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Father and child with folded clean washingYes really.  I know, it’s so much trouble, it’s hard to do, it’s often much easier to do it all yourself.  And of course if you do it all yourself you can feel all self-righteous, you can complain, you’ve got an excuse for being tired and grumpy, and you know it’s being done RIGHT.

Hmm, something doesn’t sound quite right about all that does it.

The people I’m talking about delegating chores to, your children, your partner, or others with whom you share a home, NEED to share responsibility for household chores.  Sure, they might not realise this until they have left and had children of their own or been responsible for running a home of their own, but they do.  And if it’s your children, it’s your job to provide the leadership they need by making sure they do share in the chores.

 Children need to learn to help with household chores because:-

- It teaches them basic life skills so that they can care for themselves when they leave home.
- It teaches them consideration for others.
- It teaches them responsibility.
- It teaches them that their parents are not their personal servants.
- It teaches them to appreciate what you do for them.
- It gives them a sense of pride and is good for their self esteem.
- It teaches them a basic work ethic.
- It gives them a sense of belonging.
- It brings the whole family closer together.
- In encourages them to take pride in their own home.

Having other household members share the chores will also benefit them in the same ways, though it can be a lot trickier to handle than with your children.

I’ve been openly telling my children for a while now that their chores are as much for their own benefit as they are to help me, and hopefully they’re starting to understand.  I do see a noticeable improvement in the atmosphere in the house when everyone has been pitching in.  They feel pleased with themselves, the house is in better shape, which we can all enjoy together, and I feel pleased with myself for providing leadership, which is not something that comes easily to me.

Although it’s hard work to co-ordinate everyone’s efforts, guide them, teach them, supervise them, check on them, put up with the objections and complaining, put up with things not being done exactly as I would prefer them, I do feel better myself when I have done it.  That’s because I feel a sense of pride myself in my own ability as a parent.  I feel I’ve done something more useful to them than if I did all the work myself.

Whether allowance or pocket money is included in the chores arrangements is a tricky issue.  On one hand, I think it’s reasonable to withhold pocket money if chores are not being done.  On the other hand, they should be doing some chores regardless of whether or how much pocket money (allowance) is being paid.  Pocket money should not be the reason for doing the chores, and it’s good to discuss this idea with children who are old enough to be receiving pocket money.

There is a perception that a parent who is not doing paid work is totally responsible for running the home, and for some families this is practical, but it can be taken too far.  I’ve seen examples on TV (Wife Swap, Trading Spouses) where children and partners in a family did not lift a finger to do anything in the home, not even putting their own rubbish in the bin or taking their own dishes to the sink.

This is where issues of respect come into it.  Behaving like a servant invites others to treat you that way.  It not only shows lack of respect for yourself, but also a lack of respect for those around you – do you really see them as helpless and incapable? 

Allowing others to share in the household chores shows that you have confidence in them, that they are worthwhile, that you are worthwhile and have other interests in your life apart from cleaning, cooking and housework, and generally makes everyone feel more connected as a group.  It allows an environment where people have respect for each other and have a sense of personal responsibility.

A common ruse employed by children or partners reluctant to help out around the house, is the old “I don’t know how to do it, and if necessary I’ll demonstrate that by doing it badly or wrong” trick.  It’s easy to spot and easy to overcome.

But it takes work, and means you can’t actually let go of the chore, you have to still be responsible for it until you have reached the point where you can confidently hand it over or delegate it, knowing it will be done to a reasonable standard. 

So, when you find the dishes all put away in very strange places (too strange for the “I don’t know where anything goes” excuse to be remotely believable), simply spend 5 minutes with the child (or adult), showing them where things go, and explaining why they go there.  If you are speaking to an adult, make sure you are showing him or her the respect another adult deserves, and taking into consideration that they may have an opinion about where is the best place to put things.  At the same time, when there is an established place to put things, they should continue to be put there unless there has been discussion about changing it.

When you find the vacuum cleaner has been put away with a full dust compartment, you need to take the time to show the person who did it how to correctly empty it, and explain why it’s a good idea to always empty it when you’ve finished using the vacuum cleaner.

When you find the dishes are greasy, you need to stay with the person next time they wash the dishes, and explain that it’s best not to put the frying pan into the water first, or have a meeting and demonstrate to the whole household how to rinse and stack dishes and why it’s not good to put dishes into the water that’s sitting in the greasy frying pan, and how hard cereal goes when you don’t rinse it off and it has a chance to set.

It can be boring and annoying to take the time to do these things, and it can also be really hard work to do it without yelling at people, in a respectful and positive way, without resentment and so on.  But to make the effort is very beneficial to you as well as to the other members of your household.  You’re improving your people skills, facing up to your own attitude issues, and setting a really good example in a number of ways.

Chore sharing is easier when everyone knows what they are doing, but you don’t have to have an entire system worked out covering everything in order to be able to start working on it.  With family members having many different activities to fit things around, it can be tricky, but you can always spot a moment on the go when you can ask the next passing child to please empty the kitchen bin or clean up after the dog or bring their washing to the laundry (laundry room).

Reminders will be necessary, and you can make them part of your own routine.  My morning routine includes reminding my family to bring out their washing and make their beds.  I don’t always remember, but things go better if I do, and sometimes they inform me they have already done it!  That’s always a bonus.

How successful you will be with delegating chores will depend on how successfully you manage to have a positive attitude towards it.  Don’t fall into the trap of complaining about your family as a way of releasing your general negative feelings about yourself or about anything.  You’re the grownup.  You need to set the example of how to behave, and if your children are displaying a bad attitude, guess where it’s coming from!  The responsibility always comes back to you.

So ignore the frustrating and continuous hold ups and obstacles, and calmly continue to insist that your family share in the household chores.  It’s for their own good!  Be confident, be respectful, be calm and persist.  It will pay off.

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#1 Tricia 2010-04-11 08:42
Hi, I have two tenaged sons 16, 15 how do I get them to help out after all these yrs. of me doing for them?


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