No, wait, that’s not right.
We have no charts, star stickers, chore lists, threats, or bribes. I’m not even sure my 5-year old knows the word “chore.”
And yet, our house is cleaner than some people’s, messier than others, and doing alright.
Dylan doesn’t care if his toys are all over everywhere.
Which of our preferences should take priority?
I don’t assume that my way goes just because I’m an adult.
Because the living room is shared family space, when I want it picked up, I do it myself. I let Dylan know when I’m picking up so he can help if he wants to or move any projects out of the way.
Dylan’s room is 100% his. Just like my room is mine. Wouldn’t it be pretty strange if my child nagged me to clean my own room? I leave Dylan’s room up to him.
Laundry, meal prep, lawn care, and dusting just aren’t on most kids’ radars. And why should they be? Childhood is meant for play, for motion, and for intense focus on fascinating new things.
Frankly, most chores aren’t a good use of their time.
On the other hand, I’m in a stage of my life that’s about caring for another person and building a home and a life where my child can thrive.
I don’t mind doing chores “for” Dylan. It’s one of the ways I care for him, and I treasure it.
Let’s talk about adults for a minute.
Some people eat off of paper plates so they don’t have to do dishes. Or they hire someone to do dishes for them. Some people wash their dishes as soon as they’re done eating. Others wash dishes as they need them. Some people half-ass doing dishes. Other people are meticulous about it. Some people eat out all the time and never have dishes to do at home.
I could describe doing laundry the same way. Or any other household chore.
Additionally, some people opt out of some chores all together. Dusting and making beds are two popular ones to eschew. Personally, I don’t fold laundry. I put my laundry away in baskets and on hooks so that 2 weeks worth of laundry takes me 5 minutes to put away.
As adults we get to make our own decisions about which tasks to do, how to do them, and how often to do them.
Children should have that same ability in their own lives.
When first hearing of this no-chore philosophy, people imagine a child who never lifts a finger to help. And here’s where it gets interesting.
It’s 100% true that Dylan doesn’t have chores. And yet, I ask him to help me clean all the time. My requests are casual and non-coercive. He is free to give his own authentic answer. Sometimes he says no. Other times he says yes. Sometimes he cleans things on his own because he wants to. He even does things sometimes purely because he knows it’ll be helpful to me.
Recently he’s started vacuuming the living room. He’s only 5, and I would never have asked him to do that. But he was excited to try it! And now every time I pick up the living room he gets the vacuum out to participate.
Not a sticker chart in sight!
That’s the kind of cooperative life I want to build.
~~ Issa Waters
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