By Regina Wright
Sometimes parents wonder if they should be giving children chores. Isn’t it the parent’s responsibility to maintain the household? Shouldn’t children be allowed to just be children? Am I being too hard on my children when I give them household chores? Children have so much to do with school and extra-curricular activities. They rush around from one activity to another and rarely have time to mow the lawn or do the dishes. After considering these concerns, giving children chores is one of the most important things a parent can ever do.
Children gain responsibility and independence that can enhance their well being throughout their entire life by having chores. Doing chores also helps children feel like they are a part of a team and helps them become good citizens. Research from a well-known Harvard study concluded that children who had chores fared better in life. Chores were a good predictor about which kids were happy, healthy and independent adults. Why is sweeping the floor and clearing the table so important to children? These chores make them feel competent and capable.
Chores for toddlers and preschoolers can include picking up after themselves. Children need to know where things belong. Organizational skills are developed when children learn to place things where they belong. Preschoolers can also help to clear the table and put dishes away. Young children respond well when they have a visual guide. Make a chart using pictures of their favorite chore. If you use rewards as an incentive, place a sticker on the chart when they have accomplished a task. Young children often love stickers, so this can be a great incentive.
School-age children can help to do the laundry. Teach them to fold and sort it, then they can put the items away. Tweens can help mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, sweep the floors, and help dust. There’s no need to reward tweens every time they complete a chore; helping the family is part of life. If it’s in your budget, paying a tween an allowance can help them to learn financial responsibility. If you prefer not to pay your tween, give them tokens that can be used to get the electronics or outings with friends.
Teenagers need chores too. They can join the fun by helping to prepare dinner, do the dishes, and take out the garbage. Giving kids chores can help shape their character.
All ages of children can benefit by helping to do grocery shopping. Children can learn about their favorite foods, healthy choices, and budgeting. Talk about the five food groups, read labels, and discuss ingredients. Talk about costs, serving sizes and calories. Math skills are developed when you allow children to help create and use recipes. These important lessons are lessons for life.
Always be sure to let children know what the expectations are. Set boundaries. Praise them and encourage them. Don’t expect perfection. Remember this is a work in progress.
*Source for Harvard Study referenced above: George E. Vaillant; Charles C. McArthur; and Arlie Bock, 2010, “Grant Study of Adult Development, 1938-2000“, Harvard Dataverse,V4. doi:10.7910/DVN/4