Ask Scary Mommy: My Husband And I Are In A Heated Debate About Giving Our Kids Chores
Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when you and your partner disagree on just how much your kids should pitch in around the house — if at all? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
My husband and I disagree about giving our children chores. He thinks that they will have their entire life to do chores, and right now their job is to ‘just be kids’ while we handle ‘all the adult stuff.’ For the most part, I agree. I don’t expect them to be our maids by any stretch, but I think contributing to the household (taking out trash, loading dishwasher, sweeping, etc) is an essential life skill that should be made into a habit now. I fear we are going to raise entitled, lazy humans if we let them assume that all of the working of running/maintaining a household will always be done by someone else. He’s adamant that they will figure it out, and for now we should just ‘let them be.’ Help! What do you think?
I mean with this attitude, I hope your husband is ready to tackle all of these chores that he thinks his kids shouldn’t have to do.
Oh, he’s not? Well then. Time to come back to Earth, dude.
I think you can find a middle ground here. I hope.
Asking kids to contribute to the upkeep of a household (that they actively help to mess up, and also benefit from) is not infringing on their childhood. The chores you listed above––taking out the trash, loading dishwasher, sweeping––are not going to send them to the therapist’s chair as adults waxing poetic about how they had to do everything and were unable to reap the benefits of ‘just being a kid.’
Like you noted above, as long as you are not asking them to be your literal maid, expecting them to pick up after themselves and tackle an age-appropriate household task is called…parenting.
I was raised by my grandparents, who for various reasons tried to compensate for my lack of traditional parental figures by just letting me be, similar to the stance your husband has taken. I wasn’t asked to take out the trash, or run the vacuum, or put dishes away. And then I moved into the dorm for college, and had to have my roommate show me how to do laundry because I had literally never once done a load of laundry before. When I was babysitting as a teenager, one of my much younger charges had to stop me from putting the wrong soap into the dishwasher to avoid an overflowing, bubbly disaster.
While my grandparents were (are) amazing, and I was lucky to have them guide me through my formative years, I really should have been held to a higher standard in terms of my contributions to the household. Clearly. So, feel free to use my embarrassing shortcomings as an example of why kids need to learn the basics of housekeeping, and doing their fair share, now.
Don’t just take it from me. Take it from the experts:
“When you break chores down, they are activities of daily living,” Danelle Fisher, M.D., a pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. tells Parade. You as an adult need to tend to yourself, your home, and your family. It teaches you that responsibility as a child, that things don’t just come to you, but you have to work for it.”
Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult” puts it even more candidly for Tech Insider: ”By making them do chores — taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry — they realize I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life. It’s not just about me and what I need in this moment, but that I’m part of an ecosystem. I’m part of a family. I’m part of a workplace.”
And, the Harvard Grant Study. A longitudinal study that tracked over 250 Harvard sophomores (all men, blah) for over 75 years concluded that happiness and success seemed to stem from two elements: love (obviously) and work ethic (oh!). The latter part is where you should have your husband focus when having this discussion. Your kids are obviously loved, and now they need you to help them hone their work ethic, so they can be well-rounded adults. Their future partners, colleagues, and friends will thank you.
Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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