I am reading the book P.E.T. about communicating with children and there is a question: an 11 year old asks: “How come I have to take care of the yard and take the garbage out? Rey’s parents do not make him do all that stuff! You're not fair! Kids shouldn’t have to do that much work. Nobody has to do all the stupid things I have to do”. How do you address this?
Questions like this come up all the time, and my general approach once they are at this sort of age is to have a fairly adult conversation with them to discuss:
- All the chores that need doing
- How many my things wife and I have to do - including things like working 10 hours a day to pay for house, education, cars etc... as well as chores like tidying the childrens' rooms which should be the responsibility of the child when they are older than about 5 years of age.
- Fairly splitting the load
- The different responsibilities different families have - maybe both parents work, maybe neither. Maybe they have high income, maybe low...
This usually leads to grudging acceptance that everyone should muck in.
It can also be worthwhile talking about how much children need to do in underdeveloped countries just to survive, so children in developed countries are actually pretty spoilt when compared to global standards.
My kids know that as they get older the expectations we have of how they can help change - so my eldest now helps with mowing the lawn whereas my youngest helps feed the cat. Chores appropriate for their ages.
My favorite resources for this issue are Chores Without Wars and Positive Discipline. As Rory says, family work is the responsibility of all family members (at varying levels based on age/development/abilities/etc). Positive Discipline outlines exactly how to go about implementing this using regular family meetings.
A nice blog for what this actually looks like in a family is www.CanWeHugItOut.blogspot.com and she actually just made a recent post about exactly this issue.
Basically, you'll want to get the kids involved. Nagging does nothing except create disconnection between the two of you. Instead, brainstorm together a list of all the things that need done and then let her choose some that she thinks she could handle. Kids love to be included and seen as contributors.
When your child does chores it will never look the way it would have if you had done them. But, then, you doing them wasn't your goal, right? So be realistic.
Understand that she's not going to start from doing nothing to doing a lot overnight! It will feel unfair and you will get resentment. Build it up. Let her choose some of her 'chores' to start so that she will more likely actually do them. (To this day I still hate doing dishes!). It will get better over time.
They don't need praise, in fact it can be counter-productive (tons of research on this) but genuine gratitude is always appreciated. "Thank you for doing __; it really helped me today," etc.
Don't spend time arguing with them. Whether or not they contribute to their family isn't up for negotiation. "I don't know what happens in your friends' families, but in our family we help each other." During family meetings you can decide together things like who does what and when and how often.
Be consistent. Be realistic. Be firm. Use the opportunity to teach her skills her friends probably don't even know how to do! She sounds old enough to start cooking meals, helping with budgeting & grocery shopping (bonus math practice too!), and doing laundry. Again, help her notice and reflect on her developing skills "Wow. I notice you are becoming really independent." or "Thank you for cooking dinner. It is really yummy!"
Certainly it is more difficult to suddenly start implementing new routines or expectations rather than just doing it from the beginning, but it is never too late to start! I really recommend reading Positive Discipline for cultivating a home environment that is cooperative, respectful and peaceful. And, I'm hoping you are in it for the long-haul, not the immediate results!
For starters, I'd review the word "Fair" in this context: "Fair" does not really mean the same as equal. "Fair" means what is right for each person at a given time. Even in the same family one child can have more chores than another because he/she is older and more capable of more.
Then, even my six year old already knows tales from the days I was an RA in college of the kids that didn't know how to wash their clothes, sweep and do other "house" chores we all had to do for our dorm community (yes, I went to a small private school where although we had a janitor for deep scrubbing and the bathrooms we had to do most of the own cleaning of our house community spaces).
In addition to the whole, "everyone has to do their part" message, point out what a big favor you are doing him/her in that your child will know how to do these things when they move out and have a house/apartment of their own.
You are doing your job making them do chores. Make sure they know that too.