What Do You Think Wednesday – Are Chores a Wise Choice of Discipline?


question-mark-nothingAs far as I can tell 99.99% of people who have ever interacted with a child in any way agree that they need discipline.  Some people are uncomfortable with that word and prefer to call it, “instruction” or “guidance” or “thinking time” or “a good solid whoopin’ upside the head.”

I think it’s also fair to say that we’re all more or less in agreement that different methods are effective with different children.

So… we’ve got this Sweet Hippie Daughter.  She’s a great kid.  Truly wonderful.  She is so clever and witty and bright. She is polite and well-spoken and creative.  She is unbelievably funny.  Also, she’s quick-tempered and tends toward phrases like, “I deserve it.” And “It’s not fair.” And… my all time favorite, “You just don’t understand!”  Did I mention she’s a stand out star in her drama class?

My thought is there is no better cure for an over-developed sense of entitlement than a good dose of daily chores.  Handsome Hippie Hubby agrees with me and, since we’ve increased the amount of responsibility we give SHD she really has gotten much better about flying into temper tantrums.

See? A Happy girl, helping out.

See? A Happy girl, helping out.

But she still has them, and they are far more frequent than I feel is appropriate.  My thinking is, if a few chores helped, more chores will help even more.

Hubby disagrees. He feels that it is right to ask her to participate in the daily life of the family – the fun parts as well as the working parts but that, adding extra chores as “punishment” will only make her hate chores forever and she’ll spend her life wallowing in filth and end up on “Hoarders” talking about how her abusive mother was just a lazy hippie who made her do all the work.  (What he said didn’t really resemble that sentence at all but that’s what I heard in my head when he was talking about this.)

So now it’s time for What Do You Think Wednesday and I’m laying it before the jury… uhm… I mean, humbly seeking the wisdom of my readers.

What do you think?

Are extra chores an appropriate punishment for a child or does it just create negative associations?

Poor kid. We wore her out!

Poor kid. We wore her out!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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27 responses »

  1. true story… I was in my teens.. 14/15 and one Saturday morning my dad wanted me to get up at 7 and help with some project… I refused…He told me if I didn’t get up I would have a LONG LIST of jobs that would take me all day waiting when I finally did get up… I chose to sleep in… and then paid the price… it didn’t teach me to hate work… I did learn my lesson… i was older, and NO I don’t think my dad was right to expect me up so early on a Sat… but I did make my choice and I did serve the time… I think i was better for it…. ;o)

  2. I’m not so sure that it’ll make her hate chores any more than she is predisposed to. and besides, I hate chores, with a passion, but we don’t live in filth. I know it’s a necessary evil and so I do it. And maybe it’s not perfectly clean in here all the time, but I don’t let it get too bad before I do something about it. It will certainly teach her that there are consequences to her actions. However, I also believe that the punishment should fit the crime. The ultimate goal is to get her to think before she reacts (is that right?), so maybe she could use her writing talents to come up with a list of responses that would have been more suitable than the one she had. and if she has a hard time coming up with them on her own, maybe she could start by writing out how her reaction affects everyone around her (how did it make mom feel, or what kind of example is she setting for hippie saurus rex), and then that could lead into, how she could have reacted instead. You’re really killing two birds with one stone here. Getting her to come up with different ways to express herself, and a little homeschooling to boot. 🙂

    • We have tried the writing thing. Sometimes it’s effective…. it depends why she was “acting out” in the first place. She likes writing so much that it’s a great tool to get her to think things out but a terrible deterrent.

  3. I agree with Brian! Chores are something you just do. Not as punishment. For the good of the order/family. I would never make a kid write, or sing, or read, or exercise, or do chores, etc. because those are things I WANT them to love doing or at least not learn to hate because they associate it with something bad.
    Punishment is taking away privileges and rewards like electronics, special events, time with friends, trips, new clothes, special treats, etc.
    Now. If it is an extremely unusual chore. Like one they don’t normally do. Then maybe.

    • Hmmm… I guess I never equated chores with singing or reading. Taking away privileges, especially electronics, can be effective with her for sure. She’s a very “plugged in” kid.

  4. I don’t think it will make her hate chores more than she probably already does. (I don’t know any child who LIKES chores LOL). Have you read the book Love and Logic? It talks about giving/allowing logical consequences for our children’s choices. You don’t want to do what I’ve asked you to do…well, later, I might not want to do what you want me to do for you. Etc.

    • Haha! I want to do that just for the satisfaction of saying “I might not want to do what you want me to do for you.” LOL

  5. I always see people say “well when I was a kid (enter scenario) and I turned out fine”. And this is true…we mostly turn out to be functional adults capable of leading mediocre lives with tons of baggage that we either refuse to acknowledge, or that we never even see because we never look at ourselves that closely. I don’t want that for my kid. I remember how much it sucked when my mom left me a huge list of chores and I would finish every single one, and miss something (not on the list) that I “should have known” was part of a chore–in an otherwise sparking kitchen, all my mom saw was that I’d forgotten to clean the window sill of the plant window and water the plants. I remember how much it sucked to wake up from a bad dream and know I’d only get in trouble if I tried to go in my parents room for some comfort. I remember what it was like to be spanked and grounded and yeah, even “beat” (if my dad had been drinking)–but more importantly, I also remember that it NEVER kept me from doing it again, it just made me better at hiding it next time…and resentful and angry at the situation and distrustful of my parents motives, behaviors, and intentions.

    And guess what? I’m fine! I am a functional and responsible adult capable of leading a successfully mediocre life (luckily, I picked up some other skills along the way). But…I don’t want my kids to be “fine”. I want them to be well adjusted, I want them to be able to cope with stress effectively, I want them to have compassion for others, I want them to be responsible, I want them to be rational, I want them to be capable of creative and critical thinking, I want them to be able to handle the shitty things life hands out with dignity, and to rejoice in the beautiful things life hands out with humility–and I want them to know that you need the first to get the second, I want them to feel loved and I don’t want them to settle for “fine”. I didn’t learn these things because I was punished or because of how I was punished–I learned these things despite them…from all of the other little lessons when my parents did things better, or from my grandparents, or the neighbor, or a teacher.

    Coming from this perspective (and I am NOT saying that a couple extra chores is equal to all that baggage, I’m just trying to give some background for my opinion), I think using chores to *teach* responsibility (which is a key part of teaching discipline) is a great idea. But, at younger ages (like until 9 or 10, really it depends on the kid), I think using “chores” as punishment isn’t so great of an idea. I think there’s a different between using chores as punishment for a teen and for younger kid though (also, for that scenario–there was a choice with known consequences)…and on that topic (the actual topic of your post, after I get off my soapbox). Chores should (IMO) be something you do because its your contribution to your household and your family, using them as punishment before that lesson has sunk in is counter productive. (I also think “time out” shouldn’t be in one’s room, because one’s room should be one’s sanctuary, so take that as you will, lol).

    I think we parents (really society in general) focus too much of the punishment aspect of discipline, and not enough on teaching the skills that would prevent punishment even being necessary. I’m more of a “the punishment should fit the crime” sort of person–but first, I think we parents need to be sure their HAS been a crime. Its not a crime to act like a kid–and their are ways of correcting kid behavior without punishment. Also, lots of behavior in kids comes from inexperience and impulsiveness…or from insecurity and frustration.

    I think you might consider (and I toss this advice out there only because I am still learning this lesson myself right now–I could be totally off base, in which case, feel free to ignore me) truly accepting that your daughter has a that personality includes being quick tempered and prone to drama (I have one of each, so I can sympathize with this)…AND…then working with her on teaching her how to deal with her feelings–how to handle her anger or frustration appropriately, how to express it appropriately. The sassy, drama behavior is just another side to this–Chickadee is still occasionally prone to overly dramatic pronouncements when she doesn’t get her way (she’s mostly growing out of it), but its usually to cover up and act out hurt feelings, frustration, etc.

    I think too many parents see a this behavior and think of it as defiance… Certainly a tantrum (or sassing) is undesirable behavior, but most of the time, its a sign of frustration–at life, at their own feelings, at disappointment, at the situation, at something entirely different but *this* was just the trigger. Kids have feelings too–we direct them this way and that, we tell them what to do and how to do it and what to wear while they do it, we give them very little outlet to truly express how they feel, and when they do act out, we punish it… Imagine that every time you wanted to tell someone how you feel they refused to acknowledge it or they told you to go into another room or they told you that you were imagining things or…whatever. Heck, that would irritate me enough to throw a tantrum too! Nothing fixes either frustration or tantrums over night–there’s no magic pill or punishment for that…but accepting the feelings that cause the tantrums have done a lot for lessening them in frequency and length.

    With my son–seeing his tantrums as defiance is still my automatic knee-jerk reaction…but its been more effective in getting him to change his behavior by changing my behavior–to accept the frustration for frustration at life, at the situation, at “the unfairness”, at “how I don’t understand”, etc. Really, just showing that I accept his feelings (which does NOT mean giving in to the situation) for what they are, and then teaching him to work through them… And then modeling that behavior (he got “quick tempered” honestly)…when I get mad or upset now, I “take 5” as an example. There’s a book called “Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids”(I only wish I’d read it years ago, even though I only agree with about 90% of it) and another called “How to talk so your kids will listen and how to listen so your kids will talk”, which both address the ways we interact with our kids and how we can be more effective in communicating with them and listening to what they are really trying to say, rather than the words they happen to be using.

    Le sigh…I guess I lied when I said I’d get off my soap box. Sorry about that 😦

    • Feel free to be on your soap box. I think it’s good that you’re learning not to hold things in so much. hahaha! The whole “take 5” thing very much hits home with me. I do tend to be quick-tempered myself at times. I’ve learned to manage it, for the most part… but I’ve had 37 years to figure it out.

  6. In our family you do what has to be done for the family to work. While my oldest does pitch a fit on occasion about the things he is required to do to, that is life and I tell him to suck it up buttercup. LOL Now I do not add things to his list of things to do when he is naughty. If I did my house would sparkle! LOL But I find activities that make him realize the errors of his way. An example of this is when I asked him to take the trash out and he spilled it. I originally had it in sperate bags, easy to carry…. so I combined them and he protested how heavy and hard it was. I explain if you do things right the first time, it is easier. Point gotten. When he is truely magically a butt head I make him do something absurd, like take a bag and collect twigs around the yard. When he exclaims this is pointless, I return with yes, kind of like your behavior. It takes time, accomplishes nothing and what did you get in the end? A big old pile of useless nothing. I think kids all learn different and changing behavior takes time. Some how (and I am still trying) you have to find that one way to get your child to realize the world isn’t all about them.

  7. I’m a huge proponent of letting the punishment fit the crime and natural consequences — How are more chores going to teach her not to throw a tantrum? What’s the correlation there?

    • It depends what the tantrum is about. She often complains about how hard her life is, which is ridiculous considering how pampered she is. So, it seems like a little extra work would help her appreciate the pampering that much more.

  8. Hello. I like that post. I like the picture of me sleeping but why that one? Why? Anyways, I also like the picture of me cooking sauce?? You are so awesome. I really like the pictures in this post. I read some of it. The parts I read were really really great. Good post, keep up the good work, I love you, good post, keep up the good work, I love you, You are awesome, (But not Awesome Hippie Girl 😉 ) You are so cool, you are awesome, you are not Awesome Hippie Girl, and I love you so much as I said before. I love U. That wraps up the comment. (Please comment back because I love you and I like comments) So I am going to make a new post. If you like it, LIKE IT! If you don’t, LIKE IT! Again, I love U!

    • Thank you, sweet girl. You are very kind. And I’m glad you liked this post about giving you more chores. Today I think you should clean the whole entire house and maybe both cars too. And shovel the walk and salt the sidewalk. And don’t forget to walk the dog! And fix those broken screens on the front porch. And make sure to have lunch and dinner on the table on time and wash the dishes afterward. 😉

  9. Ok, so I am a big one for everyone pulling some weight in the family. I think it shouldn’t be a drudgery, but just part of the family responsibility. So certain chores, for better or worse, should just be part of family life.

    Now, for the punishment thing, maybe not so much, unless it is directly related to the “crime” Spilling milk in the fridge for the third time in a row will get you fridge clean up duty for the week. Your actions are causing ME more work, and if you don’t care to change those actions, then you can be the one responsible for taking over the job that YOU make harder. To me, that is a behavior modification thing, not really a punishment.

    I have found that if attitudes are way out of whack (and I have boys, so who knows that may be different ) I tell them they have to do something physical. Go get on the elliptical for 10 minutes- its not a request. Not really a “punishment” per se, but blowing off some steam, getting some energy out (and doing something constructive) can make a difference, and “reset” things.

    So I guess I agree with both of you, because it depends- on the situation, and on how you manage it 🙂

    • I like the idea of something physical very much! I do think that would help her blow off some steam so she can pull herself together again.

  10. I am all for psychical labor if it fits the ‘crime’. For example my sweet 8 year old (now 11) decided one day that writing on her walls, closet beam, shelves, and door with permanent marker was a brilliant idea. I think she lost her ever loving mind. So after fussing at her and explaining to her that at the age of 8 she was more than old enough to know better she got to scrub the walls in her room, making sure that all of the marker was gone. I have to say I was (and still am) very proud of how she handled herself. While she was upset, it was more of I upset that I got in trouble than I have to fix my mistake.

    Growing up, when we had potty mouth, which consisted of bad language and very rude talk, my dad had enough of it and had us clean all of the bathrooms ( I think I was 9). While I cleaned I had to think of reasons why a dirty mouth was akin to a dirty toliet and list them to him later. It really sunk in to me how my words could cause damage and be viewed as disgusting to others. A lesson that 20 some odd years later I still remember and try to hold true to.

    So all that to say, is doing chores going to hurt her, no. Is doing extra ‘punishment’ chores going to hurt her, not so much but use a chore to make it a lesson.

    I also like Kim P.’s idea of physical activity when attitudes are bad. Maybe running laps around the house or etc. When your mad and running or doing anything that causes your heart rate to increase it helps and gives you time to work through those issues. I know a friend who has a punching bag that he attacks when he’s angry, by the time he’s done he’s long past being upset and well into calm and rational thinking.

    Good luck!

    • Oh! The marker on the wall…. I cringe just thinking about it! From your perspective and from hers. I like the physical activity idea too. I think maybe we’ll start doing that.

  11. Our policy has always been a discipline should fit the “crime”. For example…each of our children at some point struggled with hanging up their clothes. They would let them fall in the closet then at some point put them all in the dirty clothes for me to wash again…even though they weren’t dirty. When I found out, they had to do EVERYONE’S laundry for a week. It only took once for my daughters not to do that again…twice for my son.

  12. Well. I sometimes do give extra chores as a form of punishment as a corrective action for his behavior. The ones that I would usually do myself. I feel it gives my son critical thinking time and learning time. When he’s does something completely out of line, he will get a completely out of the ordinary chore. To me it let’s him know that his behavior will not be tolerated. And afterwards, we talk about it. It’s not just me sitting around not doing anything, dumping chores on him. I just feel children need to learn certain things before leaving the house anyway.. Just my opinion.

  13. I give extra chores as a consequence to offensive behavior. A little hard work never hurt anyone, and it make sky kiddos think twice about their behavior next time.

    Stopping by with a big Tribe hello!

    • Does it ever cause them to balk when you ask them to do something “just because?” Do you ever get, “why do I have to do that? I didn’t do anything wrong!”

  14. Actions have consequences, whether positive or negative. As long as a child learns, and remembers, and lives knowing that as an adult, I don’t think there is a set way to teach it. Like you said from the start, every child responds differently to different discipline…you can’t stick them in a box. Well, you can, but that will only prove the point. Some kids will cry and become claustrophobic, some will cry abuse, and some will ask you to draw wheels and a number on the side to turn it into a race car…

    – Brooke –

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