Children today tend to rebel against the idea of doing chores. They feel that they deserve to be given what they want, without having to do anything for it. That’s a manifestation of today’s entitlement mentality. A large part of our population thinks that they are entitled to receive what they need to survive, as well as a whole bunch of their wants, just because they are alive. Forget about the fact that they aren’t doing anything to earn it, they think they deserve it.
While I will agree that there are certain things that children deserve, I definitely don’t buy into the entitlement mentality. Children deserve their parents love. They deserve to have their parents take care of them and meet their needs. They also deserve to be taught and trained, so that they are ready to face life. But they don’t necessarily deserve everything they want.
I suppose children could say that they shouldn’t have to do anything in a survival situation, because their parents have to take care of them. However, there’s a simple argument to counter that. That’s called survival. Simply ask the child if they want to survive. If they do, they’ll help.
Granted, there should be a limit on children’s chores. They need time for their studies. A child who doesn’t get educated is at a true disadvantage, so letting their chores take the place of their education really isn’t fair to them. They also need time to play, especially to play with other children. Play is an important part of how children learn. A child who never plays with others never learns how to interact correctly with them. So, their play is important.
Chores also need to be appropriate to the child’s age. You don’t want to have a five year old trying to cut firewood. Not only do they not have the physical strength for the task, but they are likely to get hurt on the axe. However, they can pick up smaller branches for use as kindling and firewood.
Always be specific about what you expect the child to do as part of a new chore. While they may have seen someone else do it, they don’t really know the parameters of what they are doing. Failure to be specific is a pretty sure recipe for letting you down, if not outright failure. Children need clear direction, down to discussing how much dirt should be in a “shovel full.”
They also need to know what your criterion for success are. They can’t meet your expectations, if they don’t know what those expectations are. All too often, parents get frustrated with their children because they weren’t clear enough. The parent assumes that the child new better, but the child did not.
Chores are a great opportunity to teach a child new life skills and then allow them to practice those skills. Take the time to teach them, showing them what works and what doesn’t. If you know any labor saving devices, show them that too. There’s nothing to be gained by making a child do something the hard way, if there’s an easier way available.
So, What Can Your Kids Do?
There is no blanket list of chores that your children should do in a survival situation. That’s because each situation is as individual as the children are. You’ll need to start from the viewpoint of what your children already know. What skills do they have, going into the survival situation? How can those skills be used to help your family survive? Or, how can they be modified to order to help your family survive?
The next thing is to look at what new skills your children may be ready to learn. This might be very different than it would be in a “normal” situation. For example, you might not think of teaching your child to light a fire in the fireplace until they were 14 or 15 in “normal” times. But in a survival situation, you might decide that it’s appropriate to do at the age of 8 or 10. What’s the difference? Being in a survival situation requires more from all of us; so it’s appropriate that it would do so for our children as well.
If you find that a new skill is either too difficult or too dangerous for one of your children to do, you can always back off, un-assigning that chore until they have had a chance to mature more or to learn it better. This requires more attentiveness on your part, but it’s really not all that hard to do, considering there are plenty of other chores you can assign to that child.
Here are some age-appropriate chores that you can use as a starting point for figuring out what chores your children should be doing.
- Pick up and put away toys
- Throw trash away
- Place dirty clothes in the laundry hamper
- Carry firewood
- Fold washcloths and cloth diapers
- Set the table
- Dust things that are within their reach
- Feed pets
- Wipe up spills
- Make their bed
- Water plants
- Sort things
- Clear the dining table
- Dry dishes
- Gather trash
- Gather sticks for firewood
- Weed the garden
- Rake leaves
- Peel potatoes and carrots
- Make salad
- Gather eggs from the chickens
- Wash laundry
- Hang or fold clean clothes
- Dust furniture
- Put food away properly for storage
- Some light cooking, like scrambling eggs, making cookies and warming foods
- Walk dogs, take livestock to water
- Clean off tables
- Fish for food
- Care for chickens
- Clean bathrooms
- Mop floors
- Prepare a simple meal
- Mow lawn
- Simple clothes mending
- Light a fire
- Paint walls
- More complex gardening tasks, such as trimming hedges
- Shop for groceries (off a list)
- Cook a complete dinner
- Bake bread
- Simple home repairs
- Watch younger children
These are just some guidelines and few of the tasks mentioned on this list would actually be considered survival tasks. Nevertheless, it should give you a good starting point to use in determining what tasks you can start your children on. Each simple task that they do frees up your time to take care of the more complicated tasks associated with your family’s survival.
One very important part of this training is to train them to take responsibility and take care of their chores without you having to remind them all the time. You want to teach them to be responsible adults, so they need to get used to telling themselves to do the work, not just respond when you tell them to.
You should always check up on them, but do so in an unobtrusive way. You really don’t want them to see that you are watching. Generally speaking, they’ll do a better job with you watching, than they will if you aren’t. Since you’re trying to teach them to be responsible, you want to make sure that they can discipline themselves to do a good job, without you looking over their shoulder.
At the same time, one of the things that motivates your children is your approval as a parent. Make sure to give them that approval when they deserve it. That will make their day and they’ll work all the harder to keep receiving it.
Some survival related tasks may not be accomplished frequently enough so that you can see your child demonstrate competency in that task. In that case, it would be important to incorporate times of testing, as part of the training cycle. The child would need to continue training in the task, until they can demonstrate that they are competent in it.
This is no different than what they do in school or what is expected of a new employee on a job. The only difference is that the tasks are survival related. That usually means that they will be physical tasks, related to survival, rather than something that can be tested via a written test.
Having to actually complete the task is the best way for the child to demonstrate their competency. If there are variables which might exist, but can’t be tested for, the variables can be covered by oral questioning, once they’ve demonstrated their competency in the basic task. Combining the questioning and the physical task should give you a pretty good idea of how well they can do on it.
Every parent is concerned about their children’s safety. Survival doesn’t make that any easier. If anything, survival just makes it worse. There is much more that a child can get hurt on in a survival situation, than there is under more normal circumstances. If not dealt with correctly, this could raise the level of concern to a point where all the parent does is yell at the child; not healthy for either of them.
The biggest dangers come in areas where children don’t know about the item. Their own innate curiosity will cause them to explore, so that they can learn about it. That can be very dangerous. How would you feel about your child “exploring” a poisonous snake? Obviously, that’s one experience you’d rather avoid.
One of the biggest areas that people discuss this with is firearms. The anti-gun crowd talks about how dangerous guns are for children, and they’re right. At least, they’re right when it comes to children who don’t know anything about guns. Those are the ones who accidentally kill their friends.
On the other hand, children who understand guns know how to treat the gun with the necessary respect to avoid such an accident. One of the first things those children learn is the four rules of gun safety. So, even if they handle a loaded gun, they won’t be pointing it at their friend. While they are not very likely to have an accidental discharge, if they do, the gun is pointed in a safe direction.
However, children who are trained in the use of guns are much more likely to leave the guns alone, rather than getting them out when mom and dad aren’t looking. Their curiosity is satisfied, so they don’t feel a need to explore in that area. That makes those children safe around guns.
It’s impossible to teach a child everything at once; but if you find yourself in a survival situation, you’d better plan on teaching your children a lot about the dangers they face, very quickly. They may not accept everything you say, but they will at least be forewarned. That may be enough that they tread carefully and avoid being hurt.
One good way of teaching a child about danger is to have them do things with you. There are several advantages to that sort of system. First of all, they will learn valuable skills. While you are working together, you can tell them about what you are doing, so that they have the opportunity of gaining an understanding of it. During that, it would be natural to slip in comments about the dangers associated with what you are doing, pointing out the dangers and showing how to avoid them. Finally, with your child participating in what you are doing, there is less of a chance of them getting hurt by doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
Always remember that a child will do the things that they shouldn’t, unless there is an adult to stop them. It is often hard for a child to grasp an adult’s reasoning for why we say yes and no to them. They are looking from the limited perspective of their desires, which makes it difficult for them to see anything more than that we said “no.”
If your survival plans include bugging in or sheltering in place, you’re probably going to have less to worry about safety-wise than you would anyplace else. Being in the familiar environment of your own home is much safer for your children, even during a crisis situation.
That’s not to say that it will be totally safe. If you bug in, you’re probably going to be doing a lot of things much different than you did them before the disaster struck. For most people, bugging in will require turning their home into a homestead, growing produce in a garden, as well as raising chickens and other animals to eat. You’ll probably be heating your home with wood, as well as cooking over a wood fire. The use of tools from axes for chopping wood to shovels for gardening all create fresh areas of danger for a child.
There will be plenty of danger to consider. Basically, you have two choices when dealing with each of these new areas of danger. The first option (and the one that most parents want to take) is to keep your child from having any possible contact with that danger. That’s a form of incarceration; whether you lock the child up to keep them away from the danger or lock the danger up to keep it out of reach of the child.
Granted, there are some things that should be kept out of the reach of children, especially small children. If a child is not old enough to learn how to handle something safely, they shouldn’t be allowed to have any contact with it. But when they can learn, it’s time to think about option two; that is to teach them about the item, eliminating the danger of them doing something foolish with it.
Ultimately, just like the handgun example we were talking about earlier, teaching the child how to use an item safely is better for the child and will reduce the chance of accidents. Of course, there is always the possibility of a child misusing an item, even when they know how to use it properly, but adults can do that too.
I remember when my dad gave me my first pocket knife. I couldn’t have been more than six years old at the time. I still remember the knife. It was an Old Timer pocket knife with three blades. I carried that knife for years, using it for whittling, cleaning my fingernails, opening birthday presents and anything else that I could find to use a knife for. As best as I recollect, I never did more than nick a finger with that knife and I never hurt a playmate with it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my dad was teaching me about knives. He bought me that pocket knife on purpose, so that I would learn to whittle with it. By doing so, he prevented me from having a serious accident with a knife. He taught me the same sort of lessons with guns and tools, helping ensure that I knew how to use things safely. That way, he didn’t need to watch me every minute.