Chores: The Bare Necessity of a Boy’s Life

In generations past, chores were a very common activity. A boy’s parents had chores, and his grandparents definitely had chores, for he hears about it on a daily basis.  They served as practical avenues to keep homes clean and in shape, as mom and dad tended to more important activities. As children got older, the chores tended towards something more practical, which meant more difficult. Yet, they also served as a channel to teach young boys a lesson on how to engage life. In this day and age, family sizes are much smaller, and it is common for households to hire help to clean the house or fix the yard, or the parents spend their free time on the weekends doing chores instead of fighting with their sons to get it done: leaving the question, are chores still necessary? 

Household chores are a primary glimpse of a child’s maturation.

The family is the primary educator for the boy. It is the home where the boy picks up many of the habits that will be with him for a lifetime. Maturity comes from the Latin term maturitas: ripeness, timeliness, or akin to. If one could liken the boy to a growing fruit, then the soil to help him grow is a rich family life. A rich family life consists of laughter, comfort and happiness, but it is the primary place where a boy must learn the internal values to become a mature adult: responsibility, honesty, temperance, fortitude, and justice (just to name a few).

Chores are a boy’s primary exercises in responsibility. Here are a few cases that give a glimpse into a boy’s maturation:

          If a boy complains about doing his even the most simple of chores, such as picking up his shoes, then he needs a lesson on selflessness and fortitude.

          If your son constantly only does half of the dishes, there is a great opportunity for him to grow in focus and endurance.

          If a young man says he did his chores, but really did not, then there is an opportunity to grow in honesty and attention.

          If a good boy only wants to doing what he wants to do: play video games, play outside, read a book, or whatever else, then there is a good chance that he can use an exercise in temperance by telling himself no, even if it hurts a little.

The little pains in life are nourishment for successful growth and development.

What do chores have to do with Academics?

During parent teacher conferences, I usually meet with a parent to talk not only about grades, but also how the young man is maturing. In my experience, grades are not only reflect hard work and intellect, but also show how a young man can control his interior-self to master his exterior actions. School will only get harder as life goes on. Drafting a book report is daunting for a middle schooler, but it requires much more of a person to write an essay on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Working on homework problems in algebra can take a long time, yet it is even more difficult to find the time it to first understand, then complete calculus or chemistry homework.

Chores provide the excellent skills to transcend into having a rich  academic life. Requiring your son to do chores during the week along with homework can offer great opportunity to develop time management skills. It also trains them to have a life outside of homework. More importantly, it teaches them that they are capable of doing so much more. Academic life is painful, but chores can teach a boy how to not be mastered by the fangs of laziness and fears of failure.

When young a student is struggling in algebra or science, I usually ask two main questions:

  1. How much screen time does he have?
  2. Does he do daily, unpaid household chores?

On most occasions, particularly when the boy struggles in school, there is a lot of screen time, and very little chore time.

What do chores have to do with relationships?

Besides success in academic life, chores help spruce that many skills most needed to love someone. They prepare a boy to be a proper man. Many fathers always ask me why I focus on chores so much in a child’s development. They believe it takes away from family time and personal freedom. Yet I completely disagree. Chores support a boy’s sense of responsibility towards his family. I see many boys who are constantly drawing away from their families either through screen time, outside friendships or just “his own personal free time” (which usually accompanies adolescence).  Chores make the boy engage not only himself in overcoming his personal desires, but they force the boy to engage directly in his family’s life. If the trash is overflowing, and his younger sibling starts playing in it, it is his fault. If kitchen is more orderly, and his mother can cook with ease, it is his victory! These early responsibilities serve as real experiential dependence. This dependence will manifest itself in deep ways as he grows, specifically when he gets married and starts his own family. The earlier a boy understands and commits to taking responsibility for others, the sooner he will understand what it means to be a man. 

A boy does not see his father or mother performing the daily drudge while they are at work. They do not witness the personal struggles and triumphs that comes with supporting a family. Therefore, if a boy learns at a young age that household duties are done by hired help, or quickly done by his mother and father, he will miss out on a key life lesson: life is not always fun. Yet, if a boy feels important and depended on, he will take these simple hardships, such as vacuuming or raking, as a necessary obligation. If his parents do not back down on his daily devotion to his work, then at one point he will learn what his mother and father go through on a daily basis. He will come to respect those that take care of him, and this is the most beautiful fruit of performing chores. 

Duke University's take on developing responsibility.

Duke University’s take on developing responsibility.

Tips on chores from the Wall Street Journal

Tips on chores from the Wall Street Journal

Dealing with Homework

Homework Can Be the Chopping Block for Family Relationships

There have been many casualties in the family household when it comes to homework. Parents strain with the boy who hates homework, or better yet, the boy who “never has homework.” Through my teaching career, I have heard many times:

       “Why can’t my son be like my daughter?”

“Why does my son hate homework?”

From a teacher’s perspective, I see a different laundry list of issues when it comes to homework. Long gone is the excuse of  “Fido eating my homework.” The excuses I hear now go beyond the normal facets of what the normal imagination can create. Here are some great examples that I hear in the classroom, followed by the responses from their mothers:

     Son: “ My parents told me to go to bed early since I had a rough day”

     Parent: “He told me yesterday was the greatest day of his life since he and his neighborhood friends had no homework.”

     Son: “My dad a long day at work, so we decided to spend some much needed time as a family.”

     Parent: “My husband is on a business trip in Vancouver… until next Monday.”

     Son: “I left my homework in the carpool van”

     Parent: “My son rides his bike home.”

A great strategy to tackle homework is first finding the unique quarks of your son.

One of the most amazing aspects of the universe of boys is that each one is very unique. No boy is the same, and this is what truly makes this great, wide world go around. Yet, even though a day in the life of a boy can seem to imitate a giant circus, this doesn’t mean homework should be the same.  I have picked a few “stereotypical situations with boys,” and have laid out a few tips on a how to create a happy homework environment.

My son always does his homework.

Parents envy you. Neighbors think your parent of the year. The grocery clerk even gives you discounts all the time because you have “that kid!” Your son strives to do his homework before the school day ends, and usually is successful. He takes every opportunity at school to finish, and when he gets home, if there is any prey left to feast on: he executes with succinct skillfulness. So what pitfalls could there possibly be? Well, I am glad that you asked!

Make your son articulate topics about different classes

At some point, your son’s passion and love for school will plateau. Trust me, it happens to every student, and this is apart of life. If there weren’t these pitfalls, then there would be no room for growth.

Have daily conversations about the topics going on in class. Ask concrete questions (try to offer a reason for your question) such as:

Question: “What are 4 topics you are talking about in history class? ”

Reason:  “History was my favorite subject growing up, so I am interested to see what you guys are talking about.”

Question: “Can you give me 5 written examples of what you are studying in language arts?”

Reason: “I want to test your memory so to see if you are as good as you say your are.”

Question: “Can you quiz me over a few points from the math lesson you are going over?”

Reason: “I want to see if I can still do these kind of problems now that I am out of school.”

Question: “Can you tell me what quizzes and tests are going to take place this week?”

Reason: “I want to make sure you haven’t gotten rusty, and are on top of everything.”

These kinds of conversations will keep your son’s academic skills and communication skills spruced. Having your son articulate and write down topics, even in small amounts, will keep the ideas fresh in his mind. It will also give you an idea about what is going on in class, and whether or not he truly has mastery over his core subjects. This will be of great help when your son hits a wall in school, or plain out starts to dislike his studies.

My son comes home, and hates doing his homework

Your son is the sweetest young man in the neighborhood, a good friend, loves sports, even stays on top of his chores (with a smile) but he and homework have been going at it since the War of Northern aggression. How can I possibly get him to do his homework?

I am going to be very honest: homework is not fun. Even as I went back to school, I still did not like homework. This is a normal feeling. You can combat this human instinctual disdain for homework though by staying disciplined.

Start the homework process immediately.

Ideally, homework should begin pretty soon after you get home. Though there can be room for other activities: sports, showers, naps, etc. This must be a routine that never changes. The principle that should be applied is that homework is something that must be done, no exception. If your son knows that he has to do his homework right after school, every day, then he will be habitually trained to take on the task. My advice for this is to start very early, and don’t give up. Even if your son is kicking, screaming, teething, and crying. do not forget: you are the parent, and run the show. 

Homework must be a part of the culture at home. A productive home culture has designated times for doing important activities like homework, chores, bedtime, etc.   

Create a warm, safe haven for your boys.

  • Have on hand great, healthy snacks: carrots, avocados, cheese, water, and hot chocolate.

Great ideas here for brain power foods!

  • Have a clean, organized work area so that your son may not be distracted.
Great blog for creating different homework stations!

Great blog for creating different homework stations!

  • The environment quiet and soothing. Playing soft classical music will not only set a soothing, creative mood, but also aid in bringing up a cultured young man.
Yo Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma is a great choice for a pandora station.

My son comes home, and says he never has homework.

How can I forget about the son who plans on becoming a magician. This young lad has the great attribute of making homework disappear. Unfortunately, he also seems to posit early signs of dementia since he always forgets that he even has homework. Your son always gets out of getting his homework done in one way or another. You are struggling to find solutions for this issue. Here are a few tips to getting your son to harness both his forgetfulness and mischief.

Plan out the entire week

Planning is a difficult task, but essential for organization. Organization is necessary for academic success. There are a few ways you can do this.

  • The erasable board: Having an calendar in the study or living room that can be changed according to your needs is not only useful, but it is very evident to the entire family when major tests are coming up. 

erasable board

  • A binder planner: If you are a paper and pen person, a portable binder with a calendar can be very useful for you and your son. 
Russes and Hazel have a great variety of tab sources for your planner.

Russes and Hazel have a great variety of tab sources for your planner.

  • Planner mobile Apps: If you prefer a tech approach towards planning the week, you can have all of your son’s homework, quizzes, and tests on both of your iphones. These apps also have reminders and alerts that connect to your laptop, ipad, and  gmail calendar.
Mystudylife: an excellent app for planning, and connecting all of your devices with one platform.

Mystudylife: an excellent app for planning, and connecting all of your devices with one platform.

Weekplan: This is another app useful for planning.

Weekplan: This is another app useful for planning.

All of these tips can be used for any student, wherever he is in life.

If your asking yourself whether or not your the only one that thinks that all of these tips can be used in your home, well your not alone. These tips can be used for any boy. With the competitive nature of schools only growing more fierce, is no wonder why homework is such a daunting task for any student, so why should it be easy for parents? It isn’t, but nothing good in life comes easy. Whenever the trouble hits the fan and it looks like there is no hope, remember to take a deep breath, have a healthy snack, and remind yourself that not only do you want your son to succeed in school, but most of all, you want him to have a warm and happy life as a kid.