Housekeepers Question Time!

By Alison April 9, 2010 24 Comments 2 Min Read
Finley is six now and more often than we ever did before I find we are coming to the sort of blows that usually have me bursting a blood vessel in the effort not to scream and stamp my slipper shod feet while he looks back at me with the kind of nonchalance a little boy only wears when he is busy internally marking another cross on the “there she goes again” chart.
The cause of our arguments?
    I love my Finley to bits but I am fighting a permanent battle against chaos, and I am starting to wonder whether perhaps now is the time to draw the line: to get all hard-line about the mess and start inflicting rules and chores and Mommy directives to save me going completely off my head. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no pushover, but perhaps because I’ve been so consumed by making allowances for a condition that dictates his ability to keep still, and focus and organize everything from his school-work to his thoroughly haphazard attitude to clothes, I have let him get away with a bit more than the average Mommy would generally tolerate. I worry that what is oblivion to mess will one day develop into a complete lack of respect for she who has to clear it up.
    Finley is six- how much do you, or did you expect of your six year olds with regard to keeping his or her corner of the world tidy? Is interrupting playtime to set your child up with a duster and polish tantamount to evil?. Am I on the road to ruin by allowing him to be a child while I bang my head against a flock wall? Is it too late to inflict a little tidiness upon his gloriously happy, carefree, curly topped soul?
Mess. Finley is a one boy mess machine. And this is no ordinary mess. This is Finley mess, this is Sensory Processing Disorder I can’t stop bouncing off the wall’s mess. This is my head is very busy thinking great big thoughts and I’m sorry but disorder doesn’t register in my brain kind of mess. The kind of mess that shouts with sheer, utter joy twenty four seven and has his teacher shaking her head in utter bewilderment at me and declaring, “We’ve never had a child like him.” The kind of mess that wears holes in the new school trousers I seem to be buying fortnightly. The kind of mess that falls off chairs and leaves a trail of crumbs everywhere it goes. The kind of mess with a permanently snotty nose, dirty fingernails and a couldn’t care less attitude to a level of desperate untidiness that makes all grown up, desperately tired Mommies want to hug it away, disinfect him from head to foot and take a chuggy chuggy train ride to a place where scrumptious little boys don’t dash around the house breaking, quite accidentally, everything in their path.
So my question for today is this: should our babba’s have babba related chores?
Help Housekeepers!


  1. Gena says:

    Oooh tricky one! I guess its different for each child,but my two are 21 and 11 years old,I didnt give my older one chores(working mummy guilt) and she is frankly the untidiest girl in the world,it just doesnt matter to her at all! the little one(Lucy) however is totally different and like me prefers order and routine,I suppose she would have been quite young when I decided to give her a bit responsibility with her bedroom for example,and I have always insisted upon the 'one toy out at a time' rule,she is of course allowed to play with her barbies in the sitting room,but they must be put away properly before she gets something else out.Also,I firmly subscribe to bribery! I will suggest that she sorts out some nightmare area(drawing stuff for example) and say afterwards I will reward her with a small treat.I read in a rather funny book I once read(could have been 'the three martini playdate')'Child labour…its not just for the third world' and that sorta sums it up for me I'm afraid!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh Alison, tough times indeed. Yes, chores are a necessary evil. We all have them wether we work at home or in an office. Firemen have chores they have to do on top of fighting fires and rescuing cats from trees.My daughters started taking the trash out at 5. They need to be taught how to do, not just told what to do. Don't interupt play time, but have a distinct chore time as well. No chores done, no play. To be responsibil for simple things can lead up to greater things, such as dishes, and maybe even a dog.You do have to draw your battle lines! When making the bed, what do you expect? Nice and tight corners or throwing the blankets up will do? Dirty clothes pickup every day or once a week? Pick up his own dish off the table? Set the table? Remember, teach him what you expect him to do. If he is one that needs consulting with before you impose new things, stay strong! Do not let him make deals you know you will kowtow too! Maybe allow him to let you know what he can handle.If it helps, make a chart with check marks and a monthly reward. If he does a chore without asking him to do it, an extra word of praise or check mark. You can do this! More importantly, he can do this! Some kids work better with regular daily habits. Blessings to you Alison! Wendy, wife to a messy artist and mother to 1 1/2 messy kids!

  3. Annie says:

    I have three boys, ages 11, 9 & 7. Disorder or not, boys are different. They play differently. They leap, jump, launch, tackle, climb and sitting still is not in their vocabulary, at least until their playing has them in utter exhaustion and it's right before bed time. You will have dirt. You will have choas. You will have untidiness. You got a boy because you were meant for a boy, but that is how boys work. They will also hand you tiny bouquets of flowers in their grubby little hands, that unbeknownst to them contain itchweed or poison ivy. They will bring you "beautiful" worms to help your flowers grow. They will leave a trail of dirty footprints and the sink will be black with dirt after they've washed their hands for dinner. Yes they have some chores, age appropriate. My 7 year old feeds the cats. My 9 year old brings the garbage can back up the driveway. But no matter how hard you try, there will be untidiness and a little grime, that's just reality, and you will feel like you have been constantly cleaning, doing laundry and wiping pee off the toilet seat forever. But someday, dear friend, you will be sitting in your uncluttered tidy little space and your heart will ache because you miss it. Don't let your story of your need for order drive you crazy. Just be okay with it. Clean as you can. Give him a couple of 6 year old chores. Take a deep breath. Trust in the universe.

  4. Carlie says:

    Untidiness and chaos are definitely part of life but so are chores. I think children should be given chores as soon as possible. My two year old helps me unload the spoons from the dishwasher, helps put his own toys away and hands up dirty laundry when I'm filling the washing machine. Everyone helps, that's the only way a house runs well AND perhaps more importantly, that's the only way responsible individuals are turned out in the child-rearing process.

  5. The Good Little Housewife says:

    My kids, 7, 4 and 2, clean up after themselves. My oldest has to clean up his toys, keep his dirty clothes picked up, feed the dog, dump the trash from the bathroom and clean up after himself at the table. My four year old is in charge of picking up her toys, feeding the cats, her dirty clothes and cleaning her place at the table. They also help with miscellaneous things that pop up from time to time. My 2 year old will help pick up his toys.Kids need the responsibility. They have to learn how to keep cleaned up after themselves.My nephew has the same thing that Finley has (only it's been called Sensory Integration Dysfunction)and he goes crazy with the mess making and bouncing from one thing to the next (he has a few other things going on along with the SID). What I would recommend is to make cleaning up part of his bedtime routine. My kids go to bed at 9:30 so I get started on bedtime at about 8:30. We clean our rooms, take baths and hit the hay. Finley can also help with dinner and clean up. He can help Mommy dust and vacuum (the vacuuming can be thereputic for him). He can help with light gardening and a ton of other things. I bet he would enjoy helping you out with chores and he's learning how to do this for himself. ~Stacy Robinson

  6. Dinah Soar says:

    Definitely give Finley some chores and expect him to do them. Having a disability means he must learn to work harder to overcome. Teaching him to pick up after himself is part of teaching him to be a responsible man as an adult. I've raised a son and he is now a responsible adult and great husband. He learned young that mom was not his maid….that we were a family and families work together in the home to achieve what must be done, which includes order instead of chaos–i.e. toys picked up, quiet inside, beds made, dishes done, trash taken out, manners used like please and thank you and consequences–because in real life there is a consequence for every action.Don't let the label your son carries which identifies his disability be an excuse. My son had some issues too–today he is a director in a well known international company. Make the chores you give Finn–who is adorable–age appropriate.It is important for boys to have a father figure. With his father absent from the home it will be harder for you, but not impossible. My own brother grew up minus our dad in our home due to divorce and he is a wonderful human being and very successful. He is an exec with an office on Park Avenue in Manhattan, NYC, USA. FYI–we were poor folks, mom waited tables to keep a roof over our head and brother worked his way through college.Lack of money, disabilities can only keep you down if you allow it. You have the power to shape your precious boy. These early years can make or break the man he becomes.

  7. Beth says:

    I'm not a parent, but I will comment with this because it might get a chuckle out of those who are parents:I volunteered for years at a historic home. We had various activities for guests to do while they were there, one of which was… dusting with the maid.The look on parents' faces when they saw their children *willingly* dusting everything in sight was pretty priceless. Personally, I think it was the feather duster. Who can resist a feather duster? Especially the ones with the extra-long handle for reaching high places.

  8. Avalon76 says:

    This comment will be absolutely no help, but I was stupidly excited to see my Toby Wing graphic up on BrocanteHome! *laughs* That's so awesome!

  9. Anonymous says:

    We are pretty decided that we want the children to do chores, but we disagree over whether this is linked to a weekly allowance or not! We have done chore charts and lists and have settled for a few things we are strict about without any paperwork…The 11yr old has pet related tasks and wants to start lawn mowing this summer. The 10 yr old does table setting for dinner and the 6 yr old makes his bed and joins his siblings in clearing up toys, putting laundry into the hamper and away into drawers, clearing the table after meals (completely, not just their own plates)and bringing in enough wood for the fire to last all week during the winter. I am planning to teach using the dishwasher this summer. I sometimes have a family all-clean-together day when they almost compete to get to help clean! I make sure there are enough dusters and mops for everyone. I find that the Montessori principle of teaching the steps of each task using child-sized equipment is very successful. I firmly believe chores are an important part of teaching life-skills and independence. I know one teenage boy who left home at 16 unable to use a washing machine and after the first week had to go and buy the next weeks underwear! Good luck 🙂 Gill.

  10. Traci says:

    I am not a mom, so please take my advice with a bolder of salt.I started doing chores before I can remember. I had to use a stool to reach the sink to do the dishes (granted, I've always been the opposite of tall, but still). I firmly believe it is this sort of responsibility that had me working my first part-time job at 14, insisting on buying all my own non-necessity stuff at 16, and working from home doing what I love at 28. That said, I also know that if and when I hit a snag and need some help, my parents will be first in line offering it. I have zero complaints about how I was raised in respect to household duties.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think kids absolutely should have chores. Six is old enough to do small things around the house, and it's a great lesson in discipline and tidiness, and also to help teach them that a household depends on everybody's contributions. I wouldn't overwhelm the child, but he should be fully capable of making his bed, keeping his room tidy, bringing his laundry to the laundry room for you, setting the table for dinner, etc. Good luck!

  12. Carol says:

    I agree that chores are definitely in order. I remember reading "The Bearenstain Bears and the Messy Room" to my son often, and playing a board game that taught manners and responsibility (can't remember the name). Tell him, that once he gets his toys/room picked up, you will play a game with him or have a picnic in the backyard, etc. I tried to make it fun, but it wasn't always easy. You will be met with resistance, but stick to your guns. It will pay off in the long run. I'd start with a few small chores, like putting his toys away, clothes in hamper, if he knocks something over, he picks it up. Do some chores together and sing songs, play guessing games, while doing them. (Sounds idyllic doesn't it, but be prepared for major arguments and battles of wills!) When he does his chores let him know what a big help he is to you, and what a big boy he is becoming, and make sure he hears you tell his grandparents how well he is doing with his chores. Tell his dad exactly what you are having your son do, and ask him to do the same when he has him. (Learned from experience!) Good luck! With Finley's SPD, I'm guessing this will be quite a challenge for you. But I do think it will be worth it.

  13. Miss Hemmings says:

    Oh Alison, welcome to my world! Finlay sounds very much like my oldest boy. He too is adorable and full of wonder and imagination, but quite frankly he is also sometimes a big pain in my ass! I love him dearly but he can't focus on anything for more than 2 minutes. I have to stand over him to make sure he gets dressed (he is 7) while his 4 year old brother gets his own clothes out of the drawer and puts them all on without a fuss. Chores are not popular with any of my boys so I have had to become good at thinking up 'incentives' on the spur of the moment. I came up with a beauty tonight when they all refused to put their books back on their bookshelf, saying it was 'boring'. I said "OK, the next thing you ask me to do I'm going to say no I'm not doing that because it's boring". So when they asked for their usual warm bedtime milk and got my answer, they soon tidied up that shelf! Obviously this tactic wouldn't have any effect on my toddler because he doesn't understand the concept, but he does copy everyone else if they are tidying up. I think at 4, 6 and 7 mine need to start to understand that we should all help each other. Mummy is not just a servant who does everything. Imagine what kind of men they'll become if they never have to lift a finger throughout childhood? I wouldn't want to live with a man who was waited on hand and foot by his mother! We owe it to our sons to prepare them for the time when they will need to take care of themselves. It's never too early. My almost 2 year old toddler knows where the washing basket is and puts his shoes in the shoe box when I remember to ask him. The difference is that I realise he is able to help (and enjoys the praise that comes with it), whereas I didn't expect anything of my oldest until he was at least 5. With hindsight I think I should have starting asking him to help out when he was a lot younger.

  14. Counting Your Blessings says:

    Steve and I were just talking about this. When the kids are out of school for the summer, they have one morning job and one afternoon job but during school, they don't have jobs. We wonder if we are "doing good by them" (as Steve says) by not giving them regular jobs during the school year. Probably we're wrecking them somehow. *smiles*My oldest is 19 and always had jobs. He's a good worker now. So I guess I'm a proponent of chores if they are age appropriate and the parents are consistent in requiring that they be completed.I'm sure that was no help at all – lol. Blessings… Polly

  15. lizzie says:

    I think the best thing to do is look back at your own childhood – did you do chores on a regular basis – ( I prefer to call them tasks actually) We always made our beds and dried the dishes (no dishwashers when we were young.) We did nt have many toys – it wasnt like today with all the consumer good and the hundred and one things that children are loaded down with so when we asked to tidy up it only took a minute or two.When we were older we helped when we were asked. I think little kids can put their bath toys away and hang their wash cloth and towel up.I would start off with making beds – every day until it becomes a habit (of course if parents dont make THEIR beds it wont make any sense.) It will be a sloppy little nest to start with but with practice it will improve. Taking off shoes when coming into the house helps with the dirt. Deal with the clutter first before you start in on chores – make sure there is a place for everything so everything can go back in its place. Boys are hard on a house (I have five – all grow TG) I never gave them any allowance but thats another story !

  16. JosieBee says:

    Well, when I was six, our mother (there were only my sister and I at the time) would give us things to do on our house cleaning Saturdays. It wouldn't be huge things that could lead to breakage. It even came to us inventing a dance called the "panty wiggle" where we would scoot old towels on the floor that was just mopped with our feet in our underwear(and to this day it is still called that, though it involves cruddy cleaning clothes:) and our own kitchens). Does Finn have any regular chores? Perhaps a merit system chart where he can accumulate gold stars for a small prize? I do not have children but the chart work for us when we were kids. 🙂

  17. L. Andrade says:

    Dear Alison:I think your question is a VERY GOOD ONE. I am a parent, and also a teacher. Because Finley has a condition – you will need to strike a good balance between helping him move forward, and being reasonable with expectations.Are you in touch with a true expert on this disorder? Many regular doctors and pedatricians are not TRUE EXPERTS – try to see if you can find one.I do believe that starting with a few SIMPLE RULES (even 2 or 3) which he must follow before he can go to bed, out to play, or whatever – would really help him.It's true, sometimes parents can be too willing to let things go if their child has a difficulty."The Good Little Housewife" comment, has very good advice.Also, creating and keeping a simple house – without alot of noise, TV, etc., would be helpful.Good Luck.

  18. debra says:

    My daughter is 8 and still a slob, no matter how hard I try. She is supposed to make her bed daily -it doesn't have to be perfect but it needs to look made. She needs to pick up toys when done, put her dirty clothes in the hamper, set the table, clear the table (a recent addition) & feed the dog. She has been doing most of these things for several years. I don't make her dust but sometimes she asks to help with cleaning and I let her. We use a chore chart but it doesn't really make much of a difference for her. But I do bribe from time to time.Good luck to you!!

  19. loxiemom says:

    I have two kids, ages 9 and 13. I have always held off on chores, because I have told them that their job is to excel in their school work. They put a lot of effort into their learning and are straight A kids. They are expected to clean their rooms every Friday, and they will pick up their stuff in the house before bedtime if I ask them to. In the summer, I give them a list of things that need to be done during the day. Since I am a stay at home mom, I guess I feel like it's my job to do the household duties. I do worry, though, about their ability to run a home when they get older. My mother died when I was 13, and my dad just assumed I could take over the laundry, cleaning, and cooking without ever being taught how to do it. With that in mind, I have them help me out from time to time. I have mommy guilt, though. I know that, as a mom, I should teach them self-sufficiency, but I love to dote on them. They are wonderful, well-behaved kids who are very mature and intelligent for their ages. I want them to enjoy their childhood and to feel loved every single day.

  20. Dianne says:

    Lots of people are giving you good advice, so I won't repeat what they've said. There are two things I had to learn when I was teaching my son to do chores. The first is that he didn't know where "away" was. Seems simple I know, but we kept telling him to put things away and sometimes we didn't have a specified place for things. If you have a place for everything, then he will find it easier to keep everything in it's place. The second is that telling him to clean his room (even at 8 or 9) was overwhelming. He couldn't get started. So I broke it into smaller bits and had him do one thing, then come back to me for the next one. I'd tell him to pick up all his dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. He would do that and come back, then I'd tell him to put the toys on the shelf, etc. It was much less frustrating for him and because he felt more capable he argued about chores less. Those are just a couple of things that worked for us. Hope you and your beautiful boy find what works for you, because you won't believe how soon he won't be little anymore. Good luck!

  21. Sara says:

    In my opinion, it's not the lucky children that do NOT have chore, but the ones who DO. Those children learn a sense of responsibility and learn that their parents believe they are capable beings worthy of that responsibility. My son will be 6 in May and he is responsible for making his bed and tidying his room each morning. He's also capable – when asked – of cleaning a bathroom, dusting, gathering dirty laundry, unloading the dishwasher and single-handedly cleaning up the toys in the family room – no matter who got them out. I don't ask him to do these things every day or even every week, but often enough that he has learned how. He will not be a helpless man who is not capable of taking care of himself. He feels proud of himself and more fully appreciates the time and effort I expend when doing these things. Now is his bed made perfectly? No. But that's okay. He tries and he knows he has ownership of that task. Yes, chores are a good thing, in my opinion. Part of being a family is sharing the workload so that mama can share in the fun!

  22. Kimp says:

    You have a pile of responses and I don't really have much to add BUT..There is a part of me that wonders if the messy-ness of a little boy isn't just part of being a little boy. Have a chart with chores and stickers – that works. Pick up the room before dinner. My kids are 26, 24 & 21. The 26 year old is a compulsive picker-upper. The 24 yr old is pretty untidy but very happy and is getting better at the housekeeping business. 21 year old can leave her dishes for me on the end table without any problems. So. Teach them while they are young. And remind them as they get older. I am not a maid. I am your mom. Don't disrespect me by expecting me to pick all this stuff up.

  23. Rose says:

    You have some great comments here Alison. Work is a simply a part of life and Finn's at an age where he needs to undertake some both for himself and you. You make housework such a treat for all of us it will be a cinch for you to do it for Finn. Just remember to show him how — so many parents make the mistake of saying "clean up your room now!" without showing how to clean up a room. I suspect he'll enjoy order when he learns how to create it. I taught boys for 25 years and found a lot did.

  24. Amy says:

    Well, when I was six, our mother (there were only my sister and I at the time) would give us things to do on our house cleaning Saturdays. It wouldn’t be huge things that could lead to breakage. It even came to us inventing a dance called the “panty wiggle” where we would scoot old towels on the floor that was just mopped with our feet in our underwear(and to this day it is still called that, though it involves cruddy cleaning clothes:) and our own kitchens). Does Finn have any regular chores? Perhaps a merit system chart where he can accumulate gold stars for a small prize? I do not have children but the chart work for us when we were kids. 🙂

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