Sometimes people refer to me as my children’s chauffeur. There is a resemblance, I suppose. I drive them all over town for school, sports, doctor appointments and birthday parties, but it isn’t my job. I do it because they are my kids. I also feed them, help them with homework and keep our house mostly clean. I don’t get a paycheck for my work. I do it to play my part in our family. I’m not the only one with responsibilities to our family. My children play a role in our family, too. We don’t reward their actions with an allowance.
I like to think of our family of five as our own little team. Each one of us, despite age, does our part to help keep things running smoothly. Among other things, our oldest daughter helps with the laundry, our middle helps load the dishwasher and even our 3-year-old helps clean up. There are no cutesy chore charts hung on the fridge or reward stickers doled out. We ask them to do something, and we expect them to oblige. Their reward is clean clothes, dishes to eat from and an orderly house.
They aren’t perfect. Sometimes we have to ask a few times – or even more than a few times. However, we use them all as teaching moments rather than an opportunity to earn a reward.
We want them to understand that their role is important to our team and not worry about what’s in it for them as individuals. Doing chores isn’t about getting something; it’s about helping all of us. It’s a very simple illustration of Aristotle’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Chores are more than just getting a dollar for feeding the dog. They are learning that if they don’t feed the dog, the dog goes hungry. Today it’s about feeding a dog, but tomorrow it may be about completing projects at work or taking care of their own children.
Through these tasks, we are actually giving our children so much more than a bit of spending money. We are teaching them valuable life skills. When they go to college, who will come do their laundry? When they move into their first apartments, who will remind them to take out the trash? They need to understand what is expected of them and not expect someone to do it for them – or pay them for day-to-day tasks.
I’m trying to raise competent adults. Part of that involves knowing how and when to clean their toilets and vacuum their floors. They won’t know if I don’t teach them. Just like other things they learn, like math and writing skills, we don’t reward them with money. Instead, we see these skills as invaluable life lessons.
My children, however, are not my servants, and their work doesn’t go unappreciated or unnoticed. We find different ways to thank them that make them feel special.
Recently, my oldest daughter had to take on a bit of extra responsibility when her sister broke her arm. I appreciated her work and the help she provided to me, so I got her a book from her classroom book order as a surprise. She was so thankful. I explained why she was getting it and thanked her for going above and beyond, especially without complaint.
By providing our kids with special treats like trips to the movies, ice cream on a weeknight or a small gift here and there, they learn not to expect something for their actions, but that we do appreciate everything they do.
Farmington Hills mom Rebecca Kavanagh says allowance should still be given. Read more about her viewpoint on allowance here.