The day comes when every child eventually learns that Santa Claus isn’t real. It comes as a dawning awareness of age. Or, it may come abruptly with seeing Mom wrapping the presents from Santa or from a playground tattletale. Do you remember that first moment of emotional panic? I had that the other day with my 12-year-old, although not with Santa Claus. She uttered the words “allowance” and ” family chores.”
The conversation went something like this. “Mom, do you know that some of the girls on the team get paid to do chores at their house?? They call it an allowance.” I held my breath. “I told them that at our house if I don’t do chores than I get stuff taken away!”
My darling daughter has wanted a phone for quite a while. Children often use the fallacy that everyone has one or is doing it to argue their case. In this case, proof for her argument was that the youth minister sends Tuesday text messages to everyone in the youth group – except her because she doesn’t have a phone. She was right. However, those youth also attend brick and mortar schools and she attends school at home. Plus, the vast majority are from two-income households. Unfortunately, another phone line is not a budget priority at our house.
The desire to fit in is strong and my daughter saved up from several major celebrations plus we matched her funds for her to get an iPhone. In effect, it is a glorified iPod that she can use when she is near free Wi-Fi like at home or at church. As her parents, we were excited too. We don’t have a landline, so her phone allows her to iMessage or Facetime Audiocall us if she is at home and we are not. Love this.
Chores + Phone = Leverage
Most importantly, it gives us leverage. When something is really important to you, you are motivated by lack of access to it. Certainly, taking away television privileges did not have the same motivating impact as her phone privileges.
Yes, so even though she paid for half of her phone it is still a privilege to use it. That privilege is earned by completing your homework, doing your chores, and behaving respectfully toward the rest of your family.
Yep, that is how we roll at our house. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and for her to ask for an allowance. She didn’t even hint at it. Panic averted.
#1 Family Chores are a Family Affair
Everyone in our house has chores because we are all part of our family.
For example, is your kitchen arranged to make it easier for your children to participate? Growing up the plates and cups were on the upper shelves and the heavy pots and pans were in the lower cabinets. Younger children cannot reach plates on upper shelves without getting onto your countertops. Consequently, if they are going to set the table then you are going to have to get the plates down for them.
Empower them! In our house, we turned things upside down. Plates and bowls are in a bottom cupboard. Plasticware is in a bottom cupboard. Plastic cups are in a bottom cupboard. Glass cups are up high, but only because we ran out of room down below.
My children can reach everything they need to get the table set from an early age. Plus, those are the things we use most and consequently fill up the dishwasher with as well. So, guess what? They can easily put things in the dishwasher away too. Double score! Currently, it is the four-year-old’s job to do the dishwasher. Things he cannot reach he puts on the countertop and I put those away. Bless yourself and them by training them young!
#2 Family Chores Grow Faith & Submission
Chores will be resisted. Your child will not always like doing chores. Your child will say “I don’t like this job. I want another.”
Here’s the deal. We assign jobs in our household by skill level. A case in point is his biggest sister & the cats. She doesn’t like having to take care of the cats. Cleaning the litter, the litter pan and sweeping up their mess are not a pleasant chore but it is necessary. To add to that, she has to take care of their food and water. Necessary chores are part of life.
In our house, we emphasize that chores are not something you do to help out mommy and daddy but rather what is expected as part of a family. Mommy is not the maid, neither is Daddy. We all are a part of the family, consequently, we all help to keep the family running. Indeed, chores are part of the service that we give to one another.
#3 Family Chores Allow Us to Serve One Another
As Christians, we are called to serve one another. If that is true in the family of God, how much more so is it lived out in the Christian family. We are not just brothers and sisters by blood or adoption, but rather through the blood of Christ. We might act one way toward a sister, but we are also called to treat that sister as a sister in Christ. What a mighty change in perspective this shift in heart and head can have!!
Do we serve one another is the house of God because we will be rewarded? Our Pastors are paid because of the amount of time that is devoted, but the rest of us are not. We are not better Christians because we have served, although serving with the right heart can help us become better Christians.
If we serve not for money in God’s house, then neither should we do so in our homes. Above all, service is done first for obedience and eventually (hopefully) for love.
#4 Family Chores, like Life, Aren’t Always Fair
“I didn’t ask who made the mess, I asked you to clean it up.” My children hear me say this often. This is a life lesson in and of itself. We will clean up lots of “messes” in our lives that aren’t ours. It isn’t always fair. It isn’t always just. We live in a fallen and broken world. Thus, sometimes we clean up messes because the person isn’t capable yet themselves.
Additionally, we love that person and we train them until they are ready. Likewise, older siblings can help younger siblings pick up their rooms as an example of this. A large task is less overwhelming when we have some help with it. Plus helping others teaches us humility and patience. Admittedly, sometimes the work just has to get done and done efficiently.
Sometimes we cry out to God in frustration for the messes we are dealing with. Messes that might not be our fault. God calls us to obey and serve His Kingdom by helping to make things right again. Do we consider ourselves to proud to obey in humility? We are called to practice joyful obedience. When we ask our children to do chores around the house, to pick up messes that aren’t theirs, or to do jobs that they are not excited to do: we teach them obedience, humility, and perseverance.
#5 Chores for Kids are a Spiritual Disciple
Finally, monastic life teaches us that chores provide for a break from mental toil and can help us spiritually. For the men and women who devote their lives to focusing on prayer and worship, chores are also a part of the rhythm of their lives. Not only is it practical, after all, food doesn’t just appear on the table. Gardens have to be tended. Animals need to be cared for as well. Bread must be baked. Monastics have to rely on their own communal labor to supply for their needs and undergird their lives of prayer and worship.
When God created the world, everything was perfect. God created man and then God placed him in the garden
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15. Before the fall, before the time when the work become hard and sometimes unfruitful, before when life was perfect: the man was working in the garden. We are created to labor. The act of physical labor makes us stronger. Physical perseverance consequently aids in mental perseverance.
Our joyful completion of chores is not just a gift to our family but a gift to God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” Colossians 3:23
Chores for Kids: Training Hands and Hearts
Training your children to do chores takes time. Sometimes it is truly quicker to do something yourself. This might be easier for us in the short term; however, we lose out on long-term gains. We lose out on the co-laborers with us in our home. Our children lose out on the practical and spiritual training.
It takes more time to train the attitude as well as the skill. First, we begin with our attitude. Are WE resentful of the mundane tasks that we have to perform in our home? Do we do our work begrudgingly with a grumpy or bad attitude? We may say we love our family, but do we lovingly serve them? The attitude of our children’s hearts cannot be forced but we can model for them and direct them. We can apologize when our attitude falls short, and gently point them to Christ and His word when their attitude falls short.
Finally, we are brothers and sisters of Christ living together for the glory of God and His Kingdom. Brothers and Sisters, let us serve one another.
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