Play, Chores and Growing Up with Control

One thing I’ve never been good at is playing with my children.  I’ve never been one of those people that can get down on the floor and engage at that level.  Now if you meet me you may wonder why as people say I have quite a child like energy, (I’m hoping they mean that as a god thing!  ;) ).

But the thought of playing with the kids whether its Lego or pretend play has always filled me with dread and I’ve not been sure why.  Its not something I’ve payed that much attention too as I’ve always been busy or managed to avoid it if I’m honest.

But today I was sat there laying on the floor as my 3 year old wanted to play Lego and I realised why I had always felt this.  When I was younger, I always remember my parents ‘being on my case’.  For example, I maybe relaxing, playing computer games or something in my bedroom and I would get interrupted, being asked if I’d done this chore yet or that thing yet.  I always remember being hassled (yes thats my version of it ;) ) into some kind of chore or responsibility around the house.  So I’d created this association with play, relaxation and fun, with guilt, dread and fear of being made to feel bad about enjoying myself.

Now I’m not saying my parents intended this.  They were doing the best job they knew how to do, and with all mainstream, traditional parenting they probably believed that installing a strong work ethic into their daughter would be a good thing.  However, this is where this theory backfires.  I have learnt to associate ‘hard work’ and ‘responsibilities’ with dread, boredom and any means of avoidance.  Its also caused me to feel guilty around ‘play’ or time off.

Where else does this play out in my own life?  Well in the past I do anything to get out of what I would consider ‘hard work’, even if going through that work would cause significant improvement in my life.  Not in every area, but in enough for it to play a significant role in my life.  Its caused guilt at me just having a day when I watch movies or chill, until recently I would never consciously take a day off, or time off for me, and you sure as hell wouldn’t find me in my pyjamas all day as ‘we just don’t do that’. ;)

I think any child who is made to do chores is going to grow up resenting it. Even if they turn into the kind of kid that will do them or the kind of adult that keeps the house clean.  What are we really teaching our children by making them do stuff when we say so?

So what can we do instead?

Well one idea would be to make chores fun, everybody helping out together.  Making it a positive family time experience maybe.  Or some people don’t make their children do chores at all when they are young.  They model for their children enjoyment around keeping things tidy and kindness around doing things for their children.  Often these parents find their kids naturally start helping out and doing kind deeds for each other when they reach an appropriate age.   This again plays on the importance of modelling what we want for our children.


What are your theories around chores?  How has the way you were raised around chores played out in your own life?  Do you ever feel guilty around play or down time?  Would love to hear your thoughts below. :)


Emma Combes

Emma helps parents overcome the automatic negative reactions that are stopping them from parenting consciously and with love through her coaching practice. She also helps parents live the most awesome life in all areas, so they can know they were the best role model they could be for their children.