stepmom444's picture

Stepson and chores


My stepson is 11 years old and I need some advice on setting up chores for him.  He is a very good student, very well behaved for the most part but a bit spoiled by his bio mom and step dad.  I do think bio-mom is a wonderful lady and we do have a great relationship.  She and her new husband are very well off financially so on that side of the family my stepson has always gotten whatever he wanted and has never had to do any chores.  He's never earned his own allowance and doesn't even have to do the simplest of chores like making his bed.  I'm starting to see signs of laziness and being spoiled with him so I feel when he is with us it's time for him to start being more responsible and doing chores/earning allowance.  My problem is our time with him is limited.  We only have him every other weekend.  Additionally, my husband and I do not have a lot of money and live in a 2 bedroom apartment.  So, I'm finding it difficult to come up with chores for my stepson to do when 1). Our place is not that big and 2).  It seems unfair to have him do certain cleaning chores when he's not with us during the week to cause any of the mess.  Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.


acitez's picture

some of the ideas on the "Chore drama" discussion in stepfamilies were useful, I thought

lost1975's picture

I think it is VERY important to instill the values of responsibility and daily life, even if the chores are simple. Garbage, his own room, especially. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you be consistent. He needs to know every weekend he visits you, even if it is only every other weekend, he will be responsible for these things.

I don't care how much money people may have, children should still know the value of work. You will never have success in your live without work. If a problem comes up, they will never know how to fix it without learning responsibility.

We may just be talking about chores, here...but really we are talking about moudling a child's future. he can't just think that life happens, and that's what happens when a child is spoiled. He will have a TRULY RUDE AWAKENING when he is older and out on his own...if he gets there. You can help him since the other parents aren't seeming to prepare him.

I didn't mean to go on a rant....but you have to start somewhere. I get upset when I hear someone talking about a child that has to do nothing in life and gets everything. Trust me...if you got to see him more than every other weekend, you would really start to see some pretty unattractive character traits if that is the way his life is. I have a step son that lived that way at his mom' he lives with us. I am seeing them all right now, and trust life is far from happy.

be consistent! he will thank you later....when he is full of success!

stepmom444's picture

Yes, it has never been a matter of whether or not we should have him do chores. We absolutely understand the value in this, that is why we are facing this issue. My problem lies in figuring out what to have him do. Because we are in such a small space and I keep up with basic cleaning during the week while he's not at our apartment, there just isn't much room for chores. He has a bathroom that he uses but because he's only there every other weekend, there is not much he messes up in the bathroom over the course of the weekend. I have him make his bed, but basically his room stays clean because he's not in it much. We don't have a yard, so there are no chores there. We obviously have a kitchen but that's the only place I can really have him help. Yes, there are things like vacuuming, dusting, laundry, but honestly that is my husband and my mess because our stepson isn't there during the week. We don't have his laundry, etc. It's just tough finding things for him to do to start understanding the concept of working to earn money for things.
Thanks so much for your advice.

SnglDad's picture

I do not believe that simple household chores, every other weekend, will have much of an impact on this child. I did have chores growing up, but that is not what sticks with me to this day. What stands out the most are the examples that were around me as a child, and also the stories I grew up listening to. My father, as a young child, picked cotton with his two brothers and my grandmother. She raised three boys on her own by working as a waitress, and cleaning houses in Mobile Alabama. During WWII she went to work as a welder in a shipyard, and then for Goodyear tire. She eventually went back to waitressing and was a waitress until she developed cancer at age 68. I could write pages of stories about my family’s work history, and ethic. Taking out the garbage and feeding our animals did not instill the work ethic I have today. Remembering the examples that were placed in front of me, and knowing their stories is what has given me a strong work ethic and determination.
Another way to learn about the value of hard work is through sports. If he is not interested in participating in sports think about getting him a YMCA membership. There are examples of hard work all over the place.
There is a difference between work ethic and knowledge. I believe that having the drive is just half the battle, knowledge being the other half. I wouldn’t make it his chore, but I would want to teach him how to use a washing machine. I would teach him how to wash windows the right way, and how to load a dishwasher. The difference between teaching him and it being a chore is that yourself, or Dad needs to take the lead and teach. That aside, I would be hesitant to waste what little time I had with him by having him do chores.

stepmom444's picture

I do think we need a balance with him. Because the majority of his time is with his mom and their life stlye is so different than ours, I feel compelled to instill some ethics through physically doing some chores. In a recent conversation I had with him about chores and earning an allowance he couldn't even believe I was asking him about doing chores. He said he's never had to do anything in his house and any money he's ever had was given to him at birthdays and holidays. I think giving him healthy examples to live by whether it's through leading by example or stories like you were witness to are also good effects. Our time is so limited so I certainly wouldn't have the majority of it doing chores. Like I said, we don't even have enough chores to take up much of his time anyway. But when time is split with another family then you begin to see effects of the lifestyle the other family has on him as well. I do believe sports is a great way to learn discipline, unfortunatley he is not into sports at all. He is a music kid, arts, drama that sort of thing. Maybe what I'm realizing is there may not be an easy answer to my dilema. So for now we'll keep plugging away at hopefully instilling a value system in him in whatever ways we can find that works for our situation.

SnglDad's picture

The unfortunate result of him having to do chores, is the possibility that he will resent coming there and this could harm the already small amount of time he gets with his father. Is there no possibility that the mother would get on board with this? During the custody battles we hear over and over "The best interest of the child". This term is often used by each parent as a way to justify whatever it is that they wish to do. For example the mother could say "I feel it is the best interest of the child not to be burdened with domestic chores while he is attending school". The father could then state " I feel it is in the best interest of the child to have chores in order to teach him a work ethic and responsibility". This may be a good time for Dad to address this with the mother.

acitez's picture

Set a timer Saturday morning, you and dad and stepson work together for 15 minutes with the i-pod blaring, then get on with the day. Or, just make meal preparation and clean-up a cooperative effort. The "ethic" is that we clean up messes we did not make, a job well-done is it's own reward, and people cooperate.
If he plays an instrument or sings (with private lessons or participation in school) then he does have the opportunity to develop that work ethic. Does he put in effort on his school assignments? That is also a place for work ethic to develop.
I have a friend whose 12 year-old daughter came up with "Mom is just lazy," because during the school-year, Mom was getting the chores done while the kids were at school. This is a woman who has spinal damage and a bum leg from a car wreck, so when the kids came home from school, Mom was recovering for pretty much the rest of the day.
Now, Mom takes it easy during the day, after school she starts her former morning housework and exercise routine. Her kids see her as the active and disciplined adult she has always been.

Ivonne's picture

How can someone learn the value of working by doing chores that are largely unnecessary? To me that seems backwards.

However I do think teaching a child some responsibility is an important part of the process of raising them.

Here's what I think:
Does he clean and keep his own room tidy?
Does he put his own laundry in the basket?
Does he help out with the evening dishes?

My stepson, age 13 never had to do a lick of work around the house till I raised the issue with his mom. He's now responsible for clearing out the dishwasher. There's no reward or allowance raise that comes of this, it is expected of him because he's starting to be a big boy. A badge of honor for his maturity ;-). He's not missed a day of doing his chore and rarely has to be reminded.

I personally don't think chores should be done for money, that just teaches the kids greed. They should be done because it's the right thing to do, everyone helping out about the house, to the best of their ability.

stepmom of four boys

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

Good pt, Ivonne. I think certain things are just expected of us, and we shldn't be rewarded for every little thing. That's not realistic at all. People go to work every day, but every day do they return home w/ a prize? No. Occasionally your boss may say, "good job", or possibly award you w/ a bonus for your extra efforts, but we can't go through life thinking it will always be like this. I think positive feedback goes a long way. You can build responsibility and respect just by being nice. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, so a simple "thank you" or "nice work" is great to hear too.