Rules and Chores

July 22, 2011

Everywhere we go, there are rules. The mall, at school, at work, at other people’s houses, etc. Our children learn early on that rules of acceptable behavior changes from place to place. We can yell and scream at the park but not at the grocery store. We teach our children to use ‘inside voices’ at the appropriate places and when it’s okay to run and play. The child whose parents have not taught them how to behave in the classroom (by taking them to the library) can have a rougher start at school. Ask any kindergarten teacher.

There seems to be a trend in parenting nowadays, where the parents want to give the child what they want, because they fear that their child will not like them.

Will not ‘like’ them? We’re not talking about Facebook ‘like’, we’re talking about genuine “my child won’t like me if I make them clean their room”.

Knock. Knock. Helloooo, parents? I’ve got a secret. Your children love you. They might not like to do chores and be made to follow rules and clean up after themselves, but they will respect you because you’re teaching them what’s expected of them. As parents, that’s what we’re supposed to do.

We don’t want to be the bad guy but we are also not here to be our child’s best friend. We are here to teach them how to be good, productive adults. The ironic part is that by teaching our children socially acceptable behavior such as being responsible, they end up loving us more, respecting us more, and yes, even liking us.

Just like different places have rules, we can have different rules for our children as they grow, as long as the expected behaviors are the same. We don’t want to ‘favor’ one child over the other but different ages and different genders will probably end up with different rules, and that’s okay.

For example, bedtimes. Just because the 12 year old can stay up until 9p, does not mean the 7 year old can stay up until 9p (his bedtime is 8p), but the 17 year old can stay up until midnight.

“So, how do I get my child to clean his room? I’ve told him it’s his space and I just close the door, but I can’t stand it.”

Well, it is his room, but it is your house. You can dictate what is acceptable behavior in your house. When they move out, they will get to decide what is acceptable behavior.

There can be rules such as:

  • no food in the bedrooms
  • bring out your laundry everyday

And with each rule, there should be a reasonable consequence:

  • caught with food in the bedroom = dishes after dinner
  • doesn’t bring out laundry = gets to do their own laundry or folds the laundry including towels

When we set limits and rules, we also have to be prepared for when they falter. Having reasonable expectations and consequences spelled out ahead of time can prevent the emotional reaction that parents can have when their child does break a rule. You have to be prepared to follow through with the consequences. If kids continue to be defiant, consider removing privileges such as:

  • video games (physically take them out of their room, or away from the family room) Nothing says mom means business when the XBox gets put in a box.
  • cell phones get taken away. (I’ve had people gasp when I explained that my son only got a phone so that I could take it away. It’s a privilege to have a phone, not a right.)
  • Grounding (There’s nothing like the child having to tell their friends that they can’t go because they’re gounded. Their friends will give them grief over it, but that’s okay.)

Most importantly: Don’t forget to thank your child when they do their chores without being told and when they’ve finished their chores, even if you did have to remind them. We all like to be recognized when we work hard, and by telling them thank you, they learn how good it feels to help. Positive reinforcement is a wonderful thing.

Parenting is hard work. Our children need limits. They need chores. Chores help them feel good about themselves by contributing to the house and by helping you. It also teaches them what acceptable living conditions are according to you, the parent.

You have rules and chores because you care. Your child will thank you for it.

Topics: Kids


What happened to trust, freedom and responsibility? I do not impose bedtimes, rules, limits on anything. My expectation is that she learn to self regulate.If I took my daughters (10 yo) cell phone away, I wouldn't be able to get a hold of her.If I restricted her access to video games, she will not learn on her own how long she should play, and how long is excessive.If I told her she could only use the computer for 30 minutes a day, she wouldn't have time to look up things she is curious about on Wikipedia, answer her email, chat with far away family and friends or learn online.My daughter has no curfew, she comes home when she thinks its the right time to. She has no bedtime, she falls asleep when she is tired and feels its a good time to. She's never been late to school.Parenting is hard work because parents make it hard on themselves by imposing so called limits and rules that their parents imposed on them, thinking its a good idea. It's not. Its outdated. Give them freedom to make their own choices, trust ...
Hi Amber, Thank you for your comments. We all have different parenting styles. The recommendations that have been made are in response to what science shows about how the brain develops. There is too much to list in a blog comment on human brain development, but we do know that secure bonding and attachment from newborn creates happy, healthy independent adults. I am not saying that there are not other methods that won�t create the same results, but the fact of the matter is is that the brain of a child through puberty cannot think they way an adult�s brain can. This is an excerpt from: Steinberg, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at Temple University, says that development of the executive functions, along with other changes during the teen years, combine to create important modifications in how the brain functions during adulthood.During adolescence, there are changes involving the way the brain processes rewards and pl...
Science needs to have a long hard talk with reality, and see if the stress levels and quality of life of those poor parents instituting rules, restrictions, ensuring they are followed and then dealing out the logical punishments that follow (I mean really, can we keep the kids out of the cookie jar? I don't bother. She knows she will get fat if she eats too many).Assigned chores just create resentment, defiance and undone chores. My daughter just naturally helps out with housework. It just makes sense that she help as part of the family, and she does. I'm greeted with "can I help you make dinner?" instead of "whats for dinner?". If I instituted chores, she may not feel likely to help, do them badly, and resent having to do them.There are societal rules, and consequences, and those are the ones she looks out for. She can swear freely at home, but is aware it's frowned upon in public, so she self regulates.I think giving kids the freedom to think things through, use their own common sense, a...
It's obvious that Amber wants other people to raise her children. If she is not giving her daughter limits, rules and boundaries, then she is also not giving her her values. She is letting her daughter make her own rules without a foundation. Her child will get that sense of direction from TV, video games and the unsupervised Internet. When you don't give your child boundaries they feel unloved like it doesn't matter what happens to them. And if she does not praise just as she does not discipline then what attention does the girl get? If she is not getting positive attention from a parent then she will do negative things for that attention she must crave.
@JeanetteIt does take a village to raise a child, and it's true I am not exclusively raising her. I do not give her boundaries out of a lack of love, I do not give her boundaries as an experiment to see what she sets for herself. When she asks if she can do something, I ask her what she thinks. Work it out, does it make sense? Is it a good idea? Its a dialogue, not a "because I say so, you cant". She does not get much attention unless she asks for it, but she does not need to "act out" to get it. I have never presumed that I am the most interesting person in her life and do not force her to spend quality time with me. She is invited to spend time with me, and she does sometimes decline. Sometime she even invites me to spend time with her. I know my way isnt for everyone, or every kid. What I am trying to relay, is that there are other ways, we don't need to all follow the rules/restrictions/boundaries/punishments/chores/autoritarian approach and sometimes it's OK to eschew convention and s...
After reading the posts and comments, and as the mom to three under 12 kids, I would say that even though the two methods being discussed here are very different it is possible to combine them. For example, our kids also do not have a "set bedtime" each evening, but we all usually end up in bed at the same time (especially during the school year). Not staggering a bed time can have a down side, but it can also have the effect of creating a together time where the older kids can help my youngest get ready and then I read to everyone a chapter or two of some exciting book (or series) we are working through. Admittedly, the four-year-old often doesn't make it.There are rules in our home, with three kids so close in age it's paramount. But, we really keep them general in nature in order to provide them with opportunities to make choices within these expectations. For example, they are expected to contribute to our house in terms of chores, but not some specific routine or for compensation. They can...