Director's Corner: On Chores

The word “chore” refers to a routine task, but is often used to talk about an unpleasant one. Unfortunately, it seems like most kids, and many parents, favor the second definition, a sure recipe for nagging and resistance. At school, we take the view that performing chores not only teaches important life skills related to household clean-up, but also fosters a sense of personal responsibility and work ethics, while increasing competence, self-esteem and “teamsmanship.” So, at the end of every school day, it is chore time. Students pick up their classroom, sharpen pencils, wipe tables, shelve library books, sweep the decks... In the front room, chores are limited to a few minutes, in the back room they are a bit more elaborate, in the middle school, chores also include doing dishes and cleaning bathrooms. As the professional school cleaning crew and parent volunteers very well know, there is still plenty to clean after chores are performed, but we value the process, and periodically re-teach how to perform the chores to improve the product.

In true Magnolia fashion, students are consulted over the way to assign and rotate the chores, lists are generated, instructions written down (to include a bit of literacy in the process), and, once in a while, students are shown how to create their own environmentally friendly cleaning products (to include a bit of science).

If your child does not yet do chores at home, it may be time to start. The youngest kids may be the least efficient helpers, but they often are the most enthusiastic apprentices, eager to make “grown-up” contributions to the household. Also, establishing chores early as a routine limits later resistance. Just assign developmentally appropriate chores, spend the time it takes to teach the task (show, do with, watch do, let do alone), provide plenty of appreciation and up the ante as your child grows up.

If you cannot rub the negative out of the word “chore,” consider other words such as “family service.” And to minimize nagging over chores, consider chore charts or chore wheels that help your child visualize what there is to do and give him or her some independence as to when to get it done.