An open letter to the mom who doesn't want her kids doing chores

An open letter to the mom who doesn't want her kids doing chores
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Dear mom-who-doesn’t-want-her-kids-doing-chores,

I read your recent article, in which you say you’d just rather do your kids chores. If I understand you correctly, this is because they don’t do it as neatly or as efficiently as you would. I have one word for you:


Now that you, Sherlock Holmes, have made this earth shattering discovery about children five and under, let me break a few things down for you:

Statement #1: “When she sweeps, she somehow manages to make more of a mess than there was before she started.”

This statement is true. In fact, several of your statements are true, but the way in which you handle them is the issue. Of course she makes a mess when she sweeps. She’s five. Even at 30, I continue to have that one little line of dust that just refuses to enter the dustpan.

On average, children need to hear a word 50 times before they will understand and use it themselves. Even if learning a motor skill like sweeping doesn’t take 50 repetitions, it certainly takes at least 10. The parent is the model; you demonstrate it over and over. Consider the first 10-20 sweeping sessions “practice.” Perfect segue to Statement #2…

Statement #2: “Am I the only parent who feels like everything is a lesson?”

Nope. Every parent feels like that, and is sometimes annoyed by that fact. But again: DUH.

Don’t you remember writing expository essays in school, explaining how to prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? You can’t just say, “Put the peanut butter and jelly on the bread.” How and with what do I remove the peanut butter and jelly? Where on the bread do I put it? What should it look like: a blob or all spread out?

Kids are learning every second, minute, and hour. If you’re not explicit in your instructions, they will not know how to complete tasks to your liking.

Statement #3: “What I don’t get, however, is why I have to pain myself to teach them how to clean when what they’re doing is not actually cleaning, but usually making more of a mess, which is just more work for me.” You’re losing me, here.

You have to pain yourself, because teaching them comes with the parenting territory. If what they’re doing is not actually cleaning, then YOU haven’t actually taken the (painstaking as it may be) time to model it for them a dozen plus times. No one said that you can’t clean to your heart’s content when the kids aren’t around. But when they are around, you must involve them in age appropriate chores.

Statement #4: “When my kids feel like doing something useful, they usually just do it… Not everything has to be a thing.”

Let’s be clear: KIDS feel like doing something useful (sometimes). TEENS need a “stick of dynamite and a crowbar,” according to Ellen at Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms.

Sure- not everything has to be a thing. But just know that whatever “things” you choose to ignore to teach or implement will not be learned through osmosis. They won’t be learned. Period. Maybe YOU don’t mind cleaning up after your children, but as Ellen says, society will.

Mom-who-doesn’t-want-her-kids-doing-chores: I get it. We all feel rushed. We just want to get things done our way the right way. I find that when I’m getting frustrated with Junior, it’s rarely his fault. It’s because I haven’t left enough time in our day for him to complete chores at his snail’s pace. But having him do for himself NOW will save so much time LATER.

So please, do all of us and yourself a favor: Read “The Parenting Breakthrough.” Or just look at that list of age appropriate chores you posted. Don’t try to do them all at once. Prioritize and attack one a week. I promise- you’ll thank you later.


Social Butterfly Mom

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