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Teaching Your Child Excellence Through Household Chores

Our children have approached their simple household chores with all the enthusiasm normally expressed for a root canal.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


Our children have approached their simple household chores with all the enthusiasm normally expressed for a root canal. This is just another training opportunity for a parent, but you need to be consistent and persistent. Following are some guidelines.

Develop a reward/penalty system for chores that are done on time with excellence. A chore that our boys loved to hate was hauling the trash every Monday to the end of the driveway. This was a significant task; we usually had six to 10 cans, and our driveway is pretty long.

Benjamin and Samuel weren’t getting the job done consistently, so we decided to make their responsibility a bit more clear. We assigned one boy per month to handle this chore, and if he didn’t do it, money was taken from his monthly allowance.

And on top of that, if the cans were not back at the house by sunset on Monday night, a fine of 50 cents per can was assessed. That could involve some serious change—sometimes more than three dollars from an allowance that wasn’t very large to begin with.

Once we instituted the fines system, the trash hauling improved rapidly, although we had to keep the penalty policy on the books for years in order to maintain the excellent service.

This penalty reflected our philosophy that a punishment must involve some pain. But prepare yourself for strong reactions. We’ve heard things from our children like “That’s cheap” and “That’s unfair.” (They will try to make you feel a rung lower than Hitler.) Our response: “You’re making the choice. It’s your choice whether to comply or not to comply. Now obey.”

Another key point to remember is, Make sure your child knows how to do a job. You must show him, step-by-step, what to do and what standards he should meet.

Inspect what he has done. We have accomplished most of this training in the kitchen. I have actually made a joke of this when I take the Rainey brood to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I begin softly speaking to them as though I am Mr. Rogers. They hate it.

“Okay now, boys and girls, we’re now going to talk about what a clean kitchen looks like,” I say. Sometimes, after my inspection, because a pot was not done or plates were lying around, they have to come back three or four times to the neighborhood to finish the task. What torture for any self-respecting teen!

Honestly, the young Raineys historically have not done very well with chores. We’ve often felt like failures as parents in this area, but they must have learned something along the way.

On the upside of the ledger, however, our children have been excellent workers outside of the home when they have become babysitters or take their first jobs. Go figure! All we can conclude is that our perpetual training has somehow worked, even if we don’t always see the results in our own home.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

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