Chores Sans Fussing

This, the fussing, is a perpetual problem. At least in my house.

I usually tell the kids that if they complain when I ask them to do a chore, then they will have to do another chore—they obviously need more practice having a positive attitude. But I don’t always stick to this rule, so they sometimes can get away with a bit of fussing, which means that then they almost always fuss and they only get another chore if I’m in a bad mood, or if they fuss too much, which is a pretty ambiguous thing.

Ideally, this is how our conversation would go:

Me: Child, it’s time for you to do the dishes.
Child: Okay, Mama. I’ll be right there. Would you like me to do all of them?
Me: Yes, please.
Child: Okay.

What really happens:

Me: Child, it’s time for you to do the dishes.
Child: I did the breakfast dishes yesterday! I don’t want to do the breakfast dishes! I want to do the lunch dishes instead! Why do I have to do the dishes? You make us do all the work! Why don’t you do the dishes yourself?
Me: No, The Other Child did the breakfast dishes yesterday. If you would like to save them and do the lunch dishes also, you may. There are not many there right now, and the longer you wait, the more dishes there will be, so that’s your choice. I can use all the help I can get.

Last night, in an effort to nip this bad habit in the bud, once and for all (don’t fall out of your seat laughing—it’s quite unbecoming of you), Mr. Handsome and I called a family meeting. We laid out some rules:

1. When asked to do a job, The Child must say yes, within five seconds.

2. If they have questions or rebuttals, they may politely request to speak, but at that point they also need to say that they will do whatever we say.

3. If there is fussing, a refusal to say okay, whatever, Mr. Handsome and I will do nothing at the moment, but the transgression will be noted on paper along with the consequence (another job—we’re big on practice), which will be meted out after everyone has had time to cool off.

We role played. The kids cried that we were being too mean. We talked about how we are a family, nobody is a king or queen or prince or princess around here (sound familiar, Mom?). We talked about how there are a lot of people in this family and we all need to work together. We talked about how jobs get done so much faster when we have a good attitude. We talked about how we are all so much happier when we have good attitudes and get along, and how we want our children to be happy. We reviewed the consequences, again.

This morning we put the plan into action and … it worked!

I wasn’t born yesterday, and I realize that this was just the first day, but even so, it’s nice to get off to a good start. When things deteriorate, which they will, at least I’ll know what the children are capable of.


  • Marie M.

    I agree. Boy, oh boy do I agree. Growing up my mother's attitude was we're all in this together. We did lots of chores. Vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, making the beds, changing linens, ironing. I remember begging to do the ironing. Yeah, weird. (This was fifty years ago when people ironed.)The thing was my mom worked as a nurse. She was on her feet all night (she worked at night). Even if she'd stayed home I know she'd expect us to pull our weight. We had a tradition of spending an hour or so on Fridays cleaning the house. If you have two children and one adult working in a small house that was tidy you'll get it done. Our reward was going to the movies. We didn't have a TV and the movies were a big treat. I never felt over-worked or resentful. I knew it was fair. (My mother did her fair share, too.) If only children today were taught the lesson of contributing to the family there'd be less children who grow up "entitled". So there. BTW since this post was written two years ago — how's it going?

  • Jennifer Jo


    No, of course it is not too late! Sometimes it helps to play the child's game (check this one out:—if she won't help you, don't help her (no food, no car rides, no homework help, no clean laundry, no private space, no TV, phone, radio privileges, etc. Every child needs to be needed, appreciated, and valued, and that means that they need to give of themselves to other people. It's our job as parents to teach them how to do that. Good luck!

  • Anonymous


    my daughter is 14 is it too late to ask her to help me around the house?
    i have a home daycare , and i need extra help around here.
    i had her doing chores since she could trash, dish washer , clean her room , and get the mail , so on,…but we moved here 7 yrs ago and now we refuse to even make her bed !
    can u help me please?>!!

Leave a Comment