Which chores can your children do (or you for that matter)?

Whilst I was languishing in my sickbed, a check-list came to my notice that was written by that pioneer of children’s education, Maria Montessauri. 

My own boys have been particularly useless and indolent of late, especially Boy the Elder whose head appears to be full of girls, cotton wool and little else.  I had to rely heavily on them both while I was ill and every instruction had to be repeated several times and ended with my having to text BTE to remind him to get me the drink he had promised over an hour before.

Things are about to change in ways that will make them gnash their teeth and rent their clothes but will ultimately make them better men.  And, without question, it will make me a happier mummy.

Montessori Ability Chart


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27 Responses to Which chores can your children do (or you for that matter)?

  1. Toffeeapple February 3, 2014 at 13:58 #

    Good luck in that! You’ll need it.

  2. Emma February 3, 2014 at 14:27 #

    Glad you’re feeling better!

    This list makes me a bit sad, because out of all the 16-17 year olds I could name, I don’t think any of them would have the basic skills to trim a hedge or even do a load of washing from start to finish.

    I’m not that old (!!) but I grew up pitching in where required & learning these basic lessons, whereas so many parents now are so worried about ‘ensuring the child has a childhood’ and ‘not offending anyone by asking children to do chores’.

    Now I’m all for children being children, but not at the detriment of basic life skills. I don’t have children but you can bet your bottom dollar if I did that I’d be working on a list similar to the one above! It did me no harm at all :-)

    Good luck with your challenge – you’ll probably find you’re bucking the trend but you’re dead right, it WILL make them better men. And you deserve to be a happy mummy!!

  3. Sue February 3, 2014 at 14:49 #

    I’m afraid mine are all pretty useless, even the 18 year old. This is entirely my own fault. I do all the household chores because that’s my job -I have no other, also I am a complete control freak, it drives me mad if things aren’t done according to my efficient standards.

  4. Flat Stanley February 3, 2014 at 17:31 #

    Gnashing teeth & renting clothes ? Sounds like an expensive time at the dentist and going on the average teenage boys outfits is there going to be a big demand for the renting of them ?

    Glad the gippy tum is better.

  5. Stephen Barker February 3, 2014 at 19:34 #

    I learnt to do most of the things on that list as did my sisters when I was a child. I am a better man for it?, that’s debatable but at least I can look after myself, which is just as well as I live alone.
    I would suggest that you teach your sons to learn how to bake a cake. It is a skill that seems to impress women especially if they can eat the results.Lemon drizzle cake or chocolate cakes go down well.

  6. Allison Dey Malacaria February 3, 2014 at 19:54 #

    I never understood the problem with children not “being taught skills”. My parents and grandparents simply showed us what to do: weed, take out trash, feed the dog, fold the laundry, make the bed, and we did those things. There was no wailing and gnashing of teeth. There was plenty of eye-rolling as we would have preferred to be playing outside, but it was part of life to participate in the home. I found myself a single mother unexpectedly to two toddlers. I included them in every aspect of the household. They couldn’t reach the laundry line or lift the basket? They could hand me clothes to hang and they could help me fold when I came in. Yes, age-appropriate. But chores or tasks for children are not extras that parents have to think about. They have to include the children. By the time my children went to school, they could do all the little tasks. By 12 they could do all the laundry, wash the dishes, make a simple meal, dust and vacuum the house. By 17, when they each moved out to go to college, they could budget their money, pay their bills, and tend their own homes. I stayed at home full-time whenever I could (or when I couldn’t find work), and I did all the chores, but I included them so they felt like they were part of the family and neither child labor nor guests. If the children don’t do as asked, they simply lose privileges, just as I would if I didn’t do my work.

  7. Philip Watson February 3, 2014 at 21:02 #

    I suppose that the eventual aim has to be that, once loosed upon an unsuspecting world, one’s male offspring are not prone to living in squalor, subsisting on take-aways, or looking like an unmade bed, until the day some woman lowers herself enough to take them in hand.

    It’s a bit like dogs, or so my good lady tells me: a trained man is a happy man.

  8. Moneypenny February 3, 2014 at 23:48 #

    This plan might put an end to resurections of Bernard. Might I suggest that you prepare a list of chores to text bte daily. Bty will have to do with pen and paper.

  9. richard February 4, 2014 at 08:21 #

    ….excellent list, I applaud your efforts, carpentry could be added as a reward for the chores !

    never had kids but I suspect the list works best when adults are seen to be regularly actively say weeding as a part of everyday life, i see ppl round here with gardens that are utterly clueless, their children will never in their lives extract a weed, or even know weed from desired growing thing…. “ughhh … what are those” ?

    surely all this leads to less able hand eye co-ordination, less stamina, less ability to get a job done, less concentration and focus, unable to see the merit of ‘application’…… shameful ! and yet more excuses for key-tapping and screens ….

    power to yr elbow Missus !

  10. richard February 4, 2014 at 08:23 #

    dunno about cakes … baffles me but i could impress a woman with a panful of bangers !!

    just joking ….

  11. HJ February 4, 2014 at 11:16 #

    It’s certainly easier if the children grow up being involved in daily tasks rather than suddenly being asked to do them. I think it helps if words such as “chores’ or “tasks” are avoided. If the child grows up “helping Mum” or Helping Dad” i.e. working alongside as Allison describes in her comment then it is just part of their day.

    If not, the difficulty arises when they’re torn away from their book or phone or whatever they’re doing to do something which they regard as a tedious imposition. Some parents also insist on things being done at certain times in an arbitrary fashion – washing up should obviously be done as soon as possible after a meal, but some things could be done at almost any time.

    I think it is unfair to the child, and bad parenting, not to teach them the things they will need to know to live as adults. And the best way to learn is by practising. However, it is important to find the right balance – helping, rather than doing all the work!

  12. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 14:26 #

    Wise words, Mr Barker, home baking would do it for me….

  13. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 14:27 #

    Phillip: I think I’d like Mrs Watson, she sounds like sensible woman.

  14. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 14:29 #

    Allison: Well done you, that’s absolutely brilliant and they will be happier people for it.

  15. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 14:30 #

    Ah yes, Moneypenny, engage them with technology and play them at their own game – I like it. (Bernard is back by the way, as is Audrey and I fear a bloody battle may be imminent on the landing).

  16. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 14:30 #

    Oh Richard, you do make me laugh.

  17. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 14:34 #

    HJ: That is a very good approach and one which I will definitely adopt with my young scumbags. Your description put me in mind of the Ladybird book ‘Helping at Home’ which portrays jobs in just that way. The word ‘chores’ shall be outlawed forthwith in my house and we’ll see what happens.

  18. Charlieman February 4, 2014 at 16:15 #

    I learned how to use power tools and to weld when in my teens, but I wouldn’t ask a 12 year old to use an electric hedge trimmer. Oops — that bang you just heard was my neighbour cutting through the power cable.

  19. wartimehousewife February 4, 2014 at 17:53 #

    Nice to hear from you again Charlieman. Re the hedge trimmer, it would depend on the 12 year old. Some farmer friends of mine had their son driving tractors, mowers etc as soon as he was big enough to reach the pedals. I think most people are far too namby-pamby with children and what they let them do; how do they learn to assess risk if they never do anything risky?

  20. Bunty February 4, 2014 at 22:35 #

    Those boys are going to be in so much trouble when I see them next, for not looking after you properly! Hope you are fully recovered now xxxxx

  21. megan February 5, 2014 at 01:52 #

    I hope you are completely well again.

    Himself can do everything on that list because his mother made all her kids learn to do these things. Problem for me was when Himself and i married, he rebelled against Mummy by not lifting a finger to help me to household chores. I told him if he wanted to rebel against her, he needed to move back home and have his petulant tantrum, where it would do more good. He stayed put, and did help with many of the household tasks.

  22. Moneypenny February 5, 2014 at 11:01 #

    My own parents tried the helping Mummy, daddy approach, as have I with my students but as an intellegent child will I soon caught on to the scam. Next came earned allowances which also worked for a while. The joy of procrastinating outweighed the joy of money in my case but not in my sister’s. Each child will react differently. I hope you slay dynamic duo (Bernard and Audry) soon.

  23. Donna OShaughnessy February 7, 2014 at 14:58 #

    Living on a farm in central Illinois our children grew up with the harshest of chores. Milking before school, mucking out stalls, baling hay etc…Not sure how much it accomplished. They’ve all four left the farm!! But they are still in their own rights hard working adults. Smart enough to get jobs with benefits . LOVE your blog especially all the personal hygiene stuff. Funny yet oh so useful.

  24. Stephen Barker February 10, 2014 at 21:57 #

    Have you tried getting them to write your blog? It would be an opportunity to practice their English and composition skills.

  25. wartimehousewife February 11, 2014 at 18:41 #

    Outrageous suggestion, Stephen!

  26. Lisa Reed February 18, 2014 at 16:07 #

    That is a great list, and a great post. It’s very frightening that kids these days have it so easy and they don’t do enough for their own family as we did a generation ago.

    I guess now that kids have more distractions, games, broadband Internet, Happy Meals and whatnot, it’s kind of normal to do fewer things around the house. That can only mean that work ethic will take longer to install into their brains later on.

    If they are asked to contribute from an early age, they won’t feel like the world owes them something in return when they get a real job. I think it’s a positive attitude to make kids do chores as they get older, that prepares them for real world and makes living at home a lot easier for everyone.

  27. wartimehousewife February 18, 2014 at 19:36 #

    Welcome Lisa. I absolutely agree with you. And it’s down to us as parents to make sure that if they don’t do chores then the electronic gadgetry is taken away. Boy the Elder has had his phone confiscated during the week because his schoolwork was beginning to suffer and he was being lazy at home. He was furious but I had warned him so the punishment was carried out. Hope you keep reading.

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