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The Secrets of Children and Chores

"You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you." Albus Dumbledore speaking to Vernon and Petunia Dursley in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

As a mom who parents as I do, one of the questions I am asked the most by friends and acquaintances is this: "How do you get your kids to do chores?" It is also the question, as a mom, that most leaves me scratching my head. But for those who really want to know, here is how we did/do it.

1. Train them while they are young.

Both of our children began picking up toys as soon as they were old enough to get them out.  We helped. We trained. We taught. We were the example.  And yes, we picked up 5 to their 1 and that's okay. If you begin at a young age, you can do this. And no,it's not easy. We have one child who will do what we ask (with or without some grumbling) and one who will do what we ask (with or without an hour-long tantrum). 

What if you didn't train them when they are young?  Read on!  It's never too late to start (that is one of the secrets to life, btw).

2. Give them age-appropriate chores.

Our son began helping to empty the dishwasher when he was 4 and his specific job was the silverware - yes, including the sharp knives. Before that he may have helped put away dish towels or other things, but this is the chore that stands out in my mind as part of his daily duties. He now does the entire dishwasher minus the silverware which his sister does (less than joyfully, I might add). He is now 14 and his chore list looks different. Our daughter is 10 and she has the same number of chores but they are not as difficult. (I'll post our chore list tomorrow!)

3. Just say no.

You know what I see as the biggest obstacle to your children helping in the home?  YOU! I know. It's judgmental.  I'm okay with that.  Let me give you an example what saying no looks like at my house. My kids:  "Mom, can I watch TV?" Me: "Did you finish your chore list?" My kids: "I'm tired." Me:  "Me too. Too tired to cook your dinner, take you to the football game, schedule your playdate." My kids: Silence, then "okay".  My children are 14 and 10.  They are healthy, have all they need (not all they want), they attend two of the best schools money can buy and my husband and I bust our tails daily and sacrifice to make that happen. So, there is no laying around the house, watching TV, playing Barbies.....until the work is done.  Period. This. Is. Not. Negotiable.

Our children are loved.  They have been nursed and rocked and cuddled.  They have been read to every night (our 10 year old still starts the night with a book in our bed and is then carried asleep into her room by my husband). They are doted on by grandparents and aunts and uncles.  They are also polite and responsible and the children that other parents want to come over in hopes they will set a good example. And, I believe they will continue to grow and thrive and be fantastic and successful adults who will care for others and serve their communities due to the way we have raised them.

A few weeks ago I trimmed several bushes around the house and the Sun and the Moon (mainly the Sun), carried the branches down to the road for pick-up. This is how we roll. If you do one thing for your child to see him or her on their way to a successful future, I truly believe this is it. Give them chores, stick to the list, and just say no.​


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