I am one of those mom who makes my children work. All four of my kids do chores in our home nearly every, single day. Chores are a part of caring for one another as a community. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." Our family works together to steward the gifts that we have been given.
When my children were very young, I found myself cleaning up their messes, working hard to keep our home clean and feeling a bit frustrated that so many jobs were left for me. Over time, I began to realize that my frustration was a nudge to look more closely at what was happening in our family. It seemed faster and easier to do things myself, but they also had lessons they needed to learn.
As I thought about my goals for all of my kids, I quickly realized that this approach would not work for us. We want to raise children who take responsibility for their own needs and messes. We want to raise children who understand what it means to work and to do so diligently. We want to raise children who understand that this home that we share is a blessing and it runs most smoothly when we all do our part. Having chores helps us to spread out the work it takes to enjoy the life we love.
When my son would leave his cereal bowl on the table for me to clean, there was a hint of unstated attitude there that bothered me a lot. He was able to clear it himself and yet he knew that if he left it there, I would swoop in and pick it up for him. Since he did not have to work, he chose not to. He relied on a parent to clean up his mess. This entitlement wasn't good for either of us.
The burden is heavy when only one person is working, but many hands can make the work load light. It may take some time before they learn to do a chore well, but with patience and persistence progress is made. So, each day we all do chores. We pick up our messes and we clean the house. From the time my kids were little, they fed our pets, put away their shoes, cleaned up toys and emptied the dishwasher.
As they got older, they vacuumed carpeting, changed bed-sheets, and dusted bookshelves. Our teens and tweens now mow the lawn, shovel snow, wash vehicles, and clean the kitchen. As our children have gotten older, their chores have grown more complex, but every one of my kids understands that what they are doing in helping at home makes a world of difference to our family.
My husband and I have also found ourselves working side-by-side with our children and enjoying conversation as we get a job done. The distraction of a chore is often helpful in allowing space to let our kids open up. As we plant the garden, clear the table or straighten a room, we hear their stories and listen intently to the experiences of our kids.
So, I have become one of those moms and I am really okay with teaching life skills with intention. As we go through the day, I know that I am teaching my children about the skills they will need later on in life. They are contributing to our lifestyle and taking the time to communicate with their parents. They are developing competence that will serve them well as they move into adulthood. They can feel good about all the skills they have mastered and can share with others when they move on to new living arrangements.
From creation we have been given jobs to do. God designed us for more than idleness. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." We are God's handiwork, designed with good things that we need to accomplish.
And yes, there are days when they fuss. But, if I hold steady and remain consistent, the fussing will fail and the chores will get done and my children will grow into adults who do not take for granted a home well-kept and a job well-done. This is a gift to their future roommates and spouses, and to their momma as well.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster