Skip to main content

Why Kids Should Do Chores and How to Get Kids to Do their Chores

"Clean up, clean up, everybody every where. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share." We sing this in English in our house, because to the best of my knowledge there isn't a Spanish equivalent. Probably because from the time they learn to walk, it is expected that Latino children learn to help around the house and they don't need a little jingle to coerce them to pick up after themselves. That's probably why children in Central and South American tend to be more willing to help with chores around the house than their American and European counterparts.  

We are in the interesting position because my husband is from Guatemala, so we are trying to raise our children more aligned to the Central-American tradition. We have two biological little ones, ages two and four, and we foster our niece, age 10. It might come as no surprise that the two little ones, who embrace their Guatemalan-American identity completely, enjoy helping out with the chores. Whereas with the older, more Americanized one, it's a constant battle. She sees chores as well, chores. The little ones see chores as an opportunity for connection and to spend time with us. We try to instill within them this collectivist culture ideal--that chores are a natural part of being a member of a household, and that everyone chips in. 

But for our 10-year-old niece, we sometimes have to include a few added incentives. 

We don't believe in allowance or a reward system for doing chores, because they are the responsibilities of everyone. Instead, we motive her with what she yearns to do--spend time on technology! The rule in our house is no free time until chores are done. Before school and after school, our 10-year-old is expected to make her bed/tidy her room, do dirty dishes and put clean dishes away, make sure the animals have food and water, and clean up and sweep under the kitchen table after each meal. She is also expected to do her own laundry, and her homework/school work, of course. Once all of those things are done, she has unlimited screen time. Because she wants to get to free time quickly, she gets her chores done. And if something is not done, she might lose screen time for the day.

For the little ones, we invite them to do dishes, laundry, sweeping and general cleaning tasks with us. They even have a kid-sized set of dust broom and pan, broom, duster, and mop. Having tools at their own size and inviting them to complete chores with us helps to develop their intrinsic motivation. They are expected to clean up their toys after playing with them, and before we transition to the next part of our day (meal time/nap time/outside time/bedtime, etc...) and to clean up any spills or messes that happen. 

We also rely heavily on checklists, so everyone knows exactly what needs to be done each day. The children have great satisfaction checking the boxes by each item on the to-do list, and they hang on dry-erase sleeves in the kitchen, where everyone can see them, reach them, and access them. 

Children are innate helpers. We as Americans mess that up, because we want everything done perfectly. So instead of welcoming the help of our two-year-olds and four-year-olds, we send them to play as we get the chores done, quicker and more efficiently, but alone. This is where the Central Americans get it right: they have the utmost patience with their young family members, and instill in them the joy of life-long helping because they don't stifle it or dismiss it when they are younger. If children are always sent to play instead of expected to help, they won't want to help!  

Since we as the parents set the tone for our home, I make sure the kids never hear my complaining or frustration over having to complete household chores. I want them to know that although it might not be the most fun part of the day, it's an expected part of growing up, and if everyone pitches in and does their part, it's doable.


Popular posts from this blog

Why my Children Won't Believe in Santa Claus

Tonight all across the world, children are waiting for Santa with bated breath. They've made lists of wants and perhaps written letters addressed to the North Pole, baked cookies, set out milk, and dream of sugar plums dancing in their heads. But not my children. Well, maybe the dreaming of sugar plums part, but definitely not the white beard, chubby and plump right jolly old elf part. Even before my two biological children were born, my husband and I made the decision to not deceive them with the narrative of Santa, and in fact, not give them any gifts at all on Christmas. Intrigued? Infuriated? Here's why... My husband is from Guatemala and was raised Jehovah Witness , and one of the tenants of that faith is a strict adherence to not celebrating anything here on earth. This includes not celebrating Christmas or birthdays , and not giving gifts to commemorate these days. While he isn't a practicing Witness right now (instead we attend Celebration International Church

Why My Daughter Won't Be Attending Preschool

There's no doubt that the first five years of a child's life are formative and indicative of later success throughout their lives. As an educator, I know preschool can play an important part in the cognitive and social development of toddlers. However, in this unprecedented time of pandemic life, social distancing and remote learning, sending your child to preschool is a personal decision that varies by family. And our family has decided not to send our daughter to preschool.  The research on the benefits of preschool is irrefutable, and there have been incentives for families to enroll their children in preschool since the 1960's and 1970's. Many BIPOC families have actually been targeted and encouraged to send their children to preschool, with HeadStart and other free programs available. According to a DOE report , access to high-quality preprimary education can be the key that unlocks education equality across races, geography and income.  With all of my experience a

Apple Picking without Discrimination

In New England, apple picking is the quintessential fall fun activity. I actually didn't know going to an orchard to pick your own apples was a pastime until I moved to Boston, but after I went with my youth group during my freshman year of college I was hooked, and I've been apple picking with friends or family every fall since. I have beautiful memories of walking up and down rows of apple-laden (or sometimes picked bare!) trees, trying to climb to the top and always searching for the shiniest, juiciest apples. Even one of Francisco and my first dates was apple picking.  In my 15 years of residency on the East Coast, I've visited a variety of apple orchards in New England nearly every autumn and a few years ago, I thought I had finally found the perfect place. Tougas Family Farm had everything you wanted for your perfect fall afternoon--apple and pumpkin picking, fresh apple cider and donuts, kettle corn, a petting farm, a hayride, and a playground for the kids. But it al