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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Chores
My ex seems to think it is appropriate to make our daughter, 11, work to earn...her regular clothes, cookies for her class, her phone, an extra book, her friend's birthday gift, a movie while on vacation in the hotel, and many more of these types of things. She ends up working half of the weekend (truthfully about 4-5 hours) to ''pay'' for these things, every weekend she is with him. He just adds up the hours, which carry over to the next day she's with him, so that it is a constant activity. I believe in chores, some of which can be part of an allowance, some which should be a part of helping a family function. But I am struggling with the amount of work my daughter has to do to get things that don't seem inappropriate for a parent to provide. All of the list of things above was in a months' time. I would appreciate feedback on this. Thanks! struggling
As difficult as it may be, it is important for you to separate your current feelings from hers. You may be reacting to what may be a type of rigidity on the part of your ex, and you can probably predict that this will not be very useful as she matures and enters adolescence. It will be important to stay attuned and communicating well with your daughter on hw she's feeling about those visits. I don't believe you've said whether you (or your daughter)have been able to discuss this with her father in a productive way. If not, and your child is feeling distressed, this is a situation where a mediator or therapist may be useful. Some therapists, including myself, do family work with divorced families.
Without knowing more, I would also say that this could potentially be an opportunity for your daughter to deepen her relationship with her father by learning to communicate with him about her needs and feelings. Ilene
I would appreciate hearing what parents feel are appropriate expectations for a 12 or 13 year old girl (in the 7th grade) in terms of household chores and responsibilities. What "home ec" skills should a girl of this age know or be learning? What kinds of tasks, and expectations for how well they're executed, are reasonable? For example, how much help with making meals, cleaning common areas, pitching in on "special chores" is reasonable? Every family/household of course is different but understanding the range of practices currently out there for this age/grade would be really helpful.
As far as helping with meals for the family or cleaning common areas, we were pretty casual. The kids would help set the table, load the dishwasher, or put away the clean dishes. We didn't have a schedule. If they were asked to help they were expected to help. They did not make their own dinner, but if they wanted a special dessert or if they were having company over, they might make part of the meal. We had a live-in grandparent, whose focus was on the kitchen, so he saved everyone an hour a day I believe. The kids were not allowed to leave their things all over the living room or family room unless they were going camping or on some other kind of field trip the next day. They helped in the yard with planting and with mowing the lawn every so often. I did the watering as I'm the only one who really likes doing that. My son would take the trash to the curb, vacuum the living room when asked, and wash the kitchen floor when asked. My daughter would feed the cats and turn the compost.
Beyond that, they each did things to help out on the basis of what they liked to do or needed to learn. My daughter would re-arrange furniture and decorate for parties. My son would give advice and help with anyone's computer problems. When I finally realized how little he appreciated my work as laundress, I had him do his own laundry! Both kids were also expected to help beyond the home with projects sponsored by church, scouts, or school - the homeless shelter, tutoring, saving the newts, cleaning up beaches... Bonnie Hariton
When my boys were 12-13, they were expected to either set the table or clear the table for dinner every night. Still true now that they are older teens. They might occasionally have one unpaid Saturday chore, such as cutting the grass or helping to put groceries away, but usually there are no weekend chores. They help with cooking dinner on weekends, on holidays, in the summer, but not during the week. When they do help cook, it's more for socializing than a chore because we all enjoy cooking. But regular chores - they just don't have time during the week for them, if their homework is going to get done. (I have always felt resentful that kids must spend so much of their day at school, and then come home to spend the rest of the day on homework. Why can't we have family time instead of homework time? They don't really get fun to be around till they are teens and then all of a sudden it's all over and they are gone!) And if they have just one afternoon activity like practice, homework gets squeezed in to the late hours and they have to spend all day Saturday catching up on sleep they missed during the week. So I don't load them down with more work once they get home, and I think they should be able to relax (or sleep) on the weekends. We are lucky to have a housekeeper every week, and I pick up the slack on the menial tasks.
Another issue: their dad and I are divorced and since grade school we've had 50-50 custody. Kids in this situation have at least two additional burdens: There are two houses that need grass cut and garbage emptied, and there are two sets of parents they must satisfy. From the parents' point of view, split custody is an impediment to assigning one kid the responsibility for some task on an ongoing basis, because they are not at your house all the time. So tasks have to be assigned on an as-needed basis, not as an ongoing responsibility. From the kids' point of view, step-parents may have very different expectations from Mom and Dad, especially if they don't have kids of their own and suddenly find themselves sharing space with older kids. My ex's wife, who never had kids, was appalled at how little the kids did around the house. They actually didn't even know how to wash dishes or make a bed! That is my fault. I have low standards of tidyness - I throw everything in the dishwasher and I rarely make my own bed, so I never bothered to pass on these "talents" to the kids. So there was some friction between the kids and the stepmom over chores for a while, with the kids complaining a lot about their "mean" step-mom. But I must say, she did teach them how to wash the dishes properly which has been quite useful at my house! And no mom really gets that upset about her kids complaining about their stepmom (don't worry, I don't dis her when the kids are around.) So, all in all, in terms of chores, the stepmom's problem was kind of a win-win situation for me. A Mom
Yard work (girls can do this too!) Vacuuming (probably only a couple of rooms at a time at this stage) Laundry folding and distribution Kitchen help (usually only one of these at a time): preparing a side dish (flavored rice, etc.) set and/or clear table rinse dishes and put in dishwasher clean pots and pans clean refrigerator sweep/vacuum kitchen floor, then damp mop Take out recycling Empty all small trash cans in house and then take garbage out Dusting Wash car / vacuum car Be responsible for cleaning their own room: change bed linen, collect dirty clothes in hamper, dust and de-trashify, organize desk (may need guidance and help for the first several times)There are probably more, but that's all I can think of just now. The primary thing I stressed with my guys was to "Put all the toys away" afterwards - that means to put away the lawnmower or the vacuum cleaner or the laundry baskets, so they get used to the concept of "completion." --And it looks so much better. Also (very important), the first time or two they do these chores, someone (mom or dad) should guide them as much as possible, explaining how and why to do things in a certain order. Remember, though, your smart kids may eventually find a better or more efficient method than you, so be open for that. Your daughter may respond to chore expectations better than my little anarchists - I had to accept and be happy with whatever help I got without resorting to nagging (not always the level of dutiful submission a parent would hope for). Ah well, parenthood.
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