Getting your children to do their chores is exhausting and time consuming. It would be so much easier to just do it yourself. But the idea is to teach them to work, so you persevere and ask them for the tenth time, “Are you done cleaning your room yet?” You create chore charts and stick brightly colored stars on them. You hand out allowances. You praise, cajole, and threaten. At times you give in and help them. You use the Tom Sawyer method and invite the neighborhood kids to help them. After all, you tell them, if they get done faster, they’ll be able to go outside and play sooner. (This only works until the other kids’ moms figure out what you’re up to. And no, the time it takes to clean their bedroom still doesn’t change.) But still you doggedly keep on making them do dishes, vacuum, clean the bathroom, and tackle the dreaded bedroom. Someday you won’t be known as the mean mom, the only mom on the block who makes her kids work. Hopefully by the time your kids leave for college, they have learned the basics of cooking and cleaning. You won’t really know how effective you were until you visit their future homes. The state of their dorm rooms can cause nightmares, but somehow when they have their own place, they start to care about cleanliness again. They may actually thank you for teaching them something useful. (But don’t hold your breath.)
Being the last child at home, my son gets more scrutiny than he wants or needs. Yes, he does know how to do his laundry by now, and he doesn’t need me to prod him, but old habits die hard. I came in from weeding the yard, and the house was quiet except for the music coming from his room. Annoyed, I said, “I don’t hear the washing machine going.” He looked at me innocently and said, “That’s a good thing, Mom, because if you did, it would mean you were hearing things!” I couldn’t help it: I cracked up. He may not be the world’s speediest at chores, but he does have a sense of humor, and that’s an important life skill to have as well.