Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 7, 2013

Tidbits: Chores an important first job

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Back when I was a kid, there were certain household chores that were my responsibility. And my reward for making sure those tasks were completed? I didn't have to hear my parents use all three names when they called me on the carpet for not doing as I had been instructed or be banished to my no-TV, no-video game room for a time out. Heaven help me if I happened to pop off some smart aleck remark about the unfairness of making me put away my own socks. That time out could find itself extended for a while longer.

I'm happy to learn that most parents still believe in assigning chores to their children. A survey, Chores and Allowance and the 21st Century Kid conducted by DoughMain.com, found 89 percent of parents assign chores to their children.

Yay for them, and not just because they have found a way to get all those pesky chores done without having to do them themselves. In truth, parents may find it easier, especially in the beginning, to just do whatever needs to be done themselves. That way the chore gets done, and it gets done to their own set of standards without having to stand over a kid that thinks throwing all the dirty clothes in the closet and shutting the door does in fact equal cleaning their room.

I was guilty on a couple of occasions of hypothesizing that parents really only ever had kids so that they had someone around to do the dishes (back before there were dishwashers in every kitchen) and to vacuum the carpets. Turns out chores have benefits far beyond a neat and orderly home.

Many child psychology experts find that requiring kids to help out around the house translates into a child that is better prepared to take care of him or herself when they move out. Not only does it teach valuable skills, like how to sort laundry so your whites don't come out looking pink or how to repair a button on a blouse before tossing the whole shirt out with the trash, it builds character. From setting priorities and organizing responsibilities to the fact that any job worth doing is worth doing well, chores are often the first "job" a child has.

Chores help teach a responsibility to pick up after yourself. If my room was covered with toys to the point I couldn't see the floor, you better believe my mom wasn't going to be in there picking those up. I made the mess. I got to clean it up.

Later, in college, I shared an apartment with my sister. While this might seem like a great arrangement as we both had similar ideas about what constituted a "clean" house, you'd be surprised. Turns out there were still plenty of things the parents took care of, and that neither my sister and I wanted to volunteer to do in our apartment. The battle of wills that sometimes ensued over how long we'd walk around the mess the other made would boggle the mind. Sooner or later, we'd have to give in and pick up the pile of shoes by the front door (a bad habit we both had) to keep our friends from tripping over them when they came to visit. Chores help identify areas where maybe, just maybe, we aren't always sensitive to others, especially since my sister and I could have very easily just kept stepping over those shoes for weeks on end.

But the biggest advantage those with regular responsibility for chores have over others, in my opinion, is learning to take pride in your work. Chores are not pleasant. No one really likes to clean house, or at least, no one I know really likes to clean house. What we like is the "after" effect — the house that is clean and comfortable and doesn't make you cross your fingers the health department doesn't decide to swing by. Getting the house there? If only I were Samantha from Bewitched, and I'd twitch my nose until the laundry was done, the floors were swept and the beds were all neatly made. My magic skills are lacking, so I just have to suck it up and do the work.

And if you're going to go to all the trouble of actually doing the work, you need to put your all into that particular job. Sure, it may take half the time to take all the junk and throw it in a closet as it would to actually put things where they belong, but then you'll be throwing yourself at that closet door should anyone start to open it.

Later on, when you have a "real" job, cutting corners will not only get you a serious talking to, it's likely to affect your ability to keep progressing at that job. No one wants to work with the guy or gal looking for the "easy way." Don't get me wrong, I'm all about working smarter and not harder, when possible, but at the end of the day, there is no substitute for doing a job well. Even if no one says "thank you," or "attagirl," you'll know you did your best, and that's a pretty good reward.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published each Tuesday. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.