The Importance of Chores for Kids
If students learn that they can make their own socks (grow their own food, build their own computers, etc.), they also have learned that there isn’t much that they cannot do. In learning of this kind, students self-produce self-esteem.
In an article in the Huffington Post, a medical anthropologist studies the Waldorf System. It wasn’t like he wasn’t prepared: “If you’ve heard anything about Waldorf schools, it might be that Waldorf students play outside a lot even in the rain, or that classrooms have chalk boards still, and hardly any computers. You may know, too, that academic lessons don’t start until children are seven. I knew all that when my study began. What shocked me instead was a palpable lack of recognizable ‘positive reinforcement.’ It surprised me not to hear the teachers say ‘good job.'”
One task 5th graders are given is, as a team of two students, to knit a pair of socks. Not an easy task! “The main point is not learning to knit per se, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. If students learn that they can make their own socks (grow their own food, build their own computers, etc.), they also have learned that there isn’t much that they cannot do. In learning of this kind, students self-produce self-esteem.”
We don’t have a Waldorf school near me, but I started thinking that doing chores can provide the same skills that build self-esteem, not to mention help out with the crush of housework that is overwhelming for just me and my husband. At BlogHer, I was fortunate to meet with Dr. Laura Jana at the Lysol booth, and she preaches the same gospel.
It happened for her when her sons started to expect their cleaning lady to clean up their messes. This expectation that “cleaning is what others do for me” really bothered Dr. Jana so she implemented some changes:
- Money needs to have value. She no longer buys her kids what they want. She buys basics but if her kids want, say, a fancier sneaker, they must pay the difference. Her kids also are expected to pay for their own entertainment like going to the movies.
- She pays an allowance for chores. Using the cost of a cleaning person as a rubric, she pays $25-30/week for each child who contributes 2-3 hours of cleaning each week.
- She taught each child very systematically how to do their cleaning job. One son is responsible for cleaning the kitchen including loading and unloading the dishwasher and cleaning the counters and floors. She demonstrated how to clean the counter items to the island, and then wipe down the counter.
And does she think that chores build self-esteem? Absolutely. It pays other dividends like personal finance, time management, and life skills for living independently.
As for me, I am slowly training my kids on doing chores. We started about six months ago with just one task per child. They get paid for doing their chores in the form of an allowance. I pay by their age. $1/year. My 12-year-old makes $12 when she does her chores which currently consist of just loading the dishwasher each night. I unload it for her. I have added in the laundry (sort, wash, dry but not fold) recently thinking that she would have to do her own laundry at sleep away camp which turned out not to be necessary.. She is also expected to put her clean and folded clothes away in her room, bring her dirty dishes to the sink and clean her room.
My 10-year-old makes $10 a week and puts away the leftover food after dinner. We also taught her to do laundry. She is also expected to put her clean and folded clothes away in her room, bring her dirty dishes to the sink and clean her room.
My 7-year-old son feeds the dog twice a day and picks up the TV room. He has the same expectation, uncompensated, to put away his clothes, clear his dishes, and tidy his room.
Our recent conundrums are:
- Do you get a raise if you now have to do more chores? Answer: No.
- What does the kid pay for versus the parent? Their allowance is small to expect them to pay for upgrades and still have money to save or donate. I don’t want them to think money is just to be spent. Answer: So far, I pay for style upgrades but I grumble about it.
- If you have to remind constantly (i.e. nag), does doing the work still count? Answer: Yes.
What about you? Do you pay an allowance? Is it tied to chores? What are your kids’ chores?
p.s. Here are some great books by Dr. Laura Jana for kids and parents!
It’s You and Me Against the Pee … and the Poop Too! by Julia Cook and Dr. Laura Jana, illustrated by Anita DuFalla
Another take on potty training, especially for boys, is to make this into a competitive potty game pitting the young potty trainer against the pee and the poo! My son, even after potty trained for years, would still sometimes poop in his pants when he was deeply preoccupied with playing. Competitive games just somehow appeal more to boys than girls. The idea of pee and poo tricking the young potty trainer is also a clever way of making failure not something to feel badly about. Most potty training books stress listening to your body with lots of unproductive sitting around. I like this more active take on potty training.
Melvin the Magnificent Molar by Julia Cook and Dr. Jana, illustrated by Allison Valentine
It’s true that the baby molars stay in kids’ mouths longest, yet are the hardest to keep clean and this story gives the molar the starring role it deserves! I also like how the dental instruments are introduced with kid-friendly descriptions that our pediatric dentist also uses: Mister Thirty (suction), Miss Tickles (polisher), Squirt Gun (water from the dental instrument), Scaler (scaler described as “broom for teeth”), and Magic String (dental floss). I wonder why pediatric dentists don’t all have this book in their waiting rooms?!
Food Fights by Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu
Food can be an epic battleground between parents and children of all ages and this parenting guide helps keep food issues in perspective by offering sane and realistic advice on how to deal with food battles from juice boxes to snacking to food allergies.
Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality by Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu
If you are not lucky enough to have Dr. Jana as your pediatrician for your first baby, then this is the next best thing! She offers practical advice that supports both mother and child in this comprehensive guide.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.