108. Chores

I suggest that we throw out the word “chores.” It’s developed the wrong connotation. I don’t mean throwing out the whole concept; there are kinds of work that have to be done regularly, and it’s only fair to share the work among those who benefit by its being done. Some of those who benefit may not be as skilled as others, but that shouldn’t mean that the more skilled ones get more work. When that happens, there’s sometimes a tendency to hide skills, or to avoid developing them.
Then what’s my problem with the word? I guess “chores” has come to mean “unpleasant, repetitive, meaningless work.” When I do what I used to think were “chores,” I try to accentuate the positive. Granted, some of them have less positive to accentuate than others, but for example, when I take out the trash, I think less about the various pieces of paper in the trash container, or the dumpster that is my destination, and more about the feeling I’ll have when I’m done. My apartment will be a more pleasant place. Of course, I’ll continue to throw things out, and the work will some day soon need to be done again, but it will have proven worth the effort.
I’m sorry if I’m coming across as a cock-eyed optimist. I’m not Candide. I’m not Pollyanna. My approach to this issue is quite practical; people work more efficiently and more consistently when there’s some pleasure associated with the work. People who procrastinate have to pay the price. Unless the work they have to do is more pleasant when there’s more of it, doing the work regularly is its own reward. I can fit all my trash into one container, and that makes it easier to transport.
I just remembered that this is supposed to be a column about working with children. Well, I think it’s good to ask children to help, or require them to help, as soon as they are old enough to help. I think it’s a matter of personal style, not right or wrong, whether you “ask” or “require.” I don’t have any magic formula for determining when they are old enough, which kinds of work are most suitable for them, how to establish quality control, or what to do if the work does not get done. But there is work to be done. It may be dirty work, like taking out the trash. But somebody’s got to do it, and it’s no fair if adults have to do it all.

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