A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

How Household Contributions Teach Kids to Care for Others

Print Friendly and PDF

He was only five years old, teetering down the stairs to the basement, his arms full of clothes. I followed, intrigued, assuming his load was supplies for a fort or some other imagined adventure. His bare feet padded quietly across the concrete floor and his little arms circled his bundle tightly. Arriving at his destination, his arms relaxed and the shirts and grass-stained pants fell limply to the floor. Then he did the most amazing thing: he sorted his clothing into three piles, turned, and plodded back up the stairs.


I stood, stunned, in the dimly lit laundry room, staring at what the boy had left behind: three mounds – whites, darks, and colors – lying by the washing machine. I was speechless. But for the boy, it was just another day and just another chore. Task completed, he returned to fighting imaginary battles and slaying make-believe dragons in the garden.

My amazement was not unfounded. According to a study by Braun Research released in 2014, only 28 percent of children are expected to complete household chores (compared to 82 percent of their parents’ generation). What was once considered the norm appears to now be the anomaly. The astounding thing is not, perhaps, the sharp decrease in number of households that incorporate chores into the daily family structure, but what we lose when we remove these seemingly menial tasks from our children’s list of expectations.

FEATURED VIDEO

Chores in and of themselves provide a multitude of pro-social skills that greatly benefit our kids as they grow up. For instance, studies have shown that adults who began doing chores at a young age (three to four years old) were more likely to have academic and career successes, have positive relationships, and be self-sufficient. In a world that teaches us to continually strive to achieve that next goal, it’s hard to believe we overlook chores as a staple of childhood. Understandably, with so much success to measure and scholarships to achieve, children are often laden down with enough homework and extracurricular activities that chores may seem trivial.

However, they teach children something that is less measurable and yet is critical to success in life: how to care.

According to psychologist Richard Weissbourd, chores teach children more than just hard work and mastery, but also empathy and responsibility for, and responsiveness to, others. As discussed in his report, Weissbourd states that we “need to create more settings where children engage in traditions and rituals that build appreciation and gratitude and a sense of responsibility for one’s communities, and that enable them to practice helpfulness and service.” These traditions and rituals do not need to be grand gestures; understanding that helping one another benefits those we love is a big lesson that can be learned in small ways, whether that’s washing dishes or putting away toys.

Chores are an instinctual way to use children’s desire to be helpers to teach them how to care for one another. As Richard Rende, developmental psychologist and author of “Raising Can-Do Kids,” describes, these critical life skills we keep returning to are best learned “when chores are approached as the things we all need to do to take care of each other and make life better.” Which they are, inherently: cooking dinner sustains us, laundering clothes promotes health, and tidying up reduces anxiety.

Tasking children with a list of “to-dos” may be more of a means to an end than a lesson on caring. However, incorporating children into the rhythm of the day and into the tasks we complete to sustain ourselves – from cooking to cleaning to feeding the dog – will give the child a sense of responsibility and help him understand his role as a member of the family.

It’s easy to put off a chore in lieu of completing homework or practicing their sport or instrument of choice, but this teaches children that their individual task outweighs the benefits of contributing to the family as a whole. Asking your child to help make dinner or put his laundry away teaches him that his contributions to others are valuable. He learns to respond to the needs of others, develops empathic reactions, and ultimately builds upon his inherent desire to help and care for others.

Of course, the how and what of chores baffles many parents as does the discussion on whether paying children for chores is beneficial. (Paying a child gets the task done, but it does not allow a child to understand that the reward of a completed chore is not money but rather that he contributed to the greater good.) There are a few things to remember when incorporating chores into your child’s routine, from what is age-appropriate to how to motivate (especially for those trying to introduce chores with older children).

Consistency is key

Consistency and follow-through not only help your children understand that their new responsibility is theirs, but also help them understand the important role they have in the family. By letting them shirk this responsibility or pass it off to a sibling or parent, you teach them that their role in the family is either less important or more important than others’ roles. Neither is a positive choice.

Give tasks that they can complete

Asking a three-year-old to wash the porcelain dishes will end in tears as both child and parent become frustrated by a task the child cannot complete on their own. However, asking your toddler to help stir something you’re cooking or put away their toys provides them with small tasks that they can complete on their own. Their sense of accomplishment and joy in being a helper will keep them coming back for more.

Make tasks part of the routine

When children are invited to participate in routine tasks that benefit the family, they build responsiveness and empathy, fortifying their ability to nurture later in life. Children learn that sweeping the kitchen floor and doing everyone’s laundry contributes to the needs of others and helps them feel secure in their place in the group. They begin to see that they can help others.

Age matters

As children age, their ability to contribute increases. From carrying a couple items to the laundry, to sorting, then folding, and finally to completing the task on their own. By asking a child to participate at the level they are capable (not the level they are comfortable per se), they recognize that their contributions can change and adapt to their capabilities, the needs of the environment, and the needs of those around them.

Be careful what you say

Studies have shown that children who are referred to as “helpers” versus “helping” develop a stronger positive self-identity. And where there’s positive identity, there’s more willingness to contribute. Additionally, it’s important to remember that actions can speak louder than words. Saying you will do a chore as opposed to completing the chore (or putting it off) will have a big impact on your child’s motivation to participate.

Everyone wants to feel a sense of worth and children are no different. By acknowledging their role in the family and the importance of their contribution to the wellness of those they love, we have an opportunity to teach our children they matter. Not only that, we can show them that they are capable helpers and that their actions affect those around them. Learning empathy is crucial to developing the skills of caring for others, fostering positive relationships, succeeding academically and professionally, and cultivating self-reliance.

It just might be time to put aside the homework for an hour and cook dinner together instead.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

popular

Ayesha Curry has a beautiful family. Her girls, 6-year-old Riley and 3-year-old Ryan, are so smart and adorable and youngest, 10-month-old Canon, is a beautiful, growing baby boy.

He's so cute it practically hurts to look at his sweet little face. So Curry was understandably shocked when an Instagram commenter suggested that Canon (again, he is 10 months old) should go on a diet.

Seriously.

The whole thing started when Curry posted a photo taken after her husband, NBA star Steph Curry, won the Western Conference finals with the Golden State Warriors. The group shot shows Curry holding Canon surrounded by friends and family. The problematic comments began when someone asked the mom of three if she was pregnant again.

That question is not cool. It's not okay to comment on a woman's body like that, even if she is in the public eye. Curry recently told Working Mother that she's had times since becoming a mom when she's been depressed about her body, and struggled with her reflection as she's gone from being an NBA player's wife to a successful woman who is landing magazine covers for her own work.

FEATURED VIDEO

"I'm not thin; I'm 170 pounds on a good day. It's been a journey for me, and that's why I want my girls to understand who they are—and to love it."

Despite this, Curry took the pregnancy speculation in stride, replying with "LOL" and stating she is absolutely not pregnant.

"My 30-lb. son is just breaking my back in every photo," she wrote.

That's when the comments about Canon came.

"30 at 10 months?? Sheesh," wrote one user.

"30?!?!? He's bigger than my 19-month-old nephew," another commented.

"Maybe portion control his food a little bit," replied another Instagram user in a comment that got Curry's attention.

While she had responded to the inappropriate speculation about her own body with grace, she was not about to take baby body shaming and unsolicited parenting advice from an internet stranger.

"Excuse you? No. Just no," she wrote.

👏👏👏

No is right. It is never okay to presume a woman is pregnant and it is never okay to comment on a baby's weight. Plus, Canon is adorable just the way he is!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every baby grows at their own rate, but usually by their first birthday, the average child triples their birth weight. What's important isn't measuring your child against any chart, but that they continue to grow at the same pace they set in the first eight months of their life, the AAP notes.

Many moms can relate to Curry's situation here. People (sometimes well-meaning) seem to think it's okay to comment on baby's weight, but it absolutely isn't. Every baby is different and growing at their own speed, and no one knows what is best for their baby like their mom and dad do so strangers on the internet or even relatives at a family dinner need to keep those comments to themselves.

No one should be judging Canon's weight or Curry's parenting. Canon is 30 pounds of cuteness and his mother knows exactly how and what to feed him.

You might also like:

News

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I attended a party where I ate the better portion of a wheel of Brie cheese. If you've ever had a baby, are thinking of having a baby, or know someone who's had a baby, then you might know that soft cheeses are strictly forbidden when you're expecting—according to most Western doctors, at least. (It's a pasteurization thing. Raw milk ups your chance of ingesting harmful bacteria.)

But what can I tell you? The notion that cheese can be dangerous just seemed ridiculous to me, especially given that when my mom was pregnant with me, they expected I'd be born with a brandy in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

I ate the Brie.

An hour or so later, though, when my stomach started to hurt, I became hysterical: Oh, no. Something is wrong with my baby! What have I done?

I called my doctor, a lovely, sane man who would go on to deliver all four of my children. He listened and then very patiently explained to me that my baby and I were fine. What I had, he told me, was a case of mother's guilt.

"Let me tell you," he said, "it starts the minute you conceive that baby and it will not stop until the day you die."

FEATURED VIDEO

Truer words have never been spoken.

As aden + anais, our then-fledgling baby-goods company, continued to grow by leaps and bounds, so too did the size of my family. And though I'd always been a working mom, even before I started my company, the struggle to manage work and family life did not get any easier.

Once while I was out of town on business, my husband decided to take the girls out for ice cream. He stepped up to the counter, flanked by four little girls, giggling and chattering and ogling the display case. The cashier looked down at them, looked back at my husband, and in a small voice asked, "Do they have a mother?"

My husband took it in stride: "Of course, mate. She's just traveling for business."

But when he recounted the story to me later, instead of scoffing at this person's ridiculous question, it was like someone reached into my chest and ripped out my still-beating heart.

Once again, I wasn't there. Once again, I had been away from my girls because of the business. It should go without saying the obvious and insidious double-standard at work here: I have never once been asked, on the days when I'm out and about alone with the girls if they have a father.

Women share a common anguish over juggling their responsibilities. No amount of starry-eyed optimism over the things that women can accomplish in the business world will soothe the guilt of the mom who feels she should be in two places at once: at home, with her children, and at work, doing what earns her a paycheck and what she (hopefully) finds meaningful.

Each of these—children and work—can feel like a calling, we can feel devoted to both. But which one takes precedence moment to moment? What is the cost to our children when we give our career priority in a given moment? These are questions all parents grapple with on a daily basis, even if unconsciously.

Mommy guilt shows up in different ways for different women. It can show up at the grocery store when our kid starts screaming in aisle seven and we think we should have it all under control.

It shows up when we work nights or weekends to finish that project—the one we worked so hard to land—which takes precious time away from them.

It shows up when we don't know how to make the changes they need or we lack the emotional energy to do so.

It's there when the "perfect birthday party" doesn't go as planned and ends in tears and tantrums.

It shows up when we don't have the space to be emotionally available to them, because, well, stuff happens.

For many of us, it starts at pregnancy with pressure to give birth vaginally like some heroic warrior goddess, surrounded by candles and people chanting.

It starts with the phrase "breast is best," which brings with it a heavy load of guilt for those who physically can't produce milk (I couldn't, despite trying for months), or have to return to a workplace with no lactation rooms, or simply prefer not to breastfeed.

It's there when we crave time to ourselves but feel as though we should be giving time to our families because to do otherwise is considered selfish.

Instead of seeing the conundrum for what it is—a Chinese finger trap which keeps us struggling instead of accepting our reality—we strive to do it all. We think we can be a superhero mom and superhero career woman all the time, every day. Not surprisingly, this leads to an incredible amount of burnout.

What I struggled with most, especially trying to juggle a full-time job, growing a side business, and raising an expanding family, is the societal belief that working moms are somehow failing because we choose work, rather than to be with our kids day in and day out.

Women are up against commonly held beliefs that we don't want to work, that we value our careers less than men do, and that huge swaths of us will ultimately leave our jobs to care for our homes and children. (I would guess that every mother reading this was asked at least once during her pregnancy whether she would be returning to work after she gave birth.) The fact that we've had children is often given as the reason that so few women have snagged boardroom or C-suite spots.

The judgment about women's career choices probably won't stop anytime soon. Most of us would say our choice to work is not, in fact, a choice. Most of us either need to work to support ourselves and our families, or we need to work to feel fulfilled.

Was it a choice to work, or to start my business? Not so much. Working was not only financially important to my family, but it was important to me. When I moved from Australia to New York and initially couldn't work for lack of an appropriate visa, I learned that I could not be idle for long without suffering the consequences of lethargy, depression and a total lack of interest in life.

My career is fulfilling, and I'm convinced I would be a terrible mother if I were a full-time stay-at-home mom. Even though I once had to use my whole salary to pay for quality childcare, investing in my career has always been worth it.

Excerpted from What It Takes: How I Built a $100 Million Business Against the Odds by Raegan Moya-Jones with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Raegan Moya-Jones, 2019.

You might also like:

Work + Money

In recent months there has been a growing awareness about the tragedy of maternal health care in America, specifically how much more dangerous it is for black women to become mothers. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely than white women to die during or right after pregnancy than white mothers and racism and the implicit bias of health care providers allows this to happen.

This week, Sen. Kamala Harris reintroduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act to address this issue."The health status and the well-being of Black mothers should concern everyone," she wrote on Twitter. "I re-introduced my Maternal CARE Act to ensure women are listened to in our health care system."

Implicit bias is basically the ways in which we stereotype people, even unconsciously, and how these stereotypes impact our actions. When it comes to maternal health care, the implicit bias of providers can mean black mothers' concerns go unheard, even when they're paying for the best medical care money can buy.

This is happening to moms at all income levels and is something that Serena Williams has been very open about, and even Beyonce felt the effects of.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "implicit bias may affect the way obstetrician–gynecologists counsel patients about treatment options such as contraception, vaginal birth after cesarean delivery, and the management of fibroids."

FEATURED VIDEO

Harris's Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act would create grants to ensure black mothers have access to maternal care and that healthcare providers are trained to avoid the kind of bias that results in black moms losing their lives, and babies losing their mothers.

Harris has seen this in her own state, where black women make up 5% of the pregnant population, but 21% of the pregnancy-related deaths. California's Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act is seeking to change that on the state level, and Harris is hoping to do the same on a national level by passing her federal act (and winning the Democratic primary).

Her future in the Presidential race remains to be seen, but with Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act she's trying to ensure that black mothers are seen and no longer overlooked in America's healthcare system.

You might also like:

News

We've said it here at Motherly many times: The majority of moms just don't feel like society supports them. Our 2019 State of Motherhood survey found a whopping 85% of mothers feel this way, up from 74% last year.

We've wondered if anyone is listening, but the race for the Democratic primary proves many politicians are.

This week Kirsten Gillibrand, a mom of two herself, announced her new economic policy platform known as the Family Bill of Rights.

In a Medium post published Wednesday, Gillibrand explained that she believes Americans have the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy, the right to give birth or adopt a child, the right to personally care for those children in their infancy and access health care for them, the right to a safe and affordable nursery, and the right to affordable child care and early education before kindergarten.

She's proposing a lot here. Like Senator Elizabeth Warren before her, Gillibrand points out that the "U.S. has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the industrialized world, and black women are 3–4 times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women."

Like Warren, she plans to make America a safer place to give birth. She also plans to "require insurance companies to cover treatments like IVF" to make sure that reproductive medicine isn't out of reach for families. She wants to make sure all families, regardless of sexual orientation, race or income level can welcome a child.

FEATURED VIDEO

That's why one of her promises is to ensure taxpayer-funded adoption agencies can't discriminate against potential parents, and why she plans to "provide a tax credit to ensure that a family's ability to adopt and provide a stable home for a child isn't dependent on their wealth."

That tax credit would help parents who are adopting older children, and Gillibrand's plan for safe and affordable nurseries would help parents who are coming home with newborns. She plans to provide baby boxes that contain a small mattress and can be used as a safe sleep surface but will also be packed with "diapers, swaddle blankets, and onesies."

And of course, like so many politicians in America right now, she's got a plan for paid family leave, but she's also tackling children's health care in the same breath. "It's past time we create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, so that everyone can take the time they need to be with their loved ones without having to worry about how they'll pay the bills. And I would ensure that every child has the right to health care, by making the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) universal," she explains.

From there, Gillibrand is committing to universal pre-K and an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to help families with the cost of childcare.

With more than 20 competitors running against her and a poll numbers suggesting she's nowhere near the lead, many may not take Gillibrand's announcement seriously. There are a lot of promises in her Family Bill of Rights, but that fact alone reminds us just how much American families are missing right now.

Time will tell how far Gillibrand will get on this platform, but we hope other politicians (in both parties) are listening. Because she was listening to us. And she's got our attention.

You might also like:







News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.