Chores Make Better Kids

We all know the routine. Ask a child to make his bed and pick up his dirty socks.  And hours later, the blankets are still twisted up on the bed, and the smelly socks still give the room a musky perfume.

Rather than nag more, I sometimes think: “It’s easier if I just do it myself.” Easier, but by doing our children’s chores, are we missing a chance to help them become better people?

Absolutely, says Dr. Christopher Johnston, a licensed clinical professional counselor in Glencoe who has practiced more than 25 years on North Shore.

“A family requires each person to be responsible for certain chores in order to make the home work,” Johnston says. “Character development implies that you are aware of your surroundings and the people who take care of you.”

So, as the new year takes hold, it’s time to resolve to make your life better, by helping your children become better people, too.

Children on the North Shore tend to have a lot done for them. So they may not appreciate those who put in the long, hard hours of work like cleaning staff, gardeners, repairmen and others who keep our homes beautiful and well-maintained.

But when kids don’t contribute to chores around the house, they may never learn the tasks of independent daily living. “This leads to a sense of what I call false entitlement,” Johnston says. “Children begin to believe they are entitled to live in their home and world and not give anything back.”

Five years old may seem young to start, but Johnston says even little ones can help. “They can put their toys away and their books back on the shelf,” he says. Teenagers can help clean the garage, basement and maintain the car they drive.

The hardest part of prompting your kids to clear their dishes, make their beds or take out the garbage is that parents have to take the heat for awhile.

“Parents have to be willing to deal with kids saying, ‘I’m not doing it,’ ” Johnston says. “They also have to be patient and lower their standards a bit because the result won’t be like the cleaning lady’s.”

My sons may not shovel the driveway smooth or iron out every wrinkle on the bed. But if helping at home makes them better people, I’ll lower my standards any day.