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You’re Not the Boss of Me – Chores

I had just started high school when my mom went on strike. It wasn’t from a job at a local factory. She didn’t picket outside the neighborhood school. No, my mom’s Norma Rae moment, giving a monologue on the injustices of the situation while waving a list of demands, happened during dinner. Now that I’m a mother, struggling to balance the chores of motherhood, I often think about how frustrated my mom must have been to take such drastic measures and feel guilty for failing to do my share.

Determined to not repeat her mistakes, I tried to implement chores when my oldest was five. My efforts weren’t well received. Annabelle insisted, “I have everything I need,” as I tempted her with rewards. While the part of me hoping to avoid a materialistic child was pleased, the part of me anxious to avoid a spoiled brat was concerned. However, since Braun reminds readers “Everyone knows that chores teach responsibility,” I decided to try it again, following the tips and scripts from Your Not the Boss of Me.

·Spotlight your own chores. Braun writes, “I know it sounds ridiculously obvious, but children don’t see the things that you do as chores; they see those things (like cooking dinner and cleaning laundry) as what defines you.” Frightening, I know.

·Choose chores at which the child will easily succeed.

A two-year-old can put dirty clothes in hamper.

A three-year-old can lay out her outfit for school the night before.

A four-year-old can make her own bed.

A five-year-old can clear her own meal.

A six-year-old can pack her own backpack.

A seven-year-old can make her own lunch.

An eight-year-old can decide when to begin her homework.

A nine-year-old can determine when she will practice for lessons she takes.

·Take the time to teach the chore. But “accept the learning curve.”

·Mind your critical self and never redo a chore. Embrace good enough so as not to turn off your child from doing a job.

·Create an incentive. I combined simple things they could do once a chore was complete with a trip to the Dollar Tree at the end of the week.

·Involve your child in choosing her chores. You’re more likely to get cooperation.

·Have consequences when chores aren’t done. And “don’t editorialize. Let the consequence speak for itself.”

·Be willing to lend a hand. Just “be sure to step in before your child complains about the size of the job. Otherwise, she will quickly learn that complaining works.”

While “each family will have a different idea about what they expect from their children,” Braun argues it’s not the chores themselves that matter. According to Braun, the important part is that children learn to do things not only for themselves but also do their share in the context of the entire family. In actuality, your challenge will not be finding opportunities to teach your child to be responsible but rather dealing with “the learning process – the complaints, the whining, and the avoidance.”

In my case, reinstating the chore chart really helped minimize my nagging, a previous Braun suggestion. All I had to do was refer to it to see quick results. With my oldest now addicted to crafts, she’d do anything for a chance to earn more art supplies. I figure even if I can only keep the momentum going through the summer it should give me the “vacation” I need, which could go a long way in preventing a future strike.

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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