In Defense of Chores

Filed under: Opinions


There used to be a time when paper routes and babysitting were as a part of the teen experience as pep rallies and Clearasil.

In Arizona, where I grew up and where my parents still live, my mom tells me that the middle class teenagers in her suburban neighborhood don't do the menial jobs that my siblings and I did to earn spending cash.

Gone are the fliers that used to come to her door at the beginning of each summer advertising lawn and babysitting services by entrepreneurial youths. Instead, the teens in her neighborhood have all the spare time and gadgets of their wealthy peers. Like rich kids of another generation, an increasing number of middle class kids also spend their summers free of chores and responsibilities; while they luxuriate by the pool or socialize incessantly on their laptops and cellphones, foreign-born maids clean the house and a team of subcontractors swoops in once a week to the mow the lawn and clean the pool.

Leaving aside the heated debates about illegal immigration and the wage distortions created by cheap labor, I wonder what the long-term impact of all this leisure will be on the resourcefulness and work ethic of America's middle class kids, the demographic our nation has always depended on to power our economy. Are we really doing them a favor by liberating them of work and chores? Or are we setting them up for failure when they enter the cold, competitive global market?

Presently, I don't have teenagers in the house. My six kids are all under the age of 10, and when you have a family this size, chores just come with the territory. Without the reasonable cooperation of my family, I would become the resident slave and my ability to help them do the fun things they want to do would grind to a halt. As a result, my kids are expected to take out the trash, help hold the baby while mom cooks, pick up their toys, keep their rooms in order and be generally helpful when they see the need. In my book, "Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood," I advocate for chores and discuss the family bonding and character-building benefits they bestow on children. I even offer a chart of age-appropriate chores because I believe it needs to start early.

Of course I deal with the expected complaints from my kids and the occasional mom-guilt that comes with the territory, but in general I feel pretty sure that I am doing the right thing. Kids who have chores and responsibility will grow up to become better roommates, co-workers, spouses and citizens.

If "because I said so" stops working with your kids, tell them they are doing it for their country. To get out of the economic mess our country is in, we'll need a young work force that's as hard working and industrious as our nation has ever had.

Related: Parents Hate Parenting Because They're Doing it Wrong

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.