Why Teaching Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage

Why Teaching Your Kids to Work is Like Paying Your MortgageLast week was a stressful week for me. I was over-committed, had an unexpected catastrophe, and cranky kids. After dinner one night I took my crabby toddler upstairs for a bath, deciding to leave the kitchen in an after-dinner whirlwind.

Usually we all clean up the kitchen together, but I deemed an early bedtime more important than following the usual routine. My husband was away and I was too tired to supervise the other kids to clean up.

When I finally made it downstairs two hours later, I was shocked at what I found.

The kitchen was sparkling clean!

Dishes were nowhere in sight, food was put away, and the sink was empty. My oldest son had cleaned everything up without being asked.

Needless to say, I was grateful. Grateful and amazed. I guess all that chore training is paying off. Teaching your kids to work takes time and effort. It’s a big investment, but we’re really seeing results.

Teaching kids to do chores is like paying your mortgage.

At first, you put in a big investment for very little return. Your first mortgage payments are almost all interest with just pennies going to the principal amount.

In the same way, having little kids “help” around the house may be way more trouble than it’s worth. They goof off, stop halfway through, and are generally not productive workers.

But if you keep on making those investments by bringing them back to the job at hand, showing them how to do a job properly and encouraging them in their efforts, little by little, you will start to see rewards. Your “equity” builds as your kids start to be able to make a real difference in the housework.

If you give up too soon, you’ll never have the benefit of your investment.

If you only pay the interest on your mortgage, you’ll never gain any equity in your house. In the same way, if you don’t consistently work with your kids and expect them to do household chores, you’ll never have the benefit of real help when they are older.

And guess what? The good news is that kids mature a lot faster than mortgages!

You can speed things up.

You can accelerate your mortgage payoff by making extra payments. You can do this with chore training too!

The more consistent you are with your training, the more practice your kids get, and the more encouragement you give, the faster your “investment” will mature. Sure, you won’t have a 6 year old cleaning the entire house. Your kids won’t do everything perfectly all the time.

But the more effort you put into this process, the more efficient workers your kids will be.

Be encouraged.

If you are discouraged by the amount of work your kids are doing or the quality of their work, be encouraged by the fact that you are making little investments that add up over time. Make changes if necessary. Implement a new chore chart (lots of inspiration on my Pinterest board!).

If your kids are still small, remember that in those early days, it’s mostly investment with little return. It won’t always be this way. And one day, you, too, could walk into a sparkling kitchen as a surprise gift from a child.

No one is shocked when a mortgage takes so long to pay back; we shouldn’t be surprised when children need time to mature and grow into being able to do chores properly. Take it from a mom who’s seen it happen.

Are you seeing rewards from your kids helping with housework?

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4 thoughts on “Why Teaching Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage”

  1. LOVE this analogy (or is it a metaphor?). 🙂 I am currently reaping the benefits of chore training. My kids are 4, 6, 8, 10 – and 2 weeks. I had a c-section and can’t lift heavy laundry baskets, or bend and twist (vacuuming), or be on my feet for long periods of time (no dishwasher here!). Thankfully my kids are trained to do all those things. You are right that it takes time. I don’t expect perfection from a 6 year old sweeping the kitchen floor, but I do expect to walk barefoot and not collect crumbs. “Inspection” for the completed job is an important part of training. So is doing the job again (and again, and again) if it’s not up to standard. Not only do I reap the benefits now but I’m building a strong work ethic into my children that future employers will appreciate.

    • I’m so glad your kids are doing so much to allow you to recuperate! You’re already seeing a big payoff. And they must feel very much needed and appreciated, too.

  2. I love this! We were diligent to teach our son to do his “family responsibilities” and it really has paid off, we never have to nag him to do anything and he’s pretty responsible. I need to start giving my 5 and 6 year old more responsibilities as well. I’m unsure why we haven’t yet, but it is on my list for this summer!


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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