Responsibilty Chores

There is an advantage that comes with having five older sisters: Two dozen Guinea pigs for them to screw up on so I can see what works and what doesn’t.

My sister Jen recently called and instructed me on her most recent bit of brilliance. She has invented “Responsibility Chores”. While it might be another version of the wheel, it sure sounded good to me. The way it works is simple: give your kids their list. If they whine, cry, complain, or stall, they get a Responsibility Chore.

Now, while their regular list might include things like “put clothes away” or “vacuum living room”, Responsibility Chores are much more intense. They’re things like, “Clean out the cupboard under the utility sink, the one with mouse droppings and really big spiders.”

So last week seven-year-old Harrison went on vacation with his grandparents. Closely followed was a three-day weekend and too much fun away from home to think about his lonely chore chart.

“Honey,” I said the day he got home, “I need you to do your chores for the last three days, since you’ve been gone so long.” Keep in mind this list only included three simple things that weren’t in the “Brush your Teeth” category. All three would have taken a total of fifteen minutes.

“NYO!” he screamed, throwing himself on the floor in true, spolied-from-too-much-vacation form.

“Oh really?” I said casually. “Looks to me like you need a Responsibility Chore.”

“What?! No!! I won’t! I’m sick! You CAN’T MAKE ME!” Then he ran to his room, slammed the door and hid under his bed.

I very calmly walked into his room, gently took hold of his ear, and quietly coerced him from his cave. With a firm hold, I steered him down to the basement. It was absolutely trashed. In my overly-pregnant state that includes more bedrest than I’m happy about, these are the kind of projects I simply can’t do.

Hallelujah for fits.

“Honey,” I said with just a touch of sugar, “You have twenty  minutes to clean these two rooms. If you aren’t finished when the timer goes off, you can go outside and pick a switch. Is that clear?”

“NO! I won’t! Wait, what’s a switch?” he asked.

“A switch is a very thin tree branch that I will use to spank your bare behind with, should you fail to finish. Trust me, it hurts. I know from personal experience.”

Keep in mind that spanking is not actually my thing, but for a seven-year-old in the throes of a toddler tantrum, I believe there’s nothing wrong with a little gentle persuasion.

As I watched him sniffle and drag his feet to the play room, I had to smile. Visions of  my oldest sister (26 years my senior) came rushing back like sweet Karma. I can remember being a kid and thinking I’d find a really thin  branch, because the small ones probably wouldn’t hurt so bad.

Switchery is a beautiful thing.

The best part? He had that basement finished in 15 minutes, then went on with absolutely no persuasion whatsoever to finish every single chore on his list.

Now tell me that wasn’t a good bit of non-violent parenting.


  1. Oh, that tears it. Threatening your children? Making them clean? Mentioning that you’re pregnant? What kind of monster ARE you??

    And what’s this about bed rest? Has your back gotten worse? Do we need to send someone with a fish whacker? Cuz I’m pretty sure Amber has one.

  2. That is also evidence that you are a consistent parent, or that he is past the test boundaries age. My grandma actually had to spank my dad 100 times one time, because he didn’t believe her and did whatever it was anyway.

  3. How is Jen? I miss her blog.

    I love the idea of responsibility chores…for others. Not myself so much. Being as I have no children those lovely jobs like clean the utility closet fall to me whether I whine or not:)

  4. Ooooh, I love new parenting ammunition!

  5. I generally just resort to bribery to get the kids to do their chores.

  6. My philosophy is . . . . . . if your kids “think” you believe in spanking . . . . . you very seldom have to actually do it . . . . . . . .

    Incentives (aka bribery) work well also! sometimes you just got to change it up!

  7. Oh man, I’m gonna have to introduce that into my home when the kidlets get old enough. Ah, sweet relief! Responsbility Chores are such a great idea!

  8. Oh my gosh! I am so using that! All of it.

    Switchery.. .I love it!

  9. You rock!!

  10. I didn’t get the switch…my dad use the back of a flat brush on my behind.
    Responsibility Chores…………yes, great idea. Threatening, effective.
    I always just referred to my kids chore assignments as Life and Death choices
    You do it…… LIVE
    You don’t……you Die
    They are all adults now

  11. What?! I was just with Jen and she mentioned NOT her new resposibility chore thing-I need ammo like that in my arsenol. I will be speaking with her…

    I’ll never forget when Carson was told to ‘pick a switch’ and he came back with a 2×4. Can’t remember if mom laughed at that or if it made her madder.

  12. Awesome! I will be using this once the kids get older. Knowing from experience once they reach a certain age a spank by the hand just isn’t effective any more and hurts your hand more then it teaches them a lesson. Having them choose the method of punishment always hits a cord. Way to go Mom!

  13. Switchery sounds so Little House on the Prairie-ish! Love it!

  14. You are the parenting guru. I am now taking ALL my parenting advice from you.

    I love Responsibility Chore! That’s pure genius.

  15. Completely brilliant! Such a great idea (especially about threatening with a “switch” *wink*). lol.