Parenting: Put 'Em To Work

Big kids are capable of helping out with big jobs.

David Murphy says big kids can help with big jobs.
May 18, 2011 7:05:41 AM PDT
David Murphy says big kids can help with big jobs.

After two consecutive winters of heavy snow, a line of arborvitae trees, a couple of them 20-to-25 feet tall, sagged, snapped and had to be replaced. I lopped off the most damaged tree tops while the snow was still falling, removing some driveway obstructions. But the big job came last week as the remaining thirty or so trees had to be cleared to make way for some new plants. Thankfully, my daughter was just home from a temporary job out of town and was ready and willing to help out. I did the sawing and she hauled most of the halved trees to the driveway for my tree guy who chipped them for us the next day.

Like a lot of jobs, I could've handled this on my own. But without my able, garden-gloved daughter helping with the hauling and stacking, it would've taken me twice as long.

It's a nice fact of family life that as we age, so do our kids, and right around the time when our muscles, bones and joints start acting their age, our kids are in their prime. For that reason, it makes sense to make use of that man (or woman!) power. Plus, with older kids who are still taking welcome advantage of free (or in some families, paid but cheap) room and board, I honestly think it's within a parent's right to ask for help.

Setting The Table

It's probably a good idea to set this idea in motion years in advance by requiring certain chores from your kids early on, whether it's taking out the garbage, or keeping their bedroom clean, to instill the idea that there's no free ride in life. The family, in some regards, is like a business that can only run smoothly if everybody's on board, chipping in. This can be a valuable lesson that carries over into school work, or work work, for that matter, as the kids get older.

Payment is optional. Some families offer a weekly allowance in exchange for some routine housework or other chores. Others, especially large families where multiple, weekly allowances may be financially impractical, make the work an even exchange for room and board. What should never be bartered is love. That's unconditional. Ice cream? TV? Use of a car? Those are certainly retractable if the work doesn't get done.

Hopefully, if you've established this sort of pattern well, your kids will be more likely to offer a helping hand later in life when your respective ages make it easier to tackle big, strenuous jobs together.

And how do I handle the payment issue? It's a case-by-case system. My daughter did such a nice job with those trees, though, that I elected to pick-up her share of the Mother's Day gift she and her siblings bought this year. I'm also tossing in a tank of gas the next time she's on empty.

---David Murphy

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