I feel very strongly that if we have the option, it is better to let kids play and not require chores whether for pay or not. The reason I feel this way is that I tried all kinds of options when my kids were young and all of them resulted in battles with my kids and resentment on my part. I switched to focusing on doing the chores as happily as I could, myself, and really focusing on the positive reasons for doing them while moving my thinking away from feeling like I “had” to do them! I did that for a couple of years and during that time my kids had switched their thinking too and didn’t resist at all when I asked for some help. I didn’t ask them to be responsible (without forgetting) for chores – that was a setup for me to be resentful when they DID forget. I didn’t ask them to tackle huge jobs that seemed overwhelming to them – another setup for them to flake and me to be resentful!

I asked them literally to help me – like if I was carrying a laundry basket I would ask, “Hey could you carry this into the laundry room for me while I gather up another load?” Or I’d be IN the kitchen doing dishes and we’d be chatting and I’d just start handing dishes to a child to dry and put away while we talked and I moved on to washing more dishes or wiping counters off, etc.

I got more and more clear over time on why I wanted my kids to do household work! Some people justify it by saying they need the help, but it was clear to me that the battling over it and their shirking and so on was much MORE work for me, not less. I realized that I wanted my kids to help because I wanted them to grow up to be helpful people.

Once I was clear on my real objective, I quickly came to realize that you can’t coerce someone into being helpful if you want them to become a helpful person. If you coerce them, they don’t get the choice to be helpful so they don’t get the good feelings they would if they’d done it voluntarily. And coercion creates resistance (either passive or active) and so they get into the habit of resisting being helpful. Not what I wanted.

So I stopped any attempt to coerce and they slowly became more and more helpful on their own. Eventually, they were doing lots of stuff themselves, without being asked. They all just sort of began doing their own laundry, for example. And they’d clean up their own rooms and often I’d notice someone had cleaned up the kitchen or cleared off the always-cluttered dining room table. And I also helped them. If one of them had laundry going, they might ask me to help by getting it into the dryer. Or they might ask for my help in cleaning their room.

And in the meantime, life was calmer and happier for all of us.


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