents are human, but they aren’t superhuman. Though we’d like to think our parents have it all together, the truth is, they need help too. So, the entire family should pitch in. Especially the kids, who benefit from the hard work that moms and dads do every day.
2. Discipline. Doing something every night, whether you want to or not, is a valuable life lesson. Without discipline, we may never be able to reach our goals or become responsible members of society.
3. Responsibility, which helped mature us and because we saw the fruits of our labor, i.e. a clean kitchen or bathroom, that helped to build our confidence as kids, because we saw that we could do something, all on our own, and we felt accomplished.
4. Life skills. If parents don’t teach their children how to clean up after themselves, then they’ll never do it. What if you never learned how to wash the dishes, do the laundry, or clean your room. You would be having a rough time trying to be an adult. Chores are teaching moments.
But, somewhere along the generational lines, we’ve forgotten to teach our own kids these same important skills. Nowadays, kids don’t have chores, and if they do, they’re sparingly or once a week at most. Nowadays, kids whine when parents ask them for a favor. They procrastinate when you ask them to do the simplest of tasks. Moms and dads are going to bed totally exhausted from working full-time and getting no help from their privileged highfalutin brats. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. They’re smart, confident, and creative. But when they’re not taught that these cereal boxes don’t grow on trees, and that this house doesn’t clean itself, and they see us doing all the work, they begin to have an air of entitlement. They start believing that this work is the job of the parents, and that their only job is to have fun. But what are we teaching them? If all we had to do was have fun all day, the bills wouldn’t be paid, the house wouldn’t be cleaned, the grass wouldn’t get cut, and no dinner would be made. Maybe this type of living is possible for some, but for the large majority of us, we have plenty of other responsibilities. And we must teach our kids that life involves work, and it’s not always fun. It’s just a fact of life, and the sooner they learn it the better.
We’re raising kings and queens and working for them like we’re the servants. We even help them clean their rooms. They don’t have any chores. They sleep till noon the weekends, wake up and play all day. When you ask them to wash the dishes, they look at you sideways, like you spoke in a foreign language for the first time. They don’t even have manners anymore. When people hold the door for them, they don’t say thank you. They think we’re supposed to cater to them. And the moment we say NO, all hell breaks loose. We’re cheap, we’re not being fair, we never buy them anything, their life is boring, blah blah blah.
I’m telling you, we aren’t helping these kids at all by allowing them free reign all day. We need to teach them the way our parents taught us. It seems like every generation gets more and more lax. My dad tells us stories about spending summers on his grandparent’s farm; raising chickens and hogs and plowing the fields. The only chickens our lazy little bums are catching are at KFC, and that’s only if you’re buying. They eat our food, watch our cable, and enjoy a free chauffeur service 24-7. Yet, they complain when it’s time to sweep the floor.
Kids do need time to play, and be adventurous, but they also need time to work and cultivate themselves. If we continue pampering our kids, they’ll never learn to be responsible, productive adults. Instead they’ll still be living with you, expecting you to cook their dinner and do their laundry. Instead of those tiny cute Spiderman undies, they’ll be big nasty Spiderman drawers. And there’s nothing cute about that. They won’t be able to keep a job, and they’ll always expect you to bail them out of every poor decision gone wrong. And that’s no good for you or them.
It goes without saying that chores should be age appropriate and not given as a punishment, but used instead as teaching moments and done with consistency and most of all…Love.