At what age should children start having responsibilities?
When should they start having to do chores?
I grew up in a family that always had lots of chores. Partly it was considered a necessary attribute of character building, but primarily it was just part of the lifestyle. That’s the nature of living in the country; on the land, with the animals. There’s always a whole lot of work to do, and even if you get it done today, it’s going to need doing again tomorrow. Life keeps on moving, animals need feeding, pens need cleaning, grass needs to be cut, house tidied, pool cleaned, and fences fixed etc.
A horse or four, a dog, guinea-pigs, a rescued bird from time to time, a cow, maybe some chooks (“chickens” to all the city folk) and even a Nanny-goat. These were all great animals to play with and made for great pets over the years, but they also took work. Lots of hard, never-ending, unavoidable work. Such is the life.
The lesson we had to learn was that these jobs were essential to the lifestyle. Horses couldn’t just be left in the paddock all day with their rugs on in the summer heat just so that we could have a leisurely sleep-in and lounge around watching morning cartoons. We were taught that these things were all part and parcel of having the fun and games that came with the great outdoors.
My gosh did we have some fun and games, days and weeks spent exploring the mountains, building forts and playing epic battles of hide and seek that would span kilometres of countryside. Summers spent in the pool and kayaking down the river searching for platypus and turtles and hidden enclaves. Even with all of the chores, we still had so much fun – it was all about getting the balance right.
It’s because of my upbringing that I consider the role of “chores” to be important for children.
Others don’t always share this same perspective. I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing either. It’s good to bring two very different opinions to the table. Discuss them, argue your pros and cons and settle on a happy medium. Such is the way conversations generally go, and in my own humble opinion, the mark of fairly decent parenting.
As a nanny, I’ve been responsible for a number of children, both boys and girls of varying ages. From the very little to the old-enough-to-know-better. Having the majority of contact hours with these kids each day, I naturally take an active role in their development. And yep, you guessed it, chores and jobs rate quite favourably in my book.
I may not leave lists of never-ending jobs for the kids like my mum did for me (consequently I think this is where my fondness for list making arose – the satisfaction of being able to cross the items off the list after a productive day is a deep rooted joy rivalled by little else). But I certainly do impose and hold certain expectations of the kiddies.
Of course these expectations are age appropriate and set within the realms of reasonable ability. It would be crazy for me to expect Miss Charlie to put a load of laundry on at the end of the day, but I do consider her more than able to keep her bedroom neat and tidy; putting her rubbish in the bin and her dirty clothes in the basket.
Similarly, the older girls should be more than capable to tidy up after themselves, pack away their games and toys, keep themselves and their bedrooms tidy, to remember to feed their pets, to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher (it’s not like I expect them to clean them, gosh no!). They could even take out the rubbish on occasion if they see that it’s full instead of just walking around it, (I mean really? Come on guys..).
I like to make chores fun. I turn them into games, and motivate the children by creating fun charts and offer rewards for timely completion. I don’t think these things are too much to ask for. Nor that I’m expecting too much of them. Nor do I think that they’ll miss out on too much precious “kid” time by fulfilling these expectations.
I do think however, that these duties will instil a sense of responsibility. A sense of purpose. An understanding of action, reaction; of effect and consequence. They should feel empowered, as though they can take matters into their own hands and feel achievement. No more of this sense of entitlement purely because we think we have an inane right.
>>> At what age do you think children should have this responsibility thrust upon them?