Learning responsibility: Families talk about starting their children on household chores

  • Joey Lamanna, 15, folds clothes on Thursday, Feb. 6. That’s one of his chores at his home in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sage Lamanna, 13, completes her chore of emptying the dishwasher on Thursday, Feb. 6. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joey Lamanna, 15, folds clothes on Thursday, Feb. 6. That’s one of his chores at his home in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sage Lamanna, 13, completes her chore of emptying the dishwasher. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Erica and Joseph Lamanna with their children, Sage, 13, and Joey, 15, on Thursday, Feb. 6, at their home in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joey Lamanna, 15, vacuums on Thursday, Feb. 6, at his home in Northampton. His father, Joseph, looks on. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/14/2020 10:20:11 AM
Modified: 2/14/2020 10:19:59 AM

At what age do parents begin assigning chores to their children? For one family in Northampton, chores began when their children turned 10, helping with yard work and raking leaves. For another local family, helping to set the table became a point of pride once their children turned 4.

“My husband and I had been doing chores around that age when we were growing up,” said Erica Lamanna, of Florence, mother of a 15-year-old son Joey and 13-year-old daughter Sage. “Yard work, snow removal, we definitely started with yard work before laundry and putting away dishes. It just seemed easier. It was hands-on and they were working.”

Northampton resident Winslow Carroll said she noticed that around 3 years old, her daughters wanted to be helpful around the house, so Carroll and her husband decided that once their kids turned 4 they would help set the table before meals.

“Four was sort of the sweet spot for our oldest daughter,” said Carroll, who has three children, aged 10, 7 and 3. “We drew where the fork, spoon, knife and napkin go, and on her birthday, we said, ‘You get a job with the family,’ and she was very excited.”

Contributing to the household

Joe Lamanna, Erica Lamanna’s husband, grew up in the house where his family currently resides on Bridge Road. Every Columbus Day, regardless of the weather, he would be outside picking up leaves and raking the yard.

Erica Lamanna said it was only natural that their own children, Joey and Sage, would begin helping with yard work as they grew old enough.

“When we were outside doing stuff around the yard, it kind of just fell into place,” she said. “If we were going to be outside raking the leaves, they would be outside raking leaves or picking up dog poop or whatever else we were doing. They were doing it with us.”

Initial tasks included using lawnmowers, pulling out weeds in the garden and shoveling the sidewalk and driveway in the winters, she said.

Then, she began introducing new chores such as vacuuming, folding laundry, sweeping the house, cleaning out the kitty litter and eventually putting away dishes.

“I like mowing the lawn because I just kind of space out until I realize I’m done,” Joey said, adding that he usually listens to music to pass the time.

Sage chimed in, “I don’t really like folding laundry, but it’s just something I have to do.”

Erica Lamanna said that her children are not paid directly for their chores because it is a part of daily life in the family household.

“To be honest, we don’t consider them to be chores,” she said. “We just consider them part of the responsibility of living in a house and contributing to the house. They don’t get an allowance. But when they go out and they want to go to Friendly’s with their friends, we are certainly giving them money to go. At one point, Sage wanted to buy an expensive pair of sneakers and I said that is fine.”

Joe Lamanna added, “She asked for additional things to do to gain money.”

That sense of responsibility extended to an elderly neighbor’s home. The Lamanna children would help out with yard work and snow removal before that neighbor recently moved into a nursing home.

“It felt like also our property we needed to take care of since she wasn’t able to do it herself,” Joey said. “We did it like it was ours. Just something to do.”

Looking to the future, Erica Lamanna said she hopes to see Sage helping get dinner started in the evening. As for Joey, his parents said he will be helping shuttle his sister from different after-school events once he gets his driver’s license.

‘In a family,everyone chips in’

By 4 years old, Carroll said her children were in “full-on copying mode,” and found her daughters wanting to model from her, from wanting to try on her earrings to wanting to help in the kitchen.

“In my experience, the kids are always watching what the adults are doing, and wanting to do all the things adults are doing,” Carroll said. “And it’s a great time to take advantage of that thing. If you want to be helpful, you got it.”

There tends to be an evaluation around her daughters’ birthdays, based around what the child can be expected to learn without supervision after a month, and what tasks on her own to-do list could be accomplished by one of her children, she said.

Chores include putting their laundry in their drawers, folding their own clothes, loading the laundry machine or collecting all the laundry from the different hampers in the house, helping parents clean up after dinner, putting cutting boards in the sink, spraying and drying off the kitchen counters.

“One of my philosophies is a little task every day is more helpful than a big task done occasionally,” Carroll said. “Partly because kids develop habits better that way, and it’s less of a battle for one big thing occasionally.”

As a birthday rolls around, Carroll explains to her children a new chore or little task, she said. “I tend to frame it as: in a family, everyone chips in. It’s not just the adults’ job, we all have a job to do to take care of family needs.”

It becomes relevant and understandable for her children that it would not be fair for adults having to do all the work in a household, Carroll said, by “appealing to their sense of fairness.”

Carroll said by age 4 her children want to no longer be characteristically doing things “in a baby way,” and the chores and tasks become something the children take pride in.

“Building that culture of taking pride in good work at a young age can be really helpful,” Carroll said. “Teach them to stand up, look at the table, ask, ‘Does it look nice?’ And saying, ‘It’s so nice of you to set the table.’ There is a sense of ownership.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com.

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