They only have 2 chores but can't even do that
I'm a single mother, work full time with 2 kids. I do the majority of the housework, but putting the clean clothes away and feeding the animals are the ONLY 2 mandatory chores they have.
From an adult point of view it seems obvious and reasonable. From a child's point of view the situation looks very different. If we can shift our understanding to their understanding, then their reactions are totally understandable.
Picture this scenario. You are one of 3 adults. One adult has appointed herself leader without consulting you or the other adult. She's bigger and more powerful so you feel powerless to challenge her. Even if she's never punished you, you know you could be punished if you don't do what she says.
The leader has decided there are 10 tasks that need done. From the points of view of the other two adults they are ridiculous, pointless tasks: scrub the garage floor, trim the grass with a pair of scissors, shift the furniture from one room to the other every day and so on.
The leader says you need to help out by choosing 2 tasks. You each choose two tasks because you don't really have a choice not to.
From a child's point of view, the situation looks exactly like that.
Many adults will dismiss it. Or they'll shrug it off and say that's the way the world is and kids have to learn that life doesn't bend to their whim.
But there are other and better choices.
If we see what the world looks like from children's understanding and needs, we can come up with solutions that model respect. If they're given respect then they're much more likely to return respect.
If we see all chores as ours and then ask for help -- really ask so that no is an acceptable answer -- then they will eventually help.
What if your child dumped out all the Legos 3 times a day and put them away because that's what he needed done. And he decided that you're a member of the family too so it's your responsibility to help him do the tasks he needs to do. What if he required that you help him?
How willingly would you help?
What if he asked for your help? And what if you knew you could say no or yes? And what if you knew he saw the task as totally his alone to be responsible for and didn't expect you to help? And what if when you did help, even if it was for a little tiny bit, he was very appreciative of what you were able to do for him?
How willingly would you help?
If I put away their clothes, in my opinion, it shows them that if they renege on their agreement to do it, they can let the cats and dogs starve too ... all kids need a little responsibility and their own "job" to do.
If you approach it with the attitude of "That's your job. You agreed to do it. I won't help you," then what response are you modeling for them when you ask them for help?
If we help them as much as we can, turn tasks into time to spend some joyful time together helping each other, then when we ask for help, they're more likely to respond in the way we've modeled for them.
If we approach them with joy, they'll return that joy. If we approach them with resentment, they'll return that resentment.
I don't fault a single working parent for having a rule or two to make her life easier. Sometimes convenience is the best you can do.
If work cuts a 10 hour chunk out of a parents' day and some of those hours had been used for home maintenance, then that's a real life limitation. It isn't necessary to set up rules. Real life limitations can speak pretty loudly and clearly!
There's a difference between approaching a situation with "Here's the situation and here's the solution you guys need to conform to so it will work for me," and "Here's the situation and here's the problems. Let's talk about what we can do and how we can rearrange things so that we can still do the things that are important."
And don't think of this philosophy as the only and best way for everyone to be. It isn't school. There isn't one right answer! ;-) But extending the unschooling philosophy into parenting is an effective answer for those who are saying "I want joy to be my priority. I don't want to have to compromise that. So what do I do about the challenges of daily life?"