Mom of three explains why she doesn’t ask her kids to ‘help’ around the house

How many times have you asked your kid to “help” you do something around the house? It’s a pretty common scenario and typical phrase, but Sam Kelly (@samkelly_world on Instagram), who’s a feminist coach for mothers and mother of three, uses a different approach with her children. She explained her method in an Instagram post.

“I try to never use the phrase ‘help’ when referring to the work of managing a home,” she wrote in a series of slides. “When we say things like ‘helping mom,’ we’re implying that it’s mom who has the actual ownership over the job of managing the home and everyone else is just ‘helping’ support her in that role. But that’s the message we’re working to deconstruct here.”

“It’s not mom’s job or role to be the one in charge of everything for the home and family while everyone else just chips in and helps here and there,” Kelly explained. “The work of managing a home is 100% a team effort. So instead of saying the word ‘help,’ I use the word ‘work.’”

So instead of asking your child to help you unload the dishwasher, you can say “Hey, can you come work with me to unload the dishwasher?”

“Using the word ‘work’ also communicates the message that the stuff that goes into managing a home is actual work—it’s not just stuff that requires little to no effort or is inherently fun or enjoyable to me as a mother simply because I’m a mom/woman,” Kelly continued before pointing out that doesn’t mean the term “work” needs to have a negative connotation. 

“Labeling it as work doesn’t have to be a negative thing. In fact, it’s healthy for kids to see work as morally neutral and something that they can become familiar with,” she added. “Increasing their tolerance of and comfort level with work simply by using the word ‘work’ vs ‘help’ will increase their resiliency.”

In addition to having kids work with you around the house, scientific studies have found that encouraging your children to do chores can help shape them into happy, healthy, successful adults by instilling self-worth and selflessness, as well as building the foundation for a good work ethic. It also strengthens familial bonds when everyone is working together. Just make sure you’re assigning your little one age-appropriate tasks, and start with “fun” things like feeding pets, watering plants, and dusting.

A version of this story was originally published on Dec. 23, 2023. It has been updated.

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