When people here that my children earn an extra chore as a consequence, I am met with one of two responses. 1- “I prefer something logical. I would worry my children would hate work and I need them to do their chores.” Or 2- “That’s brilliant. I should try that!”
So, I thought I would address why extra chores and why it has not produced the undesired effect of making work abhorrent.
For the past four years we have utilized the principles that Nicholeen Peck teaches in her book Teaching Self Government. I must admit, I was on the fence about the whole chore thing. I really liked the idea of logical consequences. They made logical sense to me. However, when push came to shove, I didn’t always have a logical consequence in my back pocket for every issue that needed discipline and many times the “logical” consequence lead to power struggles and did not create harmony. I decided to experiment with Nicholeen’s suggestion. She says that poor behavior is a sign of sick character and the cure for sick character is work. While I agree with that, I needed some direct logic. I decided that one who is breaking family rules is taking from the family and thus a chore constitutes giving back a small measure.
So, initially when we introduced extra chores, we did have a couple of teaching opportunities where an instruction was given to do a small task and the child said, “Why do I need to do a chore? I didn’t do anything wrong.” Once we talked it through, explaining that the extra chore is just that- extra- meant to temporarily take the offender away from their preferred activity so that he or she can learn cause and effect and give back to the family as well as improve his or her character, the concern stopped. I haven’t heard a response like that in years.
Family work is a part of our home and my children are expected to work. They are also expected to follow instructions. They know they are always allowed to disagree appropriately with an instruction that is given and sometimes we might change our minds about the instruction, but tasks and errands are instructions and therefore, they really aren’t a big deal most of the time. Also, when we dispense with an extra chore, we don’t measure the chore against the offense. We are not trying to punish but rather teach cause and effect. The real teaching comes from a calm discussion and possibly problem solving exercise.
Another reason for doing extra chores is that no matter where I am, I can come up with a consequence. I don’t have to think that hard. There is always something that needs doing! Doing that chore temporarily curtails the child’s freedom and the child comes back happier and calmer and ready to do better because when he or she checks back, the child experiences self-mastery and has success. Since it is just a chore, it is short lived and we move on with life, thus consequences don’t hang on for long periods of time sapping relationships.
We aren’t perfect at implementing Teaching Self Government, but when I can tell my 4 year old to do something and she cheerfully says, “Of course!” or I can ask my 12 year old who has already done all the dishes to take the garbage out and says, “Ok.” and does it the chores aren’t creating a hate of work. I think they might be doing the opposite. Those chores are giving them the sense of satisfaction in a job well done they need. They help the kids get out of the rut of negative attention seeking. They really are working.