I was talking to a parent recently who said that she always had to pick up for her children. When I asked her why she did not train them, she said she did not have time. She was always in a hurry when they left the house, and her child always dawdled about chores. The problem is that this situation will never improve with age. Another few years of always being in a hurry will result in having a preteen who never does chores, who will then become an adult who never does chores. It may take some extra effort, but we should always take the time to train our children.

It’s a fact that training children takes longer than training adults. At first, this is because they are untrained and don’t know how to do anything, especially with young children. They don’t know because no one has ever shown them how to do chores. Just like any other training, such as teaching children how to read, you have to take the time to show children how to do chores; you can’t just assume they will know. This means helping them pick up toys and putting them on the shelf, helping them put trash in the trash can, helping them put dirty clothes in the hamper and hang up clean clothes, and helping them put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. At least at first, the parent will have to do the chore with the child. You have to help them or show them how to pick up and put things away before you can expect them to do it on their own. Even then, they are children. You have to monitor them and correct them to ensure the job gets done. This means taking more time than simply doing it yourself. It’s only after they do a chore several dozen times that you can trust them to do it without your help. This is a normal part of the training process, what the Army calls crawl, walk, run, for you must learn to do all things with help before you do them by yourselves.

The difficulty for most parents is that they don’t want to take the time, either because of being in a hurry, because of being tired, or simply because of not wanting to do it. However, parents must recognize that raising children takes effort and time on their part. Children are not wind-up toys that you can simply give instructions to and leave alone in their rooms or in the kitchen. You must set aside time to instruct your children by showing them how to do their chores. If you want them to learn a chore, you have to take the time to teach them and not wait until the last minute when you are in a hurry. Likewise, if you promise to discipline them by taking them home from the store, you have to be willing to take the time in doing so. This is why it’s better to schedule time to train your children when you have time to do so instead of trying to hurriedly instruct them as you are leaving, when everyone is ready for bed, or while you are working on something else. Everyone gets tired, and sometimes everyone even gets a little lazy, but once we’ve taken on the responsibility of having and raising children, we must take the time to show our children how to become adults who are hard-working and responsible.

If parents take the time to train their children, they might be surprised by the results. By the time that our children started kindergarten, they could pick up their rooms and put folded clothes away. By the time they were in grade school, they were unloading the dishwasher, helping wash clothes, and folding clothes. By the time they were in middle school, they could clean the kitchen, sweep, mop, weed the flowerbeds, and rake. When they could drive, we sent them shopping and to run errands. We naturally gauged their ability by their age (it’s hard to get children to clean counters they can’t see or to use brooms taller than they are), but we spent the time to train them to do these tasks, showing them what we expected and then checking on them. When our children went away to school, we were surprised how hard they worked to keep their laundry and dishes up to date and their personal spaces clean. Even our messy daughter has proven cleaner than we expected. While we hear some parents say their children are too young or that they always do things the wrong way, it is possible to raise productive children if you take the time to show them how to do chores.

Training is a process that requires more than just telling people to do something. This is as true with adults as with children. You have to show them how before you can expect them do it on their own. Especially with children, you may have to show them many times. This requires time. If you leave training children to the last minute, you will never be successful. If you take the time to train your children, you will always be surprised by the results.

© 2021 J.D. Manders