Raising Responsible Children

Chores are also a way of giving children some leeway within a broader framework that lets them practice making decisions and planning a schedule. Ideally, they learn that making decisions requires a bit of thought.

"When there's a choice to be made, pause, check your gut feeling and follow your gut," is the lesson kids need to learn, says Mimi Doe, founder of SpiritualParenting.com and author of 10 Principles For Spiritual Parenting and Busy But Balanced.

All this makes for a child who functions better in the world, according to Rossman, the University of Minnesota professor.

Of course, anyone who has ever asked any child to do anything knows about the inevitable complaints and battles that can follow. Children's complaints are valid. You've got to listen to them. That gives a child a sense that they can disagree — recognition of their complaints validates their opinions and can help equip them for disagreeing with their peers. They still have to do the work that's expected of them but may negotiate for different tasks next week or doing them according to a schedule they set.

It requires planning on parents' parts. Telling kids to do one thing and then following that task with another and then another just makes them feel put upon. You've got to be organized and reasonable in assigning chores.

Having children do chores also does not mean they get done faster. But parents have to remember that it's not just about getting the job done fast, it's about doing things as a family and teaching kids lessons that will serve them well in the future.

"Parents want to get home and just get through the jobs themselves and don't include them in making dinner or sorting laundry," says Keyser. "We miss out. Parents should stop and think, this is my time with my child, what do I want to pass on? It's not only how to make rice or sort laundry but also it's a relationship to work on." The question of allowances accompanies chores and, while children can be paid for some chores, chores should not be tied to pay. The reason? Everyone in the family pitches in to help. Mom and dad don't get paid for making dinner or doing laundry; kids don't get paid for doing what's their fare share.

When Keyser talks to children who do chores, she doesn't hear complaints. She hears children who are proud about what they can do.

Choosing Not to Drink

Fifteen-year-old Jake Alexander and his younger brother and sister live with their dad in the East Bay area near San Francisco. They have plenty of chores to do around the house — folding laundry, cleaning, vacuuming, setting and clearing the dinner table, doing dishes, taking care of the dog and similar tasks.

Jake has far more responsibilities than his friends — who often find themselves drafted to help out when they're at his house.

"They kind of complain because my dad has them do a little work, too. There's always work to do around here," says Jake. "It's good for me because I'm learning how to take responsibility and do all this and it's kind of bad for them because they're used to having their parents do everything for them."

Jake is at an age when he sees some of his peers using alcohol and drugs.

"I've made the choice not to drink at all," he says. He's had the occasional invitation — and turns it down. "If I did it right now, I'd regret it later," he says.

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