Dear Kid Whisperer,
After reading your blog, my husband and I realized that our eight-year-old was not doing enough chores. She now does the dishes every night after dinner. Now I am second-guessing myself. The problem is that she really, really hates doing it, and gets upset while she’s cleaning up. It takes her a long time. I feel like, as a stay-at-home mom, maybe I should be doing such a big job (she has three younger siblings and we produce lots of dirty dishes). Advice? -Ann, Boca Raton, Florida
Your kid doesn’t like washing dishes? Oh dear, well, it turns out your daughter is not insane. Congratulations.
NO ONE enjoys doing the dishes. I don’t. You don’t. My wife doesn’t. My daughter doesn’t. In fact, one of the main reasons for having your kid do the dishes is SO THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO!
Why? Because being a stay-at-home parent with four small kids is really, really hard. You need to take care of yourself by being the Delegator of Tasks for Tiny Workers. Your family is a team, you and your husband are in charge of said team, and the team needs to get to work!
As humans have known for millennia, chores, especially the unfun ones, build character, ownership of the success of the family, and a feeling of self-efficacy.
Here’s a simple way that I would deal with the grumbling and complaining.
Kid (while putting dishes in the dishwasher): AAAHHHHHH! The horror! The sheer horror! This is a very bad life event in my life which is bad.
Kid Whisperer: Oh, shucks. Complaints about chores stress me out. I’m going to go read in my room so I don’t have to get stressed out by complaints. I can stay around you when there are no complaints.
Kid Whisperer retreats to his room with a good book. He closes the door
If Kid follows Kid Whisperer to the bedroom for an additional complaining session, or if “Cleanin’ and Complainin’” becomes or continues to be habitual, Kid can be informed that the amount of stress caused by these behaviors has risen to such a level that Kid Whisperer needs to have his stress reduced by no longer doing the dishes after breakfast. That job, in addition to the post-dinner dishes, will now also fall to Kid, until such time as Kid Whisperer is sufficiently de-stressed.
Chores are not designed to be enjoyed. They are designed to be completed. If you treat chores the way they are described above, perhaps your children will not be utterly surprised when the real, adult world does not care about their feelings related to hard work.