Is it mean to punish kids with chores?

A mom/grandmother wrote to me today regarding the article, The Excuse Maker vs. the Howler Monkey. She wasn’t in agreement with using chores as a punishment, and actually found it mean-spirited that I would infringe chores on him as a consequence. In my comments, E wrote the same thing. And I have to say, that I do get what they are saying. But the other impression I received from their feedback is that punishing a child in general is mean. And I seriously question why giving a child chores as a consequence is considered “mean-spirited” when our own parents used to spank us with their hands, a belt, a wooden spoon, a switch… I have to say, giving a child chores, to me, is actually much kinder than the discipline of yesterday.

Not only that, this new consequence has been working out really well for our family.

For one, I’ve been “howling less”. This is good news for both me and my son. For me, I am not getting worked up and agitated when I am howling at my son. I am keeping a lot calmer. And in return, my son is keeping a lot calmer with me. And also, who wants to listen to an out of control howling momma? I know I wouldn’t. And now my son doesn’t have to either.

Secondly, my son has suddenly made the shift to take on his own responsibilities. At 9 years old, and being that the routine of sports and a 2nd home has been in place for years, I do expect my son to follow through on the same things I’ve always expected of him. Before we set these consequences in place, my son would claim he had finished packing up his uniform, or that he did his homework, etc. His father or I would take the time to remind him several times about what he needed to do, and still he’d forget in favor of playing with his friends or with his toys. So the forgetfulness was due to procrastinating and being lazy. Hence, the consequences.

Now these consequences were agreed upon by the two of us. We sat down one morning and discussed a solution for helping him to remember. We came up with other solutions like making a list of things for him to do that he can check off. And we both agreed on the cleaning solution, as taking his items away or keeping him from his friends was not working. I promised him that I would never make him clean more than he could handle, and I’ve made it a point to be right there with him when he does have an extra chore placed on his shoulders. And truth be told, the cleaning consequence has rarely been used. For the first week, he was cleaning every day because he was leaving things at school, at home, at his dad’s house, not doing his homework but saying that he had…. You get the picture. And that week was very hard on the both of us. But after that first week, a shift happened when he suddenly took the time and care to take ownership of his own responsibilities. This morning, for example, I only had to tell him once that he needed to gather his uniform for baseball. Usually he would pack half of it, and then forget the other half. This time he had a clear image of what he needed to pack, and he set forth doing so. And this has become the new norm. Everything is a lot easier now, and a lot calmer.

And I can’t forget to mention how cool this new procedure has been.  My son and I have used this time to spend together as he learns how to do new things.  I have taught him how to do laundry, and he has realized that he actually likes doing dishes (just like his momma).  And sometimes chores can be as simple as helping me prepare dinner.  It all depends on how bad the infraction was (as we use this discipline technique for more than just forgetfulness).

It’s hard, as a parent, to know the right way to guide your child so that they can handle more responsibilities as they age. I am a firm believer in consequences, as they are something we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives. And it helps to cement clear values in them so that they make the right decisions on their own. But I am always open to suggestions from parents who have a different idea on how to raise children and guide them in life.

Do you offer consequences for your children in areas they were struggling with? If so, what kinds of consequences do you utilize?


4 thoughts on “Is it mean to punish kids with chores?

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  1. Do I even really need to say anything here? I think that my previous posts have made MY views on this subject intensely clear. Children need discipline — it is the job of parents to teach them that actions have consequences, in the form of either reward or punishment, depending on the positive or negative nature of the action.

    If children never learn that bad behavior is not acceptable in their own homes, the world will be happy to teach them…or is it ‘mean-spirited’ for administration to expel them from school due to bad behavior, or for law enforcement to jail them because they don’t think they are required to follow rules.

    Punishments are not intended to be enjoyable…I feel that chores as a punishment is GENIUS…it is not fun, but is not simply punishment for punishment’s sake, either…it teaches responsibility and good habits, and also enforces the need to follow family and societal rules.

  2. “If you don’t discipline your children, society will.” I’m a firm believer in this, and applaud your determination to raise responsible, disciplined children. Bad actions result in bad consequences, and if they don’t learn this at home, with people who love them unconditionally, then they will have a very rude awakening when sent out into the real world. And can I just point out the fact that housework and chores is vital life skill….who is going to be cleaning their bathrooms when they turn 18? It’s far easier if they have these good habits taught and ingrained at a young age so that they can be (gasp) responsible and independent grown-ups!

  3. Chores are an element of responsiblity. It seems to me that the idea of chores with respect to the Taz had more to do with accepting his responsibility, as in, the more responsibility he took, the less chores he would then be responsible for, yes? As such, it’s not “punishment” per se. Punishment doesn’t work. The child learns to hate the punishement, but that does nothing to correct the behavior. Wolvie and The Bat have “star-charts” on which they earn stars to get the stuff they wants. Unacceptable behavior loses stars; it’s not punishment, it’s a matter of fact.

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