Sometimes parents wonder if they should give their kids chores.
After all, isn’t it the parents’ responsibility to manage the household? And don’t kids need an opportunity to ‘just be kids’ for now because they have the rest of their lives to worry about chores?
Most kids have hectic schedules too. They rush from one activity to the next with little time to clean the house or mow the lawn.
Despite those concerns, however, giving your child chores may be one of the most important things you’ll ever do.
Your toddler’s “I do it myself” attitude can work in your favour regarding tiny tasks around the house.
If your child begins helping at a young age, it creates the expectation that participating in chores and cleaning is part of your family’s routine.
Many parents want to preserve childhood for as long as possible, letting the “kids be kids” and enjoy plenty of playtimes while they’re still young.
Others may see children as less capable, preferring to finish the housework as quickly and efficiently as possible.
These arguments make sense, but they also overlook the many positive benefits of giving kids chores.
Consider these reasons why children should help out around the house.
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Benefits Kids Gain From Doing Chores
While assigning your kids chores can certainly take some of the strain off you, that’s not the only reason you should expect your kids to pitch in around the house. Studies show chores are suitable for children.
Research from a well-known 75-year Harvard study examined the childhood psychosocial variables and biological processes that predicted health and well-being later in life. Researchers concluded that kids who had chores fared better later in life.
Chores were the best predictor of which kids were more likely to become happy, healthy, independent adults.
Why is sweeping the floor and clearing the table so essential to kids’ well-being in life? One reason is that kids feel competent when they do their chores.
Whether they’re making their bed or sweeping the floor, helping out around the house helps kids feel capable.
Doing chores also helps kids feel like they’re part of the team. Pitching in and helping family members is good for them, encouraging them to be good citizens.
Chores Help Teach Life Skills.
They’re young now, but they won’t be kids forever! Laundry, cooking and budgeting are just some of the skills your kids will need once they finally move out.
These are also things that schools do not thoroughly teach, making learning them at home even more important.
Doing chores gives a child the opportunity to give back to their parents for all you do for them.
Kids begin to see themselves as significant contributors to the family. They feel a connection to the family.
Holding them accountable for their chores can increase a sense of being responsible and make them more accountable.
Children will feel more capable of having met their obligations and completed their tasks.
One of the most frequently cited causes of over-indulgence is parents doing too much for their children and not expecting enough of them.
Not being taught the skills of everyday living can limit children’s ability to function at age-appropriate levels.
Chores Help Kids Learn Responsibility and Self-Reliance.
Assigning children regular chores helps teach them responsibility. In addition, tasks that personally affect your kids, such as cleaning their room or doing their laundry, can help them become more self-reliant at the same time.
Your kids or grandkids may also take pride in being considered mature enough to take care of themselves.
Chores Help Teach Teamwork.
Being a productive member of a team can be modelled for children through housework.
Members of your family “team” are accountable to each other, and there are consequences when you don’t meet each other’s expectations.
Learning these lessons at home, where mistakes are more easily forgiven, can help kids develop strong teamwork skills to use at school or work.
Chores Help Reinforce Respect.
It takes moving away from home for most of us to fully appreciate all our parents’ hard work around the house.
Our children are likely no different, but assigning them chores may help this insight come a little quicker.
Kids may become more aware of the messes they make if they’re tasked with cleaning up around the house and more respectful of the work that goes into maintaining a home.
If you let children off the hook for chores because they have too much schoolwork or need to practice a sport, then you are saying, intentionally or not, that their academic or athletic skills are most important.
And if your children fail a test or fail to block the winning shot, then they have failed at what you deem to be most important. They do not have other pillars of competency upon which to rely.
By completing household tasks, they may not always be the star student or athlete, but they will know that they can contribute to the family, begin to take care of themselves, and learn skills they will need as an adult.
Chores Help Build a Strong Work Ethic.
Teachers and bosses value this trait, so why not instil a work ethic in your kids from a young age?
Chores are commonly tied to a reward, such as an allowance or TV time. However, paying children for a job well done can also spark an entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring them to work outside the house once they reach their teens.
Chores Help Improve Planning and Time Management Skills.
It feels like there are a million things to do in the day, and fitting it all into our diaries is a challenge!
Chores can help older kids and teens build good habits early. Juggling school work deadlines, housework, and social life allows them to set priorities and manage their time, essential skills for the working world.
Chores Give Families a Chance to Bond.
People often lament that chores take up time they could be spending with their kids or grandkids.
But chores can create memorable moments between children and adults.
Little ones who always want to help will feel essential and receive a self-esteem boost, and moody teens may decide to open up over a shared task.
How to Get Children Involved in Chores
It’s best to start by choosing chores that work for children’s ages and abilities.
Chores that are too hard can be frustrating – or even dangerous – and too easy tasks might be tedious.
Even young children can help with chores if you choose activities that are right for their age. You can start with simple jobs like picking up toys.
Chores like this send the message that your child’s contribution is essential.
It’s also essential to think about chores or tasks that get your child involved in caring for the family as a whole.
A simple one is getting your child to help with setting or clearing the table. Jobs like these are likely to give your child a sense of responsibility and participation.
If your child is old enough, you can have a family discussion about chores.
This can reinforce the idea that the whole family contributes to how the household runs. Children over six years old can help decide which chores they’d prefer.
You can motivate your child to get involved in chores by:
- doing the assignment together until your child can do it on their own
- being clear about each person’s duties for the day or week – write them down, so they’re easy to remember
- talking about why it’s great that a particular job has been done
- showing an interest in how your child has done the job
- praising positive behaviour
- using a reward chart to track completed chores and give small rewards like choosing a TV program or family meal.
Plenty of encouragement keeps children interested in helping.
You can boost your child’s chances of success by explaining the job and telling your child they’re doing well. This way, your child will feel rewarded.
Chores for Toddlers
Put away toys and books.
Get in the habit of cleaning up after playtime. Encourage your toddler to put things back by establishing a home for their playthings.
For example, books can go on a bookshelf, while toys can go in a toy box, baskets, or shelves. Next, take a walk through your rooms and find abandoned toys.
Assist with laundry.
Help your toddler strengthen their fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination by having them put their dirty clothes in the hamper, throw items in the washer or the dryer, and fold small articles like socks and washcloths.
As you do this, you can also point out the colours and patterns of the clothes.
Care for a pet.
Caring for a pet teaches children kindness and respect for living creatures.
Your toddler can refill food and water bowls using a cup or a minor pitcher (make sure you do the measuring), help scrub your dog’s fur during a bath and place new straw in a bunny’s cage.
Clean up messes.
Are you looking for a fun chore for toddlers? Lean into your kid’s love of silliness by slipping a sock on their hand and encouraging them to slide it over any dusty surface.
Mini versions of the cleaning tools you’re using are also fair game—a small brush and dustpan, a handheld vacuum. Just stay away from harsh cleaning products when your kid is helping. Waterworks are perfectly fine.
Help with groceries.
Have your toddler carry in or stock anything light and non-breakable.
Getting kids involved in picking out food at the store, washing or putting it away, and preparing it can encourage them to try something new.”
Set (and clear) the table.
Spoons, napkins, plastic plates or cups, and condiments are safe in a toddler’s grip. Let older siblings handle anything sharp, heavy, or made of glass.
Make the bed.
It can take many years before a child can tackle this chore solo, but little ones will enjoy helping Mom or Dad by straightening their side of the bed.
Working together, teach your toddler to start with the sheet and pull it up high by the pillows. Next, come the blankets and any bed covers.
Finally, fluff the pillows and plop them on top. It’s OK if the bed is still messy. But, by not going back and making things perfect, you send the message that you value your child’s effort.
Chores for Preschoolers
- Set the table for meals.
- Help with preparing meals under supervision.
- Help put clean clothes into piles for each family member, ready to fold.
- Help with grocery shopping and putting away groceries.
Preschool children can be given simple chores that involve picking up after themselves. Duties should include picking up their toys each day.
They can also learn how to pick up their room and put their dishes away after a meal.
Young children respond well to sticker charts to help remind them to do their chores.
Because preschoolers usually can’t read, a chart with pictures of each chore can jog their memory about what they need to be doing.
After your child completes a chore, put a sticker on the chart. For young children, the sticker can be a good incentive. However, older children may need more significant rewards to stay motivated.
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Chores for School-Age Children
- Water the garden and indoor plants.
- Feed pets.
- Help with hanging out clothes and folding washing.
- Take out rubbish.
- Help with choosing meals and shopping.
- Help with meal preparation and serving, under supervision.
- Vacuum or sweep floors.
- Clean the bathroom sink, wipe down kitchen benches, or mop floors.
- Put away crockery and cutlery.
Once children begin attending school, their responsibility for chores should increase as well.
School-age children should continue to do chores that involve picking up after themselves. For example, teach your kids to put their shoes and backpacks away when they get home from school.
Gradually add new chores to your child’s chore list. As chores become more complex, teach them in a step-by-step manner how to do each task.
For example, if a child is expected to put his clothes away, teach him where to put the clothes and discuss your expectations.
Praise his effort and encourage him to keep practising. Don’t expect perfection.
Chores for Tweens
Tweens can start learning how to take on more responsibility. For example, cleaning the bathroom, sweeping the floors, and dusting might be some of the tasks you add to your child’s to-do list.
There’s no need to reward a tween for every task they complete. Picking up after himself and cleaning his room, for example, are part of pitching in and helping the family.
Paying your tween an allowance for doing extra chores can be an excellent way to start teaching your child financial responsibility.
If you don’t want to pay your tween real money, create a token economy system. Let your tween earn tokens that can be exchanged for time with electronics or outings with friends.
Chores for Teenagers
Teenagers need chores that will prepare them for the real world.
Assign chores such as meal preparation, mowing the lawn, or doing the laundry. These life skills will be necessary after high school so your teen can live independently.
Giving your teen an allowance can motivate him to do chores. It can also serve as a way to teach your teen about how to manage money.
Make an allowance system similar to the way your teen will earn money at a job.
Provide payment one time per week. Don’t give out any loans, and don’t hand out money if your teen hasn’t earned it.
Teenagers can do the chores they did when they were younger, but they can be responsible for doing them independently.
Teenagers can also take on more complex chores. For example, teenagers could wash, clean the bathroom and toilet, prepare meals, stack the dishwasher or mow lawns.
When choosing chores for teenagers, please think of the skills you’d like them to learn.
Is it Worth the Struggle?
Insisting that chores are completed can feel like a never-ending battle. Because it can feel like you are constantly reminding, nagging, or imposing consequences to get your children to follow through, you may decide to let chores slide. It becomes easier in the short run to do the jobs yourself.
Parents may be reluctant to engage in continuous struggles for fear of damaging their relationship with their children.
They may feel guilty asking their children to help; after all, children are so busy with all the other demands on them from school, peers and extra-curricular activities that you may be reluctant to add to the pressures.
Parents may believe their little ones are too young to take on responsibilities, not realizing how capable their youngsters actually can be.
Be convinced of the importance of chores in developing your children’s character. If you firmly believe in their value, you will communicate this message to your children, and you will be less likely to give in to their delay tactics or resistance.
Consider how you look at your “chores” – you are your children’s most important role model. As such, they will watch you and decide if responsibilities are met with acceptance and grace or with resentment and anger.
Make chores a regular part of the family routine – it is expected that everyone over the age of 3 will be responsible for specific tasks to keep the household functioning.
Decide if allowance will be given for the completion of chores. Children may not thank you in the short term for giving them assignments.
This is a case where the goal is not necessarily to make your children happy; instead, it teaches them life skills and a sense of responsibility that will last a lifetime.
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