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