Friday, February 25, 2005

chores again

I wrote about chores a couple of months ago here

I agree entirely with JSB (in comments below) that giving children an allowance in exchange for chores "is a way to get the kids to help out around the house". But I think there are much better ways of having a clean house than treating one's children as cheap labour.

If cleaning is important to a parent, they should do the cleaning. If the child sees it is something interesting/fun/energetic/worthwhile, then the child will be interested in joining in.

If the parent cannot persuade their family rationally of the need for a certain level of cleanliness, and of the need for a certain level of filial assistance to maintain that level, then they should either rethink their desired level of cleanliness or ask for help in solving what is - after all - the parent's problem. To link such assistance to an allowance is an abuse of power.It does not give the child a say in how their living space looks or how their time is spent - and why? - because the parents control the family finances.

'Nothing is more demoralizing than being forced to work for nothing' except possibly being forced to do something the value of which you do not appreciate in order to meet your side of a hopelessly lop-sided bargain that your parents have coerced you into.

Sharing rented accommodation as a student can provide better models for dividing household chores in autonomy respecting ways. The humble rota causes many a falling out. The best situation I've encountered is one where one person who really enjoyed laundry did all the laundry, another who enjoyed getting her rubber gloves on regularly cleaned the bathroom and kitchen surfaces, and a third who hated cleaning but loved cooking did most of the catering and had no idea where the washing powder was kept... everyone contributed according to their values and priorities.

I have known quite small children take on major chores (like looking after the poultry, involving getting up 20 minutes before everyone else to feed them before school) not because anyone forced them to, or paid them to, but because they WANTED to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree that children should be treated as equitably as possible, and these discussions are made slightly more difficult because we are not identifying an age. The truth is, however, that children are not completely equitable to adults--they need to be taught. In your analysis, it is a mistake to ignore the role of teaching and guidance in a child's life. Now, please don't mistake me to say that it is our job to "mold a child out of a pile of clay"--I think that is an extremely offensive concept. It is not necessarily anyone's job to teach children what they should or should not enjoy, or believe in, etc. However, we live in a society that functions by basic rules that you may or may not like, but exist nonetheless. We all have to do things that we don't like to do. We all have to do things that we would rather not do. The trick is finding the line between making your child do something that is generally appropriate and not making your child do something that is your own personal preference. For example, making your child worship your god may be inappropriate, while exposing them to religion in general may be helpful. Making your child care for your prized orchids may be inappropriate, but teaching them basic cleanliness may be helpful.