Most things that happen in family life can create a context to teach our children something – never more so than family chore time, the time we take to look after our stuff.
Of course when we get our kids to do chores they are learning life skills to look after their possessions – and to care for other people as well (because at some time they will be able to use these very same skills to help another person.) But as our kids learn these practical life skills there is another layer to their learning – and that is, they are learning to make character based choices as well as the practical life skill.
When my kids were young they helped with the routine, everyday type housework. They emptied the food scraps, the paper bins, looked after the dog, did the dishes, started the laundry, wiped the bathroom bench and toilets, folded the washing etc as well as looked after their own personal spaces like their bedroom and study desk.
Probably the central character choice for doing chores is initially obedience and responsibility. But if these are the only character traits we talk about when doing chores we are not only limiting our instruction, but to be honest, our kids get tired of hearing it and they shut off and don’t hear any of our reminders (regardless of how gentle and important they are!)
Here’s a list of character based choices that our kids can make, and how they relate to doing the chores around the house. Parents can use this list in their instruction, their expectations and in their praise.
Chore and Character Reference List:
Obedience – deals with the willingness to follow instructions, willingness to do it.
Diligence – deals with the ability to stick to the task
Thoroughness – deals with seeing the details but also being aware of the big picture goals
Enthusiasm – deals with the attitude, and working with energy
Orderliness – deals with training that everything has its place
Truthfulness – deals with them telling the truth when they report back to you (is it really finished?)
Initiative – deals with going the extra mile, and seeing what needs to be done without being asked
Responsibility – deals with looking after their own possessions, and respecting the possessions of others. It is also about working with the tasks that they have been given.
Dependability – deals with their consistency in doing the right thing so others can depend on them (especially mum or dad in this situation)
Character doesn’t get developed in our life, or in our kids’ lives simply by instruction, or by taking a lesson. That is only the instruction stage. Character is developed in our life by constantly making that character based choice. By constantly choosing to obey parents, a child becomes obedient. By constantly choosing orderliness, a child become orderly. So yes, we need to tell our children what character is, what it looks like, but we also need to give them opportunity to live it out – and as we do so, they start to constantly make that choice and we’ll see character grow in them, and become a part of who they are.
Character is not a head-knowledge thing – it is a life of making wise choices.
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