Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chores and Self Esteem...

I have a theory that kids who have chores have better self esteem. I can't prove it, but I think I can make a case for it.

Everyone needs to be needed and feel they have value. I mean, think about it. Think of the little child that has learned how to feed the dog or fold a towel. They are so proud, they want to tell everyone what they have done. Now, think about the retiree who dies 6 months after he retires. This happens a lot and I have read over and over again how this happens to people whose whole identity is tied to their work. No work-no reason to live.

Work is good.

Inherent in everyone is the desire to be needed, to count, to matter. And work is a big part of this. Now I don't mean you have to get a job. Honestly, there are enough jobs around the house to provide a goodly amount of work. And with work, comes a feeling of being needed and self esteem.

Consider two children-about 4-6 years old. The first child has most things done for him. Oh, he might dress himself and make his own bed, but beyond that, he is entertained and doted on by his parents. They wash his clothes, make his food, wash his dishes, take him where he wants to go--he is the little "master" of the house and the parents work hard to provide him a happy, care-free childhood.

It sounds nice, but this child is more of a pet than a member of the family. He is not really needed and he knows this, maybe not consciously, but he knows it. What is his value? Oh, his parents say he is smart, nice, cute and so forth, but what is his value? His parents will tell you he is priceless, but as years pass, if things do not change, he will feel less and less worthy.

Now, consider a child who has regular chores. He has to feed the dog or take out the trash or wipe down the bathroom on [Kids helping with a family building project] a regular basis. He knows he is important--I mean, what would the family do if he wasn't around? The trash would overflow, the dog would starve, the bathroom would be unusable. He KNOWS he is needed. And, his self esteem flows from that knowledge.

What a great gift to give our children. The knowledge that they are important, they are a necessary member of our family and they are learning skills that will serve them well in the years to come.

And this extends beyond parenting. Consider the youth program at a church. The kids are generally "kept" in a youth room, [Photo above: gardening with Grandpa] have adults conjure up lessons and activities calculated to teach kids about the Christian Life, and then a couple of times a year they do a youth service, or a service project or maybe do some type of _____-a-thon [fill in the blank with walk, run, rock, fast--you get the idea].

And what does this teach? That it takes a staff to entertain youth, that they will be part of the church some day, but right now they need to be kept out of the way, in a fun room with lots of supervision. It drives me nuts.

In some places, mostly smaller churches, things look a lot different and I believe the youth have a greater sense of responsibility. Usually, in these churches, the youth are already part of the church. They are working in the nursery [if there is one], singing in the choir [or playing the piano], helping with ground maintenance, teaching Sunday School, bringing snacks for fellowship time..., in short-doing what the adults do. They are important. They are part of the church now, they are involved in the church service regularly not just on youth Sunday. This gives kids a sense of ownership, commitment and a positive self image. They know they are needed. The church benefits and so do the kids-it is a win-win situation.

My husband pastored three churches like this many years ago, and they were awesome churches. Adults, youth, kids--all were brothers and sisters in Christ, working together and worshiping together. Those churches and the people [of all ages]healthy too.

It all goes back to the same issue. Everyone needs to be needed and feel they have value.

Take care,


  1. Very good observation. I didn't do too many chores growing up, and that may have had an impact on my insecurities. Of course, I also have a tendency to equate my value with what I do, and chores may have helped reinforce that negative idea as well.

    But, yes, kids with stuff to do is a great thing!


  2. Thanks for the comment.

    I don't think it would have reinforced that negative attitude. If the chores were real jobs and within your abilities, I think they would have given you a real sense of worth.I know there are always exceptions to the rule, but as a general principle, I think it is very sound. And the church thing bugs me a lot. I could really go on about this more, but since we have dropped out of the traditional church, I surely don't want to throw stones. All our kids were involved in youth programs, and much of what they did was good, but I don't think they instilled any loyalty to the church or the belief system the church was trying to teach.