Hello Rene,

I’m having a dispute with my husband at the moment regarding our children and the household chores!

Michael was brought up in quite a poor household and is a big believer in working for what you want. I on the other hand, freely admit that I had quite a privileged upbringing (we always had a cleaner, a cook and a nanny)

Now we have three kids of our own – Sebastian, 7, Connie, 12 and Rebecca 14. My husband thinks they should all help out with chores around the house in return for their allowance. The kids of course hate this idea! I on the other hand think our children should be allowed to be kids – there’s plenty of time for work down the line. Besides we can afford to hire some help around the home.

Do you think I’m wrong in thinking the way I do? I don’t want our kids to be spoiled but is it really the end of the world if they don’t do a few household chores?


Carrie, Louisiana

Hi Carrie:

Have you been eavesdropping on the discussions between Buff and me?

This is EXACTLY the same type of disagreement we have over kids and chores. Buff was raised in a home where he had to take on a lot of responsibility at a very young age. His father was a truck driver who had to leave for work at 5 am, his mother worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital and didn’t get home until 7 am. So when he was 8 or 9, he was responsible for getting himself and his younger sister up and dressed for school, make breakfast for them both and then wait until their mother came home so she could drop them off. Can you imagine that kind of pressure on the slender shoulders of a 3rd or 4th grader? Whenever he talks about that time, as a mother I just feel so sorry for him. But without question, those times molded him into the man he is now, independent, strong-willed, hard-working, focused, driven and responsible.

I, on the other had, grew up in a more lax environment; yeah we had chores (do the dishes, take out the trash) but never was I responsible for younger sibling at an age where your biggest worry should be who your best friend is that week. I think as a result I am very laid back about housework and chores much to my husband’s chagrin. I admit that it’s not the best way to go, especially when you have little eyes watching.

If you think a big part of your job as a mother is to prepare your kids for life, as I do, then you have to admit by not requiring your kids to do basic chores you are doing them a tremendous disservice. Think about it, there are more than a few aspects of home life that mirror society. There is a power structure, there are rules to be obeyed and people get paid for the work they do. If you don’t instill in your kids at a young age the concept of being paid for work, how do you think they will fare in the outside world as adults?

You mention you can afford to hire someone to clean the house. That’s because at some point you and your husband understood the value of hard work, did it, got paid for it, (perhaps very well) which is why you can now afford a housekeeper. But if that lesson were not taught to you early on you would not be where you are today. It’s possible you would be flitting from job to job, not understanding why more things were not handed to you or why you actually had to work hard for the eight hours that you were on the clock.  I truly hope you can see this because it really is a cycle.

I have to say I’m totally with your husband on this one; you have to teach these kids how to care for their space, to chip in around the house and to get paid for the work they do. To that end, here are a few suggestions:

EXPLAIN TO THE KIDS: Since it sounds like this might be a tectonic shift in the way things are run at your house, I suggest sitting down for a family meeting and explaining to them what is going to be expected from them going forward. I find that kids (and adults for that matter) deal best when they have all of the information in front of them. So lay it all out there.

THEN PUT TOGETHER A CHORE CHART: You can divide the chores among the three kids, taking into account their ages and ability. But surely everyone can be responsible for his or her own bedroom. Picking up, making sure their bed is made (show them how to do that if they don’t know how) putting clothes in the laundry hamper. You can even assign dinner dishes and laundry to the older kids. Taking out the trash is a popular one in our house, as is cleaning out the cat litter box and feeding both the dog and the cat.

You can make a basic chart using a dry erase board and then place it in a central location where everyone can see it and check off after they have completed their duties. I believe you might even see a wonderful side benefit from this, pride of ownership. They may actually be more invested in their space and keep it clean as a result

I think you have a window of opportunity here and you need to seize upon it before it closes and you’re left with three brats who wonder why the world isn’t catering to them. Give them a broom and get busy.

Good luck mommy.

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