The other day I was flipping channels, and ran across one of those nanny shows. You know, where the British nanny comes over to some family here in America whose kids are totally out of control. They come in and straighten the whole thing out in a few days with a few simple rules. Yeah, right. I wonder how long it takes for things to get back to the way they were once the cameras and nanny leave?
But I digress into my eternal pessimism.
Anyway, what caught my attention was that the nanny was suggesting that the parents set up an allowance for chores system, because the kids took everything for granted and were used to having everything given to and done for them. I was surprised because current popular American child rearing wisdom says not to tie allowance to work of any kind. If you are familiar with our family, you know we think that is hogwash.* I think, ok, maybe these nannies do know a thing or two.
So she went about setting up a chore chart for an 8 and 9 year old, who had never done chores before, were completely disrespectful to mom, dad, and grandma, and screamed for what they wanted. The nanny set up three chores for these two kids. They had to:
keep their rooms clean
clear off their dishes after meals
make their beds every day
I was stunned. In our house it is considered a "chore" if it helps out the family at large or takes a job from mom or dad. In other words, picking up their own toys in their room is not a chore. It is simply taking responsibility for their own things. Cleaning a bathroom, doing dishes, etc. are considered chores.
Besides that, my three year old does more around the house than that. She does all of these, plus puts away her laundry that she can reach, helps fold the towels - like washrags and dishrags - and put them away if she can reach them, puts the clean silverware in the drawer, brings down her dirty laundry from her hamper on her wash day, and is always bringing me things when I ask.
That poor nanny probably doesn't want to know what my nine year old does! Not only does she do her own laundry, as well as Ashlynn's laundry, she dusts, vacuums, cleans bathrooms - including scrubbing toilets - sweeps, helps cook, does dishes, pulls weeds, dusts blinds, and folds a good bit of the laundry, along with her sisters. Of course my eleven year old does even more than that!
It seems to me a poor way to raise hardworking adults if we never expect them to work, and working around the house is a built in way to instill a desirable work ethic, which includes teamwork and self discipline. I'm all for kids having fun and playing, being creative and doing extra-curricular type activities. We do those as well. But whether your kids are in a day school or homeschooled, they need to learn early and consistently that they have to pull their share of the load. Not only does this teach them valuable life skills - I think we all went to college with kids who had never washed a load of laundry before - but it will prepare them for a productive adulthood.
It also helps make life a little easier in a house full of short people.
*UPDATE: I said this in the comment section but decided to say it here as well. There are perfectly valid reasons not to tie allowance to chores - that is something for each family to decide, as Kristen said. That's not what I meant by "hogwash."
I have read several articles by experts of one kind or another that warn not to ever tie allowance to chores because of the psychological damage it can cause. They premise that paying kids money for chores will cause them and their work ethic harm. They'll grow up only doing housework if they are paid for it. This, I believe, is hogwash.