Jul 092014
Washing Up!

Washing Up! (Photo credit: pacovida)

When parents speak of “discipline” they often focus on meting out consequences for undesirable behaviors.  I like to think in terms of what goes in to developing discipline as a personal quality.

It need not be complex.  When parents assign simple daily chores, such setting the dinner table, they provide an opportunity for their children have certain helpful experiences. Whether setting the table, feeding the dog or folding the laundry, developing the habit of completing a regular household chore can contribute quite a bit to a child’s growth and personal development.

  •   Doing a ‘real’ job helps build self esteem by allowing a child to be a vital, contributing member of the family.  Moving from make-believe cooking to ‘the real deal’ can be a mile marker on the road to being a grown-up
  •  Children start to learn that their actions matter and experience autonomy through the successful completion of a household chore.  There’s no denying a mowed lawn or a made bed!
  •  Most household jobs require a level of focus — especially when the person doing that work does not have a great deal of experience.
  •   Contributing to the family through completing one (or more) household jobs can teach a person how to complete an assignment and what good work habits feel like.  It’s an early taste of job satisfaction.
  •  Acquiring a new skill takes work, practice and repetition.  And we get to learn that “practice makes progress.”

Who knew the chore chart could be such a powerful and  important tool  in helping to develop the habit of personal discipline?


May 152012

Have you ever spent time in a household where the younger family members seemed to view themselves as visiting dignitaries, insisting that parents wait on them in a manner that resembles room service at a fine hotel?

Some parents don’t expect their kids to participate in household management: they feel that providing 100% of every aspect of food, clothing and shelter is an important way parents can help children feel loved and secure. 

Others believe that helping kids get comfortable with home management skills a little at a time is an excellent way to help them grow and become more independent.  They feel:

  • participating in household chores increases connection within the family
  • regularly completing chores helps to create a habit of ‘taking care of business’
  • knowing they make an important contribution to keeping things working within the family contributes to kids’ self esteem as well as enhancing autonomy, discipline and a strong work ethic

And if you’re not sure which end of that spectrum makes sense to you gradually get kids to participate in household chores without adding “Nag Kids About Chores” to your already-full “to do” list?  

Lots of people like a chore chart but find it gets stale.  What if part of the process was allowing kids to choose their tasks for the week?

Another helpful hint?  What about a short checklist to help kids know what constitutes successful completion of the task?  A job description of sorts.  (This also seems to take a little of the sting out for parents with very high housekeeping standards.)

Sure it can be easier just to take care of things ourselves… but what’s the long-term value of helping kids if learning to balance “house jobs”  with the rest of life?


English: Broom

Image via Wikipedia

Nov 142011
"I live in a German family and feel just ...

Image via Wikipedia

Helping your kids develop a healthy work ethic doesn’t have to become another dreaded chore on your never-ending parental “to do” list.  Sometimes all it takes is a willingness to  look at household chores with a new eye.

Lots of families choose to get together on Saturday morning to knock out the bulk of their household chores as a team.  Some parents struggle with getting everyone together and handing out assignments.  Others find it difficult to strike a balance between involving the kids and keeping their high housekeeping standards intact.

The important thing is that our kids develop the attitudes and skills they will later need to manage for themselves.  Try not to be too stressed out about “getting it perfect;” maybe thinking a bit about “what they are learning” will make the whole process a bit more fun for all of you.

What can be learned through Saturday morning cleaning dates?  Well, obviously, the ‘hands-on’ skills e.g. dusting, polishing, sweeping and the like.

But what about organizational skills?  And the sense of teamwork and mutual support that comes into play when we tackle real tasks as a family?

There’s something to be said for growing up with an age-appropriate level of responsibility that lets a kid enjoy the  feeling of being a competent, contributing member of the household.  It’s certainly better than sending them off to college believing that the Laundry Fairy is going continue to fill their dresser drawers!

And please don’t underestimate the negotiating skills and creativity that can come from trying to get out of these family cleaning session!  Of course, if we let them, our children will often surprise us with new and better ways to achieve the desired results.

How do you divide up work?  Does everyone get to do the work they most enjoy or does your family work on rotation?  Do you use a chore chart?  Drawing from a jar? Do the kids ever get to decide… well… how to decide?  (Planting the seeds of leadership and time management skills, perhaps?)

Do you use rewards? Subtract “points” for sub-par work? Or get together afterward for fun and FREE rewards:  a walk, a trip to the library, a bike ride or 15 minutes later to bed.

The simple act of  regularly completing chores on can help to develop good lifetime habits: discipline,  a strong work ethic… and empty trash cans!