kids

"The simple reason my 11-year-old doesn't do 'chores' at home."

There are parents out there who are parenting with a structured, proven approach – but I’m not one of them.

Those parents, they have reward charts, with stickers and pocket money and privileges which their kids diligently work towards, putting in effort with their homework, brushing their teeth, staying in their own beds, or doing their piano practice.

That is excellent. Kids obviously respond really well to incentive because why else is there a reward chart in most Aussie homes?

But I’ve never been one of those parents, even when my now 11-year-old was younger. I’ve never incentivised him to do routine things, for one simple reason: I don’t believe he should be rewarded for the basic actions it takes for him to look after himself.

The achievement of him doing those things is his god damn reward.

This isn’t just a cost-saving exercise (although, admittedly, that’s a handy benefit). My son is materially very lucky, because I choose to do that – not because he’s ‘earned’ it from me. I realise this may not be a popular opinion – and let me make it clear – I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the structured, reward process – it’s just not how we roll in our house.

This is especially when it comes to domestic ‘chores’.

I, quite simply, expect him to contribute to the home he lives in. And then, a clean, tidy, and well-organised home is his reward.

#sorrynotsorry

Knowing how to polish his own shoes, pack the dishwasher, vacuum, fold and put away laundry, take the rubbish out, put the groceries away, even sort whites from darks  – those are skills this kid will need in life to be a functioning adult.

That’s why we haven’t ever referred to these activities as ‘chores’ that earn anything special – they’re sh*t you need to do to live (or, you know, life skills).

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It’s how I was raised, and it’s how I am raising my kid. I want the thought process to come naturally to him, for him to understand what’s in it for him, other than making me momentarily happy, or some other exciting outcome.

So, you may ask, that’s great in theory – but how do you actually achieve that without meltdowns/a massive sh*tfight?

This is what happens: I say to him, “These are the things we need to do to get to school/work/his friend’s house/dinner on time. We can’t leave the house/go to bed until this stuff happens. Let’s get it done.”

And we divide who’s going to do what, and there’s just no choice about it. Because that’s life.

I want my kid to be emotionally prepared to do those things – not because he’s doing his housemate (me, at the moment) a favour, but because that is what people to do as functioning adults.

He’s not helping me; he’s contributing.

I believe this attitude is one of the greatest gifts I can give him. It sets him up for independence, so he can look after himself. If he lives with housemates, or a partner, if there’s domestic chores discord, or inequality, it won’t be because he’s a selfish sod who won’t pull his own weight.

This isn’t a new thing in our home. From the youngest age, I’ve expected my son to do what he’s capable of doing for the running of our home. That’s included things like putting his shoes away when he takes them off, packing up his toys, and putting his dirty clothes in the washing basket.

As you can see, I feel quite strongly about this – so there’s no way in hell I would pay him to do anything around the home. No one pays me to do it! There are other ways I teach him about money (which is a story for another time, and yes, it’s as hardcore as my ‘chores’ approach is).

If this sounds like ‘child labour’ to you – if you think he’s growing up too fast, or that because I’m a sole parent, I’ve expected too much of my son to be the ‘man around the house’…please.

I’ve thought very carefully about this. Child labour is a term for when children are expected to do things  – such as bring in an income – years before they are adults. Oh, and it’s illegal.

This is my son, doing what he’s perfectly capable of doing, as and when he becomes capable of doing it. And, most importantly, not expecting anything from me in return, because he’s not doing it for me – he’s doing it for himself and his home.

He’s welcome.

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