John Cowan - Don't rob your children

Publish Date
Tuesday, 24 July 2018, 10:21AM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

We need a bigger view of what chores actually are. They are not just a cheap source of labour around the place; they are, in fact, a life-skill training programme. Most parents discover that getting children to do chores does not actually save much time and energy, at the start especially. Training, motivating, supervising and enduring the whining and complaining is probably a lot more tiresome than doing the chores ourselves, and we do a better job. But it does pay off hugely in the long run. Do you really want to be doing their washing and cleaning their room when they are twenty five? Believe me: it happens, often. Even when they move off and live on their own, many young adults bring their washing home for Mum to wash.

This is one of the hardest things for the softer-hearted parents amongst us to really get a grip of: we are robbing our children if we do anything for them that they could do for themselves. It robs them of learning self-sufficiency, how to be contributor, how to shoulder a fair-share.

Doing their own laundry, making their own beds, vacuuming and doing some cooking  – all kids can be doing these things before they reach high school.

Once they get into the groove of  doing chores there is something even nicer than not having to do all the work, and that is seeing the  good things that happen  in their character when they help and take responsibility.

Of course you would help them if they are genuinely stuck – you are not a monster – but you coach them through it. You remind and encourage, but you don’t nag or rescue.  And the battle passes. The only battles which go on for ever are (a) the ones you don’t begin to fight (b) the ones you are not determined to win.  And who are the real winners in this? You, your kids, their employers, their eventual partners, your grand-kids… and probably a whole string of etceteras!

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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