Important Lessons for Boys, 2: Boys Do Chores

Perched on a stool, Michael focused on spreading the Nutella to the edges of the bread. When he finished, he put another piece of bread on top, and cut off the crusts.

“I made my own sandwich!” he said proudly. “I can clean my room, I can clean the front room, and I can make my own sandwich,” he added. “Aren’t you glad I’m growing up?”

I am glad he’s growing up, but more importantly, I’m glad that Michael has a father who has never hesitated to contribute to getting housework done. Michael is learning by example — by seeing his father do dishes and clean bathrooms and change sheets.

Teaching children to do chores is a pain. They will whine, they will stomp, they will accuse you of enslaving them (oh, yes, they will). They will need to be told to do a chore umpteen million times. They will do it badly, and need to do it again.

Raising future adult people is EXAUSTING.

But it will pay off for you, and for them. And having a partner who assumes roughly equal weight makes it so much easier.

Especially in heterosexual marriages, boys and girls need to know that mothers aren’t maids, or chefs, or nannies. And learning to do chores isn’t “help”; it’s part and parcel of being a family.

Here’s a list of chores Michael can do:
1. Put away clean silverware.
2. Clear the table after dinner.
3. Clean the bathroom — he wipes off the sink and the floor. Hey, I’ll take it.
4. Put his toys away. (Der. All children should know how to do this by the time they are 2, IMO.)
5. Clean the front room — sometimes he doesn’t even need to be asked.
6. Clean his room and make his bed. He needs help changing the sheets.
7. Help pack his lunch. This is new to the list, and we are not consistent on it yet. Heck, the girls aren’t consistent yet, and they’ve been doing it (theoretically) for two years now.

It’s true that it is easier for me to tell Michael to do chores for two reasons: 1. As I mentioned, his father does stuff around the house and 2. The girls do chores, and have been for awhile now. Which means I have’t been training three children at the same time. I would say since Flora was 6 or 7, we started with chores aside from picking up toys.

Michael will do things without being asked, for example, cleaning the bathroom. I never asked him to do that. But one day, he disappeared for a bit, then came downstairs declaring he had cleaned the bathroom. He had used cleaning wipes and a wet towel, which he left in the sink, to wipe down the vanity and the floor. He regularly cleans his room, picking up dirty clothes and putting them in his hamper, and he’ll clean up the front room on a whim.

He’s magic.

(He’s not, of course, but neither Kate nor Flora has spontaneously cleaned the front room. Or the bathroom.)

Dan is a better cleaner than I am; I have said this for years. I declutter, but Dan actually cleans. Although he doesn’t dust.

Of course, the best cleaner in our house is the nanny. She’s been teaching the children, too, which is maybe another reason Michael is such a good cleaner. Our nanny isn’t a maid, either; she’s my proxy when I’m not there.

I am very proud of my children for doing chores, and I do let them know. I don’t thank them for helping me, but I do thank them when they do a good job or do things without having to be reminded or asked.

Here’s a link to the first Important Lesson for boys.

Do your children do chores?

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