Monday, March 9, 2015

The Value of Chores

Rinsing dishes and loading into dishwasher
Chores, chores, chores, what a bore! Or are they? As adults we often view chores as drudgery. We often miss out on the many benefits that doing these daily tasks can have not only for ourselves but for our children. It may seem old fashioned to expect children to do daily chores but in this age of computer time, hands-on work and experience is more important than ever. We may be tempted to put academics and schoolwork above having home responsibilities, but this ignores the benefits of physical work.

So what are the values of doing regular chores?  First and foremost, chores show the child that he/she is part of a larger community and thus has responsibilities not only to him/herself but to the group at large. This community is interdependent and each member’s effort is important to keep everything running smoothly. Doing chores requires learning hands-on physical skills. Moving the body in a coordinated and purposeful way not only benefits the health of the body but the development of the brain. When children learn how to perform certain tasks such as doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, or putting out the trash, this lays down a foundation of life skills that promotes independence.

So where do we begin? Start small and teach each skill needed to perform the task. You will be surprised at how each skill will build upon the previous and your child will be able to take on increasing levels of difficulty and responsibility. Start early. Even toddlers can help pick up and sort laundry and other tasks. Your attitude and modeling is very important. Don’t be in a hurry and rush to do things. Allow adequate time for the task. Washing dishes can be made into a “moving meditation.” (Focusing and moving slowly with mindfulness rather than hurrying with distractedness). Make the job fun. Teach community work as well as independent work. Some jobs can be done in cooperation with others and some jobs can be expected to be done alone.

Don’t give rewards or bribes to do this work. Part of being in a community is “pulling one’s own weight” and so children should do these tasks as their contribution to the family. Allowance or “earning charts” can be tasks which are above and beyond the daily expected tasks. If your child balks, then do tasks together so that they don’t feel like they are being punished. Talk about the value of the work and how it benefits everyone. And for some inspiration watch  Whistle While You Work!)  from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Because working with others in community can indeed be fun.

Marla Nargundkar, AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Doraville/Atlanta

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