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How encouraging chores fosters family contribution

By Deb Theurer, NDSU Extension Parent Educator

After working late one night teaching a parenting class, exhausted, I walked through the door to the smell of hot rubber. I tried to do what I suggest other parents do in emotionally charged moments, I took a deep breath to calm down, but that only made the aroma of rubber even worse. “What in the world happened?” I asked my tween-age son. “I’m doing all my laundry,” he exclaimed so very proudly. “Ok,” was all I could say while my mind was racing to all the could-haves that might-have happened as a result of him over loading the washing machine. He could have burned down the house! He might have been hurt! “Stop, take a deep breath, and relax,” I tell myself. “It’s ok. Everybody is ok.”

So what can I say? I tried to encourage my children to be responsible by chipping in with family chores. My son did just that, so how could I be upset? It turns out, even when you’re an NDSU Extension Parent Educator, like I am, parenting doesn’t always go as expected. Imagine that.

In reflection this was a wonderful opportunity for a teaching moment, not just for my son, but for me too. What did I forget to teach? How much laundry to put in the washing machine at a time. In fact, when I opened the washer cover, I’m not sure there was actually any room for the water! The washer never did quite recover, but my son went on to do many more loads of laundry, even now as a dad himself.

Maybe you have heard your child say, “You just had me to do chores around here.” That could seem like a legitimate reason in his eyes, being a family contributor is a lesson in building responsibility. After all, being responsible seems to be high on the list of what parents want for their children as they grow to adulthood. Age appropriate chores, or “family contributions,” as Jim Fay of The Love & Logic Institute calls them, are so important. They are the foundation for learning to work hard but also they help give the perception of belonging. This family would be in rough shape if you weren’t here to do your part. I like the idea of contributing to the family, rather than doing chores. It feels more like what we do because we choose to, not because we have to. I’ll keep that in mind for my own daily contributions to my family.

Why chores/contributions in the family?

  • Feeling needed and a sense of belonging (a great human need)
  • Learning life lessons like cleaning up your workspace. Their college roommate or future spouse may appreciate it.
  • Helping out gives more time for more family activities.
  • Increases responsibility and reduces entitlement
  • Provides opportunities for success

Making contribution more successful

  • Have age appropriate expectations and remember every child is an individual
  • Take time for teaching and review their understanding.
  • Don’t insist on perfection, they are a work in progress.
  • Notice your child’s efforts along the way.
  • If your child is struggling, don’t step in too quick. Evaluate what they need from you.
  • If your child makes a mistake, stop, take a deep breath and relax.
  • Invite your child to see ways he or she can make contributions to the family.

Do you want more ideas? West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center provides reliable, tried and true information and support for parenting. The Center is located in the Dickinson Public School Hagen building at 402 4th Street W. Call 701-456-0007 for tips or to register for an upcoming session near you.