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Kids And Chores - Make It Easy On Yourself!

My neighbours' kid impressed me the other day.

I was busy painting the backyard fence, when their ten-year old son came out with the vacuum cleaner. He opened the front panel, removed the bag, and put it in the bin. Then he took a replacement bag, fitted it, and went back indoors - probably to get on with the vacuum cleaning!

Fifteen minutes later he came out with a large plastic rubbish bag and put it in the bin too. The young kid was at ease with his chores. He was his usual pleasant self and there was no sign of moodiness or resentment.

Clearly his parents had taught their kids in a way which - I have to admit!- my wife and I didn't teach ours.

When our family was growing we tended to do most of the chores ourselves. We were keen - well, my wife was keen! - to ensure that we shared the chores as a couple.

This approach backfired as the kids were growing. Since there was no clearly defined 'chore chart' and since requests for their help were only made occasionally, there was a certain reluctance most of the time.

Even today there can be the odd dispute about who should walk the dog - and loading the dishwasher, it seems, is one of life's mysteries revealed only to parents.

So here's my advice:

Don't do what we did!

Be like our neighbours and start them young. Bring them up to realise that if you live in a home, you contribute to the home. If they grow into this routine, there's unlikely to be resentment or ill-feeling - provided the chores are allocated fairly, of course.

What about parents whose older kids have got off lightly?

Well, you could continue to slave after your charges - but why not start a new regime?

One approach often suggested is that you appeal to the teenager's sense of duty, highlighting their obligations to themselves and others.

But psychologists tell us that approach is the LEAST likely to work with teens.

It's a fact of human nature that people tend to respond more when there's a clear benefit for themselves.

So why not stress the benefits of getting involved in the household chores? Help them see it as an opportunity to develop confidence and independence. When they go off to college or move into a flat or apartment, how are they going to feel if they can't cope?

How are they going to look in front of friends if they can't cook, can't wash and iron their clothes, and can't tidy up after themselves? If they learn these skills, they won't be stranded!

If your kids are coming to household chores after years of having things done for them, you may need to use a reward system to help them over their inertia. No, not gold stars and trips to the zoo!

Rather, 'Mow the lawn and you can have the car on Friday night,' or, 'Let's see what you can do around the house and we'll review your allowance.'

And remember to show them HOW it's done. You may want to consider working with them the first few times, especially if it's a task they've never attempted before.

This approach has worked well for my wife and I, who are late-starters in the 'chores for kids' stakes.

Remember, if things are done out of a sense of 'duty', people tend to be ambivalent. On the one hand they may feel obliged to get on with it, but on the other they may resent it - and that builds up ill-feeling.

Use rewards by all means, but it's better, I think, to help our kids realise that doing the chores is part of their development. That way they're more likely to do them willingly.

This may be a tad idealistic, but this approach, when blended with an attractive reward, can lead to a well- deserved, easier life for hard-pressed parents.

Happy parenting!

Why do some parents and children succeed, while others fail? Frank McGinty is an internationally published author and teacher. If you want to develop your parenting skills and encourage your kids to be all they can be, visit his web pages, AND

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