BlogA Lesson in Parenting

April 21, 2024by Frank Love0

Raising Responsible Children, One Chore at a Time

Parents teach valuable lessons of discipline and consistency when they provide their children appropriate household responsibilities.

In my previous blog, “Poverty In Relationships,” I talked about the challenges of maintaining our relationship wealth while also having to make money.

Failing to give our children responsibilities that challenge them and are commensurate with their ages as they grow is a form of child and personal neglect. Admittedly, there are harsher forms of neglect. However, it is neglect.

My youngest son is about to turn seventeen (and did read and give his permission to be featured in this blog). He’s developing well, and I am very proud of him. I am particularly proud of the way I can depend on him more and more. He did what he needed to do to get his driver’s license. Now he’s able to drive himself to basketball practice. He’s also able to run errands for his grandparents. But most impressive in his development is the agreeability he is embodying. Agreeability hasn’t always been his strong suit. He was never horrible or a complete contrarian, but he certainly did his share of pushing back.

Parents Request, Children Push Back

A few years ago, I’m going to estimate he was about thirteen, my wife and I decided it was time for the children to take on additional responsibilities around the house. Up until this point, the children had a pattern or habit of straightening up or cleaning when they were told to do so, and their execution was moderate. But based on how messy things were and the workload that was falling mostly on the parents, it was clear it was time to change the work culture around the house.

We believed that it was important the children begin to be responsible for a few duties and not simply respond to Mommy or Daddy telling them when something needed to be done. We decided that the baby boy was going to be responsible for collecting the trash from around the house and taking it outside to the trash receptacle every day by 6:00 p.m.

The edict was delivered to my son. It did not land smoothly. He gave me, usually the person reminding him to handle the noted responsibility, pushback from every direction I could imagine.

Son: “Every day? Can’t I just take the trash out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays?”

Father: “No, son. The trash in the kitchen is overflowing every day. It needs to go out every day.”


Son: “Can everyone just bring their trash to the kitchen, and I’ll take it outside from the kitchen?”

Father: “No, son. It’ll take you five minutes to collect the trash from around the house. This isn’t something arduous you need other people to help you with.”


Son: “Well can everyone put their trash can in the hallway for me to collect their trash?”

Father: (See the second response above.)


Son: “Dad, can you help me?”

(See the second response above.)

The pushback didn’t stop there though. When he did not get the answer that satisfied him, he went passive-aggressive: He just didn’t take the trash out. Day after day, the trash accumulated past the capacity of several of the receptacles in our home. “Son, handle the trash,” I would say after 6:00 p.m. Then again after 8:00 p.m. Huffing and puffing was also part of the flavor he was bringing to the dynamic. The tug-of-war was in full effect.

Parental Persistence and Patience Are a Must

After having too many antagonistic conversations with my son, it became clear to me that some third-party input might help. Thus, I reached out to my big sister/cousin, Abena. Abena is probably four or five years my senior. She is not a blood relative, but she is family nonetheless. We grew up together and have raised our children in the same circle. Her son, who I am close with, is about twenty-seven years old and his baby sister is probably two years his junior. Abena has done an excellent job raising her children. They are respectful, honorable, and productive young people.  

I explained to her the current relationship I was navigating with my youngest son. Her first question was, “What responsibilities around the house or chores have you previously given him?”

“None,” I said. “I’ve only told him ‘Get your homework done.’”

“That’s the problem. You haven’t been giving him any responsibilities to maintain the house, and now that you are, he’s pushing back. It’s foreign to him. You have to teach him responsibility. You have to be patient with him since you have let him off the hook for so long. Be persistent and guide him. But don’t be too hard on him.”

“Understood. You’re right.”

New Responsibilities Require Clear Expectations and Follow Up

Abena’s wisdom was spot-on. In my mind I was doing my part by making sure he did his schoolwork. And since he was a great student, that responsibility was a walk in the park. I had also believed that I was doing my part by having him do ad hoc assignments as they became necessary. But I had not pushed an everyday or regular routine of responsibility where he nurtured his home and family.

Since then, my wife and I have done a much better job at teaching our children a given job: explaining and discussing the expectation, following up to make sure the job was done, and checking the quality of work. However, our parental consistency can still be better; and we will do better.

Along the way, and since Abena’s imparted lesson, my son has become more and more compliant, responsive, and dependable. I am not one hundred percent satisfied, yet I am very proud of him. The parental consistency worked and is working. He no longer acts in a manner that suggests he feels devastated by household responsibilities.

When asking Abena permission to include her in this story (which she clearly approved), she noted, “We have to begin teaching our children responsibility from the time they’re able to walk. This includes simple tasks like placing their toys back in the toy chest. As each year goes by, add another task they’re fully capable of handling.”


Growing Resilient Children

Moving forward, please, let’s strongly consider giving our children chores as soon as they can conceivably execute them. Yes, most of us have had a long day at work, and it is often easier for us to do things ourselves or pay someone else to do them than teach our children how to do them. But when we do that we are neglecting our children.


Few if any things are more important than teaching our children discipline. Whether we teach them discipline or not, we are teaching them, and they will be learning from us. Let’s make sure what they are intentionally learning is how to contribute to the household. Then their community. These lessons will permeate everything they do thereafter. 

We are our children’s first teachers.  This means when we put our intentional teacher’s hat on, we are charged with making sure they know how to do “it,” making sure they did “it,” and making sure they did a good job with “it.” This gets to happen as a pattern, and over time.  And that’s loving.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love


In my next blog post, “Patience: Loving Grandma and Her Knitting,” I will talk about a memory technique I use to bring patience to my interactions with my partner and others.


Watch Frank Love’s presentation “The Act of Caring.”

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Each week, Frank Love hosts Zoom support group meetings that assist women and men as we work to create a loving culture in our relationships. Calls occur from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST and can be accessed by visiting FrankWeeklyCall.com.

  • Tuesdays – Black Women: Creating a Loving Culture in Our Relationships
  • Thursdays – Black Men: Creating a Loving Culture in Our Relationships

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Frank Love coaches individuals who are in (or wish to be in) a relationship toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.

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