A Montessori chart of “Age-Appropriate Chores for Children” is making the Facebook rounds. (The shares on my page came from the Facebook page of “Maria Montessori.”) With it, the commentary.

Apparently, a lot of “other parents” have complained about this list. Those “other parents” say things like “children aren’t slaves” and “carrying firewood is dangerous!” Scroll down, and you find those parents, noting that the label on the cleaning supplies says to “keep away from children,” and so they do, and what 10-year-old can mow the lawn? Who would trust a 12-year-old with hedge clippers?

But we, the parents in the know who share this chart and comment with the greatest enthusiasm – our children are doing these things. Of course they are. “My barely 2-y-o is doing the 6-7 things lol!” one proud writer declares. We’re not raising any entitled brats. Nope, our children contribute to the family, learn responsibility and take pride in their work.

Well, maybe yours do. Me, I hovered over that share button – and paused.

My own kids have done most of those things (I’m afraid dusting baseboards and disinfecting doorknobs haven’t been on our list). They can do the big ones for their ages (they’re 7, 8, 9 and 12): weed garden, fold clothes, make a meal, do simple home repairs. And sometimes they do.

And sometimes they don’t. Why not? Because too often, I don’t make them – and sometimes, I don’t even ask.


Before we get off on what a terrible parent I am (often true), I will say that there are certain chores that don’t get shirked. Every one of them mucks stalls in all weather; every one of them does farm and horse jobs at moments when we would all vastly prefer to be inside. (We own a horse barn that houses four of our horses and six others.) That’s the stuff that has to be done and that I can’t do without help. But for so many indoor chores, I’m far too prone not to push.

Once I’ve nagged them into clearing their plates and nagged them into feeding the dogs and cats and nagged them into picking up their socks off the floor, I tend to open the full dishwasher, shrug and realize that I would far, far rather spend the seven minutes it will take to empty it than nag anyone yet again.

The result is a scattershot approach that has not, as yet, resulted in children who do much of anything unless you ask, ask again, ask a third time and then holler. We have a chore wheel, perused with dedication to determine who feeds which animals at which part of the day, but several of the chores on it (“clean kitchen” and “empty dishwasher” spring to mind) go undone.

Even our older children feel lame about this. “You should make us do our chores,” my 9-year-old told me recently. “Or you shouldn’t give us, like, half of our allowance.” (Allowance isn’t tied to chores at our house, although we’ve gone through haphazard efforts at taking it away if things aren’t done.)

And we vowed to change, but that was two weeks ago, and to be honest, we haven’t. Of all the things I thought might be difficult about having children, I never realized it would be so much work to get them to do any work.

And so, although I might get partial credit for my good intentions (I certainly believe children of these ages ought to be capable of all of these things), I don’t give myself a very good grade for effort, let alone results.


No proudly sharing the Montessori chore chart for me.

Maybe we should add a new category for parents of all ages:

Makes plans to delegate chores to children.

Follows through.

“SCHOOL’S OPEN. I’m cheering, kids aren’t. I just went over to the dark side.”

That’s the gist of a recent tweet from a New Yorker I follow, and it’s one many parents across the country would love to send out, as schools close for weather in places where people are more accustomed to wearing shorts in January than driving on ice.


“We have plans for dinner: salad, hamburger, sweet potato fries, fruit and cookies,” officials at an elementary school in Hoover, Ala., wrote on Facebook to reassure parents. “If you are unable to come before night, we have plans to use the mats from the gym as beds.”

Even Chicago, where the kind of weather that’s shutting down cities in the South is called spring, has closed schools because of the cold.

Any parent knows that while schools may be shut, the shops, offices, hospitals and restaurants where we work rarely close their doors (and many bosses just roll their eyes at all those directives to stay off the roads).

“Pause and enjoy this extra family time” isn’t advice an hourly worker who was counting on a shift appreciates.

Even for parents who can stay home, snow days are disruptive. Social media is filled with the plaints of parents with houses full of children who should be expending their energy somewhere else.

“Anybody know the rules for Clue Jr.?” “Look! Snowflake pancakes.” “Southern snow day: no school and there’s no bread or snow for miles.” And, of course, “How much Disney Jr. can they really watch?”


Me, I’m looking out my New England window at clear skies and grass sticking up through the snow.

But if weather has you and your family on mandatory down time, how are you spending it?

Contact KJ Dell-Antonia at:


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