Get a job
My parents had five sons. We dirtied a lot of dishes. We made a lot of laundry. We created a lot of mess. I’ve only developed a true appreciation for the housework we created now that I have kids of my own.
To cope with our disaster, my mother implemented some rules. First, each of us was assigned a weekday. On that day we were expected to take care of making supper, setting the table, doing the dishes, and cleaning up the kitchen. It was also our day to do our own laundry.
Second, we were all assigned some sort of chore that we needed to accomplish over the course of the week, whenever we found time to do it. For a while mine was to clean the basement bathroom, then it was to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway, depending on the season. Other tasks assigned to my brothers included vacuuming, mopping, cleaning the windows and so forth.
Third, we were all expected to participate in family activities like picking strawberries for jam, canning pickles, or doing Christmas baking as as much as we were able. Only the most pressing of commitments could excuse us from these chores.
Fourth, whenever any of us dared mouth the words, “I’m bored,” she would immediately assign us one of the endless chores that always needed doing. “You’re bored? Well, you can sweep the floor then. Still bored? Start weeding the garden. Not bored anymore? Great.”
I won’t pretend that I loved doing my part of the work around the house, but it was good for me. I learned how to feed myself and to keep things mostly clean and to get things done that needed getting done. More importantly, I learned to do my part in the family, rather than simply assume that everything would be done for me. I learned that being a family takes work and that everyone needs to contribute.
Too few kids learn those lessons anymore, growing into adults who are strangely unable to take care of themselves in even basic ways, but it doesn’t have to be like that. My mother’s approach may not fit every family, but it’s not unreasonable for parents to expect kids to participate in the work of the family to the degree that they are able.
So, find them a job. Teach them how to do it. Let them master it. Then find them another job. It’ll make your life easier now and their lives easier later.
Luke Hill is a stay-at-home father of three boys, aged nine, seven, and three. He has fathered, fostered, adopted, or provided a temporary home for kids anywhere between birth and university. He has taught college courses, adoption seminars, camp groups, Sunday School classes, rugby teams, not to mention his own homeschooled kids.