When Is a Chore Not a Chore?

Dear Mr. Dad: What is the deal with chores? I did them, my parents did them, and so did my grandparents. I don’t have children of my own, but I’ve noticed that very few of my friends’ kids seem to have any chores or responsibilities at all. What is going on?

A: When I was young, chores were something that contributed to the good of the family, and every kid I knew did them (according to a recent poll done by Whirlpool earlier this year, 82% of American adults did chores when they were growing up). But today, the word “chore” has taken on a completely different—and completely absurd—meaning. In a lot of cases, it has no meaning at all. According to that same Whirlpool poll, only 28% of parents say they assign to their children the same chores they did when they were young.
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Clean My Room? Sure. But Only if You Pay Me

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have very different opinions about bribing our children. She wants to reward everything they do, from getting good grades at school to cleaning their rooms, with some sort of treat. This can be money, a special toy, or whatever. I say that the kids should learn that an achievement, like grades, should be its own reward. What do you think?

A: In last week’s column I raised the issue of paying kids do certain chores and I got a lot of emails—about half thought that was a good idea, half didn’t. I hate to say it, but there is no absolute right and wrong here. But I should have made a clearer distinction between bribing children and rewarding them. Although they may produce similar results, there’s a big difference.

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Hit Me, Baby

Dear Mr. Dad: On weekends my buddy comes over with his 1-year old son. My boy just turned two and has started acting aggressively towards the baby, even hitting him. How can I help them get along?

A: Hopefully your friend isn’t taking your son’s inhospitality personally, because it has nothing to do with him or his baby. As unpleasant as it can be for the people around them, aggressive behavior is very common for toddlers. It’s a normal developmental stage. He’s learning about cause and effect (Hmm. If I poke that little kid, he cries. What would happen if I pulled his hair?) That, however, doesn’t make the aggressive behavior okay. And you need to do whatever you can to stop it.
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