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It’s a Hard Knock Life
Meg Bamford | Head of Miriam School and Learning Center

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going on vacation with my 2 daughters and one of my best friends from college. One of my favorite parts of the trip was our dinner conversations with the girls recounting their childhood memories (which is funny since they are only 21 and 20 years old). One night they became particularly animated regarding the chores they were assigned to when they were younger. Apparently my husband and I were especially unfair when we had family work days and they would be assigned to weeding 6 gravel steps. Even now, 10 years later, the girls are still riled up about it. I found those family work days somewhat hilarious because as they worked, the girls would always sing, “It’s a hard knock life for us…”

Perhaps you don’t have the dreaded gravel steps, but it is very important for children, no matter who they are, to be given and expected to do chores that are developmentally appropriate. For Miriam’s children, completing chores is critical for  their sense of confidence and competency.  It also gives them ownership, partnership, and a sense of purpose in your household. In the education world, often when we have students who suffer from school phobia, anxiety or trouble transitioning from home to school, we create school jobs for those students. Whether it is watering the classroom plants, caring for the gerbils in Mrs. Lipkind’s classroom or raising the flag in the morning, our students feel a sense of agency. Furthermore, for students with fine or gross motor challenges, or executive functioning issues like sequencing, organizing and task completion, chores help provide continued practice and build their brains through repetition. 

On the parent side of things, it can be challenging. In the moment, getting them to do the job needed required a great deal of patience and a consistent message. For the Bamford family, our message was, “We are a family and we all work together to keep our house and yard clean, safe, and tidy.” It also required that my husband and I took the time to explain and model our expectations of how a chore needed to be done and what it looked like when the task was complete. We rotated chores among our three kids, but when possible, we offered 2 choices. “Would you rather weed the stairs or rake the leaves in the backyard?” We also tried to make the work day fun by playing favorite family music (ABBA anyone?), and doing something fun or relaxing at the end of the day. 

Kids, especially our Miriam students, are smart and capable people. Most likely they will not be not excited to do chores. However, be calm, clear and consistent with your expectations. Understanding that may take a great deal of patience on your part, some cheerful modeling, and extra time for your child to complete a chore in the beginning. Practice makes progress, so please do not do the chore for them. Work alongside them if necessary until they are independent and remind them of how their contribution matters to your family. 


Wishing you a very happy holiday season! The holidays of Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa this month offer a sense of seasonal joy, hope, community, tradition and affirmation of what is truly important. We long for family and friends to create sweet moments together and reminisce on times gone by.

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