Sacrificial Parenting and Chores

The other day I posted a new video on Youtube: An Answer to the Chores Problem. In case you didn’t get a chance to watch it, I’ll add it to this post:


Basically, I repeated some of the chores ideas I have shared in posts and podcasts on my Stories of an Unschooling Family blog.

How do we get our kids to help with the chores? This seems to be one of the big parenting questions. In the video, I presented an answer: We have to be willing to help our children. Be a good example. If we want them to do something, we first have to be prepared to do it ourselves. We have to treat others as we’d like to be treated. It all starts with us.

After I published my video, someone stopped by and left a comment. She said she just doesn’t get radical unschooling: “It always seems to be about how much you can sacrifice and bend over backwards for your kids — how many ways you can compromise, without asking them to at all. I just can’t get behind that. It’s not fair to me or my husband.”

The comment made me think. At first glance, radical unschooling doesn’t seem to make much sense. Why should kids help if their parents are willing to do everything for them? Surely, parents will become doormats. Their needs will be neglected. Children will end up lazy and self-centred and spoilt. Maybe it’s our duty to be firm with our kids. Make them do the chores. It’s a matter of discipline. And fairness.

I used to worry a lot about fairness, even before my husband Andy and I had any children.

When I was a new wife I said, “I’m not doing more than my fair share. I’m certainly not doing such things as iron Andy’s shirts. That’s his responsibility. Why should I have to do his jobs? I’ve got enough things of my own to do.”

So for the first part of our marriage, I was a prickly wife who kept a scorecard because I was afraid that my husband would take advantage of me. I didn’t want to do everything while he sat around being lazy.

Eventually, I relaxed. I started to trust Andy. I discovered that he had no intention of taking advantage of me. He wanted to show his love by helping me. So I learnt to show my love too by doing things for him and not counting the cost.

When we don’t keep score but do things for another person regardless of whether they choose to do things for us, whether they have earned it in some way, we are showing sacrificial love. We are loving unconditionally. This is the type of love I learnt to show my husband. But is it the sort of love I should extend to my children? Are they worthy of that kind of love too? Or are children different? Will they, unlike new wives, not respond to the power of love? Will they become spoilt and selfish?

In my experience, unconditional love changes people. I have witnessed it in my own family.

I suppose what we are talking about is being self-giving without limit. That can sound scary. But are we called to do that?

Does God want us to serve others and not worry about the cost? Should we love our neighbour as ourselves? Treat others as we want to be treated? Love until it hurts?

Sometimes serving others and not counting the cost seems to be an impossible mission. There are days when I don’t feel up to the challenge. I shout, “It’s not fair. I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore.” I no longer want to bend over backwards. I’m fed up with making sacrifices. I just want to be looked after.

And then without any encouragement, my kids say, “Sit down, Mum. We’ll bring you some tea. You rest. We’ll look after everything. We’ll finish the chores.”

Yes, I think I’ve found the answer to the chores problem. And it has nothing to do with what is fair. It’s much bigger than chore rosters and rewards. It reaches further than a clean house. It’s about giving freely to one another, making sacrifices and not counting the cost.

The answer to the chores problem is sacrificial love.

I said it all starts with us. Maybe that’s not quite right. Could it all start with God’s grace?

I had so much trouble writing this post. Even after a million edits, I’m still not sure my words make much sense. Trying to express what’s in my thoughts and heart is sometimes very difficult. I almost gave up the struggle and deleted this post. But maybe it can be a conversation starter. You could add your thoughts. We could ponder this topic together.

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    • Vicky
    • February 10, 2017

    I agree with everything you say, Sue. Our priest often repeats the phrase ‘for the good of the other’ meaning that everything we do should be an act of servitude. I wonder if radical unschoolers come to this same philosophy from the point of education and others of us come it to from the spiritual life, because when it is described like this, it really seems to be the standard for Christian living.
    I agree with it all starting with God’s grace, too. Recently, I’ve been amazed at how God has orchestrated the different aspects of our family life and brought harmony and a richness to what we do. Though I plan our activities, I couldn’t have planned the result. xxx

    1. Reply


      On the surface of it, radical unschooling seems to have no connection with anything spiritual. It appears to be a self-centred way of life. However, I am continually amazed at how well it fits in with our faith life. Yes, we start with education but going deeper, we might indeed arrive at the standard for Christian living. I often ponder how God works through radical unschooling. I guess that’s why I want to write some posts about Catholic radical unschooling! It is good to hear about the richness and harmony you are experiencing as you homeschool. You sound happy!
      Sue Elvis recently posted…Sacrificial Parenting and ChoresMy Profile

    • Kim
    • April 24, 2017

    I really do see that unschooling is such an extension of living a life trusting in God and treating others with love. The life of Christ is inviting. He invites, doesn’t barge in. It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance. I pray I can be more kind and inviting. Thank you for your video! I love to see you. Feels more like a conversation.

    1. Reply


      “unschooling is such an extension of living a life trusting in God and treating others with love.” Oh yes, I agree! I think about this a lot, and I feel sure this is how God wants us to live. We have to show kindness, unconditional love, respect, trust… I do like your words about repentance very much!

      Thank you for watching my video and for stopping by to continue the conversation!

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