Living with Children: ‘Kids, do your chores because I said so’

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QUESTION: Concerning chores, another expert recommends giving a child a certain number of chips, like poker chips, every month and if he or she fails to do a chore or doesn’t do it properly, you take a chip away. The chips can be used to purchase clothes and other things the child wants but doesn’t necessarily need. The child can also make lost chips by doing extra chores. My wife and I are searching for a way to get our kids, ages 6 and 9, to do some light lifting around the house. What do you think of this system?

ANSWER: I’m not for paying children to assume responsibility in the home. A child of capable age (beginning around 3) should be carrying his or her fair share of household responsibilities. The chores in question should be done because the child is a member of the family, period.

Tying chores to reimbursement creates the impression in the child’s mind that he isn’t obligated to do his chores if he doesn’t want, at least for the time being, the reimbursement that’s being dangled in front of him.

Today’s parents are generally uncomfortable with exercising what I call a “Because I said so” authority in the home. That hesitation/aversion traces back to early-1970s parenting pundits like psychologist Thomas Gordon, author of one of the best-selling parenting books of that decade. Gordon maintained that parents who adhere to a traditional parenting model will inflict apocalyptic psychological damage upon their children.

Gordon’s contentions, none of which were supported by research or historical evidence, were taken up by the entire mental health professional community. Aided by the mainstream media, Gordon and his disciples completely altered America’s approach to childrearing.

Fifty years into this social engineering experiment, it should be obvious that the paradigm shift in question has been nothing but bad for children, families, schools, and culture.

“Because I said so” authority is nothing less than legitimate as affirmed by the fact that since the paradigm shift in question — from “Because I said so” to “Will you do it, okay?” — every marker of positive mental health in children has declined, and significantly so.

The children who are doing the best — emotionally, socially, and educationally — are those whose parents are not playing by the new rules, which boil down to “Keep your children happy at all cost.”

My wife and I awakened to common sense — which had been coaxed into submission during my graduate school experience — when our kids were 10 and 6. One expression of our revived common sense found two children who had been on “family welfare” doing nearly all of the housework and for no reason other than we told them, in no uncertain terms, they were going to do it.

Did they like the new regime? Absolutely not! They complained bitterly. But they did their chores and they will tell you today that their household responsibilities were indispensable to their successful adulthoods.

By the way, when one of our children asked, “Why do I have to do this stuff?” we answered, “So that you will have that much more reason to leave home when it’s time.” And they did!

[Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com. Copyright 2022, John K. Rosemond]

1 COMMENT

  1. Yikes, I wouldn’t take the advice of this grifter (“Pay me money so I can bless you with my superior parenting knowledge.”) who dismisses 50 years of childhood psychology research, and whose own lauded sense of success on child-rearing was driving his children from his home once they were of age.

    There is in fact a well-researched middle-ground solution to this issue that is neither the poles of authoritarianism nor permissiveness that are suggested in this article: authoritative parenting. It consists of setting strict boundaries and actually acknowledging the reality that children are also human beings with their thoughts and feelings. Part of that involves actually answering the “why” questions kids have. Would you as an adult accept a “because” as an answer to something that seemed unreasonable or unfair that someone else was trying to make you do? No! And so it also is with children.

    He comes so close in the article himself! Instead of “because I said so,” one could say, “Because it’s important you know how to do these things when you’re an adult,” or “Because when we tidy up our things, it makes things easier to find when you want them,” or “Because when we help around the house it makes everyone else happy.”

    While I would agree that paying kids to do chores is not necessarily the best solution, there are other ways to help motivate kids. You can make household responsibilities fun by turning them into a game: “Let’s see if you can throw the clothes in the hamper from here!” You can provide a child a sense of autonomy by giving them choices: “Would you like to tidy your clothes or the toys in the living room first?” Sometimes setting limits like “No cartoons until the dirty clothes are put up,” are also a way to get them moving.