I recognized the expression when a friend caught me reading Susan Tordella’s Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families. It wasn’t that “you naughty girl” look that one girlfriend passed another before Fifty Shades of Grey became so mainstream. My friend wondered why I was reading yet another parenting book, let alone one about chores when my daughter is not even two years old. The answer is simple.
I want to be very intentional about the things that matter. Raising able children is in my top three of life priorities. I will equip my arsenal now so that, to borrow from the book—I “Don’t despair, [but] prepare for the teen years.”
I enjoyed reading the book because Tordella, a parenting expert and author, weaves in her war stories of raising four children who are now in their 20s. The book is well organized, easy to follow, and packed with advice for moms and dads at any stage of parenting. The author reinforces the key concepts and offers real life examples that transport readers into one of her parenting workshops.
Tordella’s advice to parents includes a one-two punch of chores and family meetings.
Chores. As Tordella points out, chores are not punishment, cause to pay children money, or something that parents should feel guilty about. Children should contribute to the family welfare regularly without payment. Age appropriate chores let a child know that they are needed and works as an entitlement buster.
Most parents want their children to have high self esteem, even to the point of offering inflated praise for mediocre performance. Giving a child a responsibility and trusting them to handle it is an esteem booster. Children thrive as chores develop their skill, they realize their family needs them, and they learn to work with others to get the job done.
Tordella includes a great chart that shows suitable chores by age group. Much to my aforementioned friend’s surprise, there is something on there for 18 month olds through college-age and beyond.
Family Meetings. According to Tordella, family meetings are a place to settle on chores, resolve disagreements, plan events and just have fun. They should be held regularly. Everyone, no matter their age, gets a voice and is treated with respect. While Tordella did not make attendance mandatory with her children, skipping could mean getting the less desirable chores or not getting a vote on something important.
I would recommend Raising Able to any parent who needs a positive parenting plan. Tordella offers a chapter specifically for blended families, aptly titled “You are not my mother.”
In addition to the importance of chores and family meetings, my biggest takeaways include:
- The difference between praise and encouragement (hint: nix the praise)
- Steps for teaching a child a new skill
- Appreciating the Zen of Work
- Identifying when you have a kid problem or a parent problem
- How to establish authority with children (hint: does not involve corporal punishment)
One critique, and it’s a small one, the book includes numerous entries from other people who discuss how childhood chores impacted their lives. The entries are brief, but at some point I thought, I want to hear more about the author’s family. How Tordella handled her son Noah’s destruction of the family computer is a lesson in patience. That’s to say nothing of her son Ian’s journey to build a skateboard ramp at the age of 13.
Before I read Raising Able, my daughter had a couple of responsibilities. Today I call them chores. I’ve even added a few to the list. Want to know what a 17-month old can do? I’ll have that post up Monday.
Ready to pick up your copy of Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families? Available in paperback and Kindle edition.
So do your kids do chores? Why or why not (be honest, we’re all learning here)? Am I the only woman in America not reading Fifty Shades of Grey?