In my recent post A Parent’s Job, I wrote about how our main job as parents is to raise productive citizens. Much of this training includes chores and personal responsibilities. Some people don’t separate these two things but I do because I feel they are vastly different. So that we are on the same page here are my definitions:
Chores-jobs or activities assigned to an individual that, when accomplished, benefit the family as a whole ie. load the dishwasher, sweep the floor
Personal Responsibilities-jobs or activities that, when accomplished, benefit the individual who did them ie. practice piano, clean your bedroom, brush your teeth
When children are young we do our best to work hygiene and other personal responsibilities into our children’s lives. We often make charts or schedules of things that must be accomplished daily. These tasks, which benefit the child doing them, are teaching personal responsibility and independence. These are things that kids should be self-motivated to do. These are also things that by age 7-8, they should be automatic and no longer require a chart or a reminder from a parent.
I recommend focusing on Personal Responsibilities before ever introducing chores into your family dynamic. In future posts we will be talking a lot about chores including topics like Why Kids Should Do Chores and Should Kids Get Paid for Chores but for today let’s focus on the personal responsibilities.
An Incomplete List of Personal Responsibilities for Kids
- brush their teeth
- comb their hair
- make their bed
- clean their room
- practice their musical instrument/sport
- care for their pet (if it is theirs and not a family pet)
- do their homework
- take a bath/shower
- empty their backpack when they get home and put things where they belong
- put their cup/dish in the sink or dishwasher when they are done
Are you seeing how these items are things that benefit the child more than the family? I also recommend that while a chart that reminds a child of what needs to be done can be useful, especially for younger children who are just starting to take responsibility for themselves, I don’t advocate using a reward system here. Verbal praise should be all that is necessary when a child shows responsibility. Rewarding kids for every little thing they do sets them up for disappointment. They aren’t going to get a sticker, piece of candy or more screen time every time they turn in a school assignment on time or throw their milk carton in the garbage can-don’t let them expect this. Let the reward be knowing they did a job well done.
In all honesty, the fact that I feel the need to write this post drives me crazy but, I know too many parents who are not teaching their children to be responsible for themselves. I know 8-9 year olds who would never think of brushing their teeth if someone didn’t tell them to do it! I know middle schoolers who don’t think about doing their homework until someone tells them to and then there is often a fight over it! This is ridiculous! As a student your #1 job is your education. Doing homework and doing it well is your job and takes priority over extracurricular activities and free time. Parents who don’t instill this work ethic in their kids at a young age are doing their children and their community a huge disservice.
Daily I see moms on Facebook complaining about disagreements with their kids about basic things they should be doing and I have 2 things to say about that 1. stop airing your family problems in a public forum and 2. raise your kids-don’t let them raise themselves. I’ll step off my soapbox for now but as parents our responsibility is to raise our children, to train them and it starts by teaching them personal responsibility. Teaching your child to take care of themselves and their surroundings is one building block to raising great kids.
Do you agree, disagree or fall somewhere in between? I’d love to have a great dialog as long as it remains civil. I retain the right to delete any rude or hurtful comments.