Why I Help My Daughter With Her Chores

I help my daughter clean up her toys.  When it’s time to clean at the end of the day or before dinner, I am often in there working with her to help her clean up.  At five I know she’s fully capable of cleaning up her toys independently, and sometimes if I’m busy cleaning elsewhere, she does it.  I have been called out for this though by those that believe that my child needs to learn her responsibilities are hers alone and thus she should be doing them alone.

In a world where most children seem to have very little responsibility, I understand this view.  However, I beg to differ in our case.  Not because I don’t believe my daughter needs to learn responsibility or that it’s my job to help her learn that, but because I don’t believe that making her feel that she’s alone on this is the right way to do it.

So I help her.  I help her clean her toys and put stuff away.  The flipside to this is that she helps me.  She helps me put the dishes away, she helps me with the laundry, she helps set the table and clean up the dishes, she helps me wash the floor (she loves her Swiffer WetJet, it’s like a toy and I often have to stop her from overcleaning the floors), and she helps me tidy if I ask.  I get this help not because I demand it, but because I have been clear about our philosophy regarding chores and work.

You see, in our house, we take the view that we are all working together to keep the house running.  (How good a job we’re doing of it is up for debate and will largely vary depending on what day you drop by with some days looking like we might actually have this thing down and others looking like the house is run by an insane asylum.)  We do believe that we are solely responsible for our own private spaces (though as my daughter is still in our room, it’s still a collaborative effort there too), but common areas are for us to work together to keep from falling into too much disarray.  After all, the house belongs to all of us.

Because of this philosophy, I am willing to help her and she me.  I have been very open with her about why I am helping and that helping is a two-way street.  When she was young, she was very happy to help me clean (though less so when it came time to clean her stuff up) and so when I would turn around and help her, I told her that I was helping her now as she had been so helpful to me earlier.  I still remind her of that, making it known that I am here to help her when I can, just as I expect her to help me when I need and request it (though often she does without asking).  So far it’s working.

I may not always be able to help her and sometimes I can see she’s actively involved in something that I don’t want to disturb, so I let her be when I’m doing a chore.  There’s no condemnation of her in these situations and in turn, when I’m busy with something important, then she too is willing to accept my lack of help at times.  I realize that in a world of independence, this type of interdependence can seem weird, but I firmly believe my daughter will be better off for learning how to work with others and help them instead of expecting them to do everything on their own.  Hopefully she’s able to find some like-minded people who are willing to work with and help her too.

By Tracy Cassels

August 24, 2015