Dear Sarah: Chores


Dear Sarah,

What do you think is a good age at which to start giving children chores? Should chores be a requirement for getting an allowance?


Uncertain in Belchertown

Dear Uncertain,

Ah, chores! This is a hot topic among many of the parents in my practice and one that I have struggled with myself, over the years. I am a big fan of chores for several reasons:

  1. Chores teach children to be contributing members of their families, which is the beginning of learning to contribute to their teams, workplaces, and communities.
  2. Chores provide an opportunity to teach children to do a task on time, thoroughly, and without complaining. These are important skills for holding down a job someday.
  3. Requiring our children to help in meaningful ways protects them from the overwhelm, exhaustion and resentment that their parents feel when parents try to do it all alone.
  4. Learning new tasks and mastering challenging jobs help children to build confidence and competence.

If you ask three different parenting consultants you will probably get three different answers, but I will share with you what works for me at my house. My 14 year old daughter, who is not a big fan of chores, might not agree that my approach “works” for her! As I say to her, “That’s ok, I don’t like all of my chores either. You don’t have to like them, you just have to do them.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Pulling the Chicken Chore Card

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Keeping Chickens with Toddlers

Chicken CoopHaving chickens is rewarding in many ways; they connect us directly to the food chain, give us a sense of belonging to the land and allow the children to take a hands on approach to caring for animals. Having chickens in or backyard brings the farm to us. It gives us the familiar rewarding feeling that hard work can bring. This sense of accomplishment is tri-fold to a toddler!

We have just recently begun the art of animal husbandry at our family day care, and my toddlers love chickens! When they pull the chicken chore card, they are so excited, becoming focused and eager. The chicken chore is combined with the compost chore, since the compost area is nearby. We usually have four chicken and compost helpers per day. With the proper preparation is in place, I have found caring for chickens to be extremely easy and rewarding for toddlers. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: 10 Easy Chores for a Two Year Old

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

What A Two Year Can Do

To help your toddler gain their independence, create day-to-day learning experiences that are toddler-friendly. Attach a key ring to their zipper and buy them shoes that are easy for them to put on, and watch their self-esteem soar as they get dressed to leave the house in the morning!

What can a two year old do? I often ask myself when working with a group of twos, what can they really do. How far can I push the idea of independence for which they so much strive. What is the threshold of their capabilities? Two years old is a very special age. It’s the age where they want to do everything “On my own” and “By myself.” It’s the age of the beginning of independence, self-reliance and perseverance.

Parents are sometimes surprised at how much a two year old can do. They are talented little people with a great desire to learn and grow. With a little help, a two year old can pour milk, drink from a cup, set the dinner table, use a fork and clear the table when the meal is finished. She can take her shoes off, put on a hat, and find the missing sock. With minimal assistance, a two year old can accomplish these tasks and in doing so, develop life skills and build self esteem. Yes, sometimes this can take longer, but this extra time is valuable and can afford many beneficial learning experience.

In order to help your child have these experiences, make tasks child friendly so that they can participate. Here are some 10 easy chores a two year old child can do: Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Possibilities: Chores and Halloween

If I Pay My Child To Do Labor is That Bad?

I’ll start at the beginning and then you can chime in and let me know what you think…

I took my 6 and 9 year old boys to the Halloween store at Hampshire Mall in Hadley. Never in my life have I gotten a kick out of the scare and gore of Halloween. Rather, I enjoyed Halloween and dressing up because I got to pretend I was someone else for a day, to escape, to explore a side of me that I didn’t let myself in daily life.

My 9 year old on the other hand goes for the gore. He has been a Zombie for the last two years. His focus is on the blood, the weapons, the story of how he was killed and why his character is back for revenge. Even our front yard is decked out with all scare. No lovely pumpkins or fun lights. It’s blood, gravestones, spider webs and fear that now greet our visitors.

Our younger son went with power. After checking out his choices, he chose a red Power Ranger suit. I knew how expensive it was and I knew that my partner and I had agreed to give them $10 each.

Our 6 year old couldn’t take his eyes off the bright red Power Ranger suit with puffed up muscles and a golden belt. The cost was $30.00. His first attempt at demanding I give him more money was met with one calm and clear warning that we will leave the store if he asks again…

Read the rest of this entry »

Encouraging Responsibility in Kids

Making Responsibility Fun

Did you know that in Japan, most schools don’t employ janitors? It’s true! Rather than have someone clean up after them, students and teachers take 15 minutes to scrub the school themselves each day. The practice is called “souji,” and educators say it helps kids learn about responsibility.

By thinking of responsibility as “helping each other,” chores feel less like drudgery and more like teamwork. And when it comes to dinner, kids who help plan and cook their meals feel more invested in them. They’re more likely to eat what’s on their plates, and less likely to take future dinners for granted.

Our friends at  The Family Dinner Project put together four tips on how to encourage responsibility in kids.  Share your tips too!

  1. Set Age Appropriate Tasks: To avoid kids getting overwhelmed or discouraged, it’s important for them to feel like they’re actually helping. Have younger children empty the dishwasher or set the table. Older kids can plan and cook one meal a week.
  2. Establish Habits: Creating a routine helps kids weave chores into their daily lives, which means less of a battle each time something needs to be done. If kids know that they’re expected to dry the dishes or water the plants, responsibility becomes a given.
  3. Use a Chore Wheel: Chore wheels are a great way to establish routine without creating boredom. Spin the wheel to assign different chores to family members. For ideas on making one, check out our chore wheel activity below.
  4. Make it About Helping Others: Putting the emphasis on helping others can make chores more exciting. For example, during a recent snowstorm, one parent suggested that her boys sneak into the yard of their older neighbors and shovel their walk for them. The boys had a blast and the neighbors were thrilled.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sean Dreilinger]

Q&A: How Does Your Family Approach Chores, Allowances and Educating Kids About Finances?

Do I Have To?: How Chores Empower Families

The Foundation of Childhood Chores

Hilltown Families presents ... Do I Have To?: How Chores Empower Families, a FREE interactive and fun presentation for adults with author Susan Tordella at 6:30pm on Wednesday, March 30th at Cup & Top Cafe (1 North Main St.) in Florence, MA. Learn how cleaning toilets, washing dishes and raking leaves empower families.

Author of Raising Able: How Chores Cultivate Capable Young People (, Susan Tordella will share how the triad of family meetings-chores-and-dinner empower children to make good decisions, enable parents to retire from family servant, and create a positive family atmosphere.

In this free presentation, expect to hear stories, laugh and participate while learning a positive system to influence children to make good decisions. The goal is to nurture young people to become trustworthy teenagers who choose wisely when they are 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour. Childhood chores establish a foundation for self-discipline and making good decisions.

This free presentation for adults will be at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA on Wednesday, March 30th at 6:30pm. Donations to Hilltown Families are welcomed.  Refreshments will be available for purchase through the cafe, along with copies of Susan’s book, Raising Able.  For more information email Hilltown Families at  Childcare is NOT available.  We hope you can join us!

  • WHAT: Do I Have To?: How Chores Empower Families, an interactive presentation with author Susan Tordella
  • WHERE: Cup & Top Cafe, 1 North Main St., Florence, MA
  • WHEN: Wednesday, March 30th, 2010 at 6:30pm
  • COST: Free.  Donations to Hilltown Families are welcomed.
  • CONTACT: Hilltown Families,


Susan Tordella, M.A., is a parenting expert, coach and author who has studied and practiced Adlerian psychology for more than 20 years. Susan credits living with four teenagers for 13 years as a teacher of how to manage people, emotions and events. A former journalist and director of a private non-profit, Susan received multiple awards for excellence in both fields. Susan has taught scores of people the Adlerian approach to manage families, business and life. She blogs at and is the author of “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable young people.”

Photo credit: (ccl) Clogozm

The End of the Happy Cluttered Household

It’s Memé Clean!

One summer, when the boys were little… say around 10 and 7… we had quite a fly problem in the house. It seemed no matter what I did — spray, fly paper, clean, clean, clean every day — there seemed to be more and more flies bouncing off the windows and zoom-buzzing by my head, seemingly taunting me with their existence. I became obsessed with ridding the house of them and spent hours on end… (Okay… it SEEMED like hours) with a New Yorker magazine rolled in my tight fist trying to sneak up on the little buggers to whap the life out of them. (Dear Editors of The New Yorker, please don’t let the fact that I used your literary greatness to squash flies influence your decision to one day let me write for you. I hope you can empathize with me after reading this column. And HEY… if you happen to like the writing… give me a call!)

Anyway, one morning, I noticed a couple of flies coming from our finished basement (otherwise known as the boys’ encampment).  That was puzzling because the boys had just given it a good cleaning. I inspected it myself. I had been impressed that even the sticky spots on the coffee table had been wiped away clean. The flies couldn’t be originating from this room… or could they? My super-mommy-sense was tingling and despite the horrific screams from the voice of reason in my brain (“For the love of god don’t go down there!”) I let my feet take me down the stairs. When I got to the bottom, I started sniffing. Don’t ask me why. It just seemed to make sense. If I could find something that smelled, perhaps I could find the source of the flies. As I mulled around, nostrils flared, bent over at the waist lifting pillows, hefting the couch to see underneath it, I became more and more convinced that I was not going to find anything that could produce that amount of flies. After all, to the naked eye, everything was orderly, tidy and quite clean. As I trudged up the stairs seemingly defeated, I noticed a pair of flies soaring out from behind our console television. Again, despite the terrorized screaming of my voice of reason, I walked myself back down the stairs to inspect. What I found dear readers shook me to the core, made me double over with nausea, and caused purple rage to blast like a freight train to my throbbing temples.

When I became a mother at the young age of 23, I can remember that my one goal… the single goal I had was to not be a slave to the cleanliness and orderliness of my household. Growing up, the spotlessness of my childhood home was such a major thing. With four girls, my mother (whom my boys call Memé) quite often would become extremely irate at the messes we’d leave. Looking back, we didn’t appreciate how difficult it must have been to be sure the tiny three bedroom cape we lived in was tidy. But, what stuck with me was the constant tension that it caused and so, I was going to be a “different” mother. Not live in filth mind you, but to at least teach the boys to relish the clutter, convincing myself that a cluttered well-lived in house meant a house full of love. Had I steered them wrong? Could that be what caused the sight in front of me?

Then of course there is that age old adage that boys — if left to their own devices — will live hand and hand with filth and garbage. I mean how many of us have heard of the horror stories of a bachelor’s apartment? Not one respectable woman would be caught dead in said apartment’s bathroom. Men and boys just seem to have an affinity for the gross and disgusting. Could that affinity be what led my boys to think that sight before me was an acceptable method of making sanitary?

All right you’ve been patient with my diversions and have waited long enough. It is time to reveal the revolting fly-breeding scene that I discovered some ten years ago perpetrated on an innocent house at the hands of my marauding little men. It seems that my sons believed the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” and had been piling all the basement garbage for god knows how long behind the console television. No no… don’t misunderstand me. There was NO garbage can there. Nope, just TV wires, an electrical TV cord and a carpeted triangular piece of floor. But you couldn’t see any of that because the trash was vast and waist deep. To the point that all the scraps of food, paper, soda bottles, used tissues, candy bar wrappers and any other item of trash a boy could possibly conjure up was LEVEL, that’s right I said LEVEL with the top of the television and buzzing with flies.

Well what happened after that will forever remain locked in a vault of untold stories of the Fisher household, but let’s just say there was a lot of tension reminiscent of my days as a young girl growing up in my childhood household. I invoked many phrases and tones of my dear mother, the boys’ beloved Memé, that day and every day since. But still getting my sons to clean thoroughly has been an uphill battle and one I worried would never be won. Each cleaning day would bring such carnage that I dreaded each and every moment of it. It was as if the boys were blind to what needed to be tidied. They’d call me downstairs, chests puffed out at the pride of a job well done just for me to burst that bubble and point out that the rug looked like the streets of Time’s Square after the ball had dropped. “But we vacuumed!” they’d exclaim as if that made the debris disappear. “Did you turn it on before moving it?” Was a favorite response of mine.

But this Christmas Eve my choice to leave the “happy cluttered household” behind and to take on a more dictatorship stance on the cleanliness of our home paid off in a big way and gave me some hope for the character and the capabilities of my eldest son. In preparation of guests, I insisted that he clean the basement. After an hour or so he came up the stairs looking like a rooster crowing about the “fantastic” cleaning job he had accomplished. I tentatively descended the stairs bracing for the fight and the eye rolls that would inevitably come. But to my astonishment the room was spotless; miraculously spotless-not even an ounce of Times-Square-confetti-like paper on the carpet.

“Aidan, this is REALLY clean! Nice job! I exclaimed.

“It’s ‘Memé clean’ isn’t it mom?” And so it was. Mom would be proud.


Logan Fisher

Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s MotherhoodEye on EducationFaces, and Appleseed.

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