There’s a popular Facebook post that went viral a couple of years ago entitled “I Do Not Help My Wife.” In it is a powerful message about how marriage is a partnership.
“I do not help my wife clean because I live there too… I do not help my wife cook because I want to eat too… I do not help my wife wash and fold clothes because the clothes are mine too… I am not a help at home, I am a part of the house.”
The main idea: one spouse does not “help” the other with housework, but each shares household chore responsibilities. This idea should be applied to children living in the house as well.
Parents, do not require your kids to “help” around the house. They live there, eat there, sleep there, and shower there, so it should be an expectation for them to share in chore responsibilities. Kids should not be told (or begged) to help but should be taught that because they share in the house’s benefits, they should also share in its upkeep. It is not an unrealistic expectation for your kids to fold and put away their clothes, keep their rooms tidy, and clean their dirty dishes.
Parents, don’t let your kids make you feel crazy, foolish, or guilty for even suggesting they do their part. If they pitch a fit over it, the cause might be an entitled and/or ungrateful heart, which is no good to society. Giving kids a vision for why they should share in household responsibilities not only changes the way they view chores in the home but also the way they treat other shared spaces in their lives such as their schools, church buildings, vehicles, and city parks. Developing their character in this area affects much more than your home.
Enforcing this expectation should not be a fight or constant begging (though a reminder or two may be needed). If one household member does not do their part, house benefits are taken away, not as a punishment but as a reality check. House benefits: eating, sleeping, showering, clean clothes, TV, Wifi, etc. Bathroom is gross… no shower for you today. Dishes are left in the sink… no snacks or dessert for you today. Room is a wreck… no Wifi for you today. Clothes not folded and put up… your dirty ones are taken out of the next wash.
When I lived in an apartment, I had to abide by the rules of the apartment complex or the amenities of the complex were taken from me. And I paid rent! Parents, holding your kids to the expectation of sharing in household responsibilities is right and good. It teaches them to be considerate of others and thankful for what is done for them.
If you haven’t been teaching them this, it is not going to be easy to start. But the reward several months down the road of healthy, respectful kids is worth the struggle.
Give the expectations. Set a deadline for when you want something done. Don’t just say “clean your room” or “put up the laundry.” Let them know when you want it to be finished: “take out the trash by 5:00 today.” After the first reminder (if needed), explain the consequences (but don’t threaten) that will happen if the expectations are not met.
Most importantly, there is a spiritual aspect to teaching your children the why behind sharing responsibilities in the home. Philippians 2:1-4 (NIRV) says, “So does belonging to Christ help you in any way? Does his love comfort you at all? Do you share anything in common because of the Holy Spirit? Has Christ ever been gentle and loving toward you? 2 If any of these things has happened to you, then agree with one another. Have the same love. Be one in spirit and in the way you think and act. By doing this, you will make my joy complete. 3 Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. 4 None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others.”
Jesus came as a servant and calls us to serve one another in love, joy, and appreciation. It is natural to want to advance your own interests and focus on your own agenda, but Christ calls us out of what is natural and into what is Spiritual and Christ-centered. Help your kids put as much energy into advancing their own agendas as they do into being considerate of others both within and out of the home.