Finding the balance between duty and rights in your home

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Photo credit: theloushe / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

We spend plenty of time trying to figure out the best ways to teach our kids the values of helping with chores in our homes. I mean, the whole idea for ChoreMonster came from a desire to make chores fun, and that point remains essential to the process and to our business.

Once in a while I read an article about chores and household dynamics from a different country and try to pick out the cultural differences.

I recently read an article that got me thinking more about the culture of American homes and how it is perceived outside of our country. One article from The Guardian in particular was a really interesting read. I invite you to read it all, but here are a couple of paragraphs that stood out to me.

We have studied other societies in which small children are raised to help others (and themselves) as a foundation of cooperation and respect. We have wondered, what’s going on in middle class America that is so different from elsewhere?

Parents invest huge amounts of time (and money) to nurture children’s interests, intervene whenever children face a problem big or small, and give children sole credit for accomplishments that required considerable parental involvement. Yet, these same parents garner little or no assistance in chores from their children in return. In our UCLA Sloan study of Los Angeles households, children ignored, resisted, or refused to respond to parents’ appeals to help in 22 out of the 30 families observed. In the 8 families where children were cooperative, they were requested to do very little.

This is a somewhat uniquely American phenomenon. Middle class parents in other prosperous nations are less tolerant of children’s reluctance to do their part around the house. In Sweden, for example, middle class parents insist that each family member is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and keeping the house in order. Small children are expected to clean their dishes and rooms. Sweden’s idea of a universal social welfare state begins in early childhood.

The problem in many American households is that parents place a high value on their children’s right to pursue their individual desires. It’s as if children’s “rights” obscure children’s obligations. Is it my imagination or has “duty” dropped out of the American child-rearing lexicon?

These thoughts fall in line with something I’ve written about here in the past, asking the question about whether we are raising a nation of brats or not. My thoughts haven’t changed much, but I think this is a great place to continue the discussion and look closely at how we are raising our children.

In America, have we sacrificed instilling obligation in our children because we want them to have a clearer path to their goals? I think ideally, as parents, we want the best of both worlds. We love our kids and want them to succeed and be able to pursue individual desires, but we also want them to have a high regard for the value of hard work and how to be a contributing member of the home, and later, society. But in a culture where extracurricular activities are growing, and distractions are everywhere, it’s tough to figure out how to find a balance. Especially when one thing shines much brighter than another.

It’s not easy to tell your son he can’t go do something he loves because his room is a mess. It’s very easy to overlook a chore half done because your daughter’s best friend just came over to play. But they are only kids for so long, and as adults, we sure do work a lot and long for the freedom of childhood, right?

How do we find balance?

To come full circle with my own thoughts on this, I will offer that it’s a goal in my own household to help strike some balance between “duty” and “rights.” When chores are seen as difficult, tedious and sometimes terrible, it’s easy for us to lean towards the “rights” of our kids and overlook some of the “duty.” If your kids care about the rewards they are striving for, AND you, as a parent are reminding them why it’s so important for them to contribute to the home, you have a better chance at achieving that desired balance. We hope ChoreMonster helps you find this balance in your home.

Another piece I read this week had a great quote worth ending this post with.

Having a chore or job around the house is a way to belong. When someone contributes, they matter. They are important. Doing chores nurtures self-esteem.

How do you find balance between duty and rights with your kids?

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4 thoughts on “Finding the balance between duty and rights in your home”

  1. I only just started using ChoreMonster, and the thought of rewards alltogether don’t really seem to get to my kids, probably because our family culture is more of a “everybode oughta pitch in” kind of attitude. 😀 Anyways, I actually added som rewards today anyway, mostly things they would be able to get anyway but maybe not exactly at the time they choose, like daddy reading a story or 10 more minutes playing before bedtime. We’ll see how that works out. But the reward thought is not really a part of our culture, and it feels a bit awkward. 😀

    As a side note, it would be really helpful to be able to set the order of chores, or even better, assign them to a time of day like “morning”, “after school” or “evening”. I have a couple of kids with Aspergers syndrome (a kind of autism), and they tend to become overwhelmed seeing all (four 😉 ) of their chores, because they simply don’t know where to start. It’s too hard for them to make a plan ahead, like “I can do that after school” or “that would be an evening kind of thing”. So if I was able to hide some chores for some parts of the day, that would probably suit them a lot better.

  2. Oh and yes, we do live in Sweden. Not having the kids do chores because it’s kind of a civil duty in a family would just seen… very strange to a lot of people here. 😉

  3. I love this app. It is fun and my son loves to spin the wheel. I use it as a scheduler so he can do his morning routine before he get computer time before waiting for the bus.

    I love how you can search for images online instead of using the computer. Some of his rewards are stores, so it is awesome to have a logo or a picture of the building.

    I have two accounts for my son. One for morning routine and one for nighttime. It would be nice to have the option of setting a number of chores to complete before a reward is earned, but the number system is flexible enough that I can accommodate that. It is just that he is a kindergartner so the concept of 100 points is hard to visualize.

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