What do you think of when you see the word “chores”? For most of us, it’s not a word that fills us with joy; rather it speaks of the tedium of boring, repetitive tasks.
Whether it’s washing the dishes, vacuuming, emptying the rubbish or cleaning the bathroom, the quicker the job is done, the better.
So it’s no surprise that performing chores can be an unrelenting source of complaints and conflict in the family.
Reasons to get Kids to Help Around the House
Trying to get children to help around the home can be difficult, and often it’s easier to perform the tasks ourselves!
But what message does this send to our offspring? If they complain loudly enough and long enough, we will cave – for kids, that’s mission accomplished!
They’re also learning that bad behaviour is rewarded; the exact opposite of what they will experience later in life.
Actively engaging kids in chores from an early age means they can learn valuable life lessons. Requiring them to pitch in means they learn that running the household is a team effort and the repetition of performing chores lays down the foundation for habit-forming.
Research1 indicates that performing chores has these significant benefits for children:
- Enhanced interpersonal skills
- Fosters the development of personal responsibility
- Inspires a sense of collaboration
- Increases educational performance
- Improves mental health, and teaches empathy
Chores have an important role for the developing child, and they are more acceptable to kids when reframed as responsibilities.
Responsibilities rather than Chores
Having responsibilities helps kids to feel they are growing up, and teaches them to become independent, autonomous individuals. They also develop a sense of pride for contributing to the well-being of the family.
Children’s self-esteem is enhanced when they see themselves as competent and effective in mastering new tasks. Start chores as early as possible – at the age of two or three – and build on tasks over time.
Show them how to perform tasks and provide support the first few times, then leave them to it. Toddlers can learn to pick up their toys or put clothes in the laundry hamper, whereas primary school children can make their beds, empty the rubbish, and feed the pets.
Adolescents can be responsible for making dinner, doing laundry, and washing the car.
In these modern times, try to avoid assigning chores according to gender stereotypes. Sons can be expected to clean bathrooms, whilst daughters are capable of mowing the lawn.
A technique that is popular in many families is to create a chore chart that gets everyone into a routine for completing their jobs. Have a discussion with kids about what chores they would like to perform, then put the chart in a visible place like on the refrigerator.
Some parents go a step further and introduce a reward chart or link some chores to pocket money. This can increase motivation, and chores can be a terrific way to instil a work ethic in children2.
When you consider all the evidence, it’s clear that performing chores is good for kids!
- Li, S. (2016). Chores, Incubator for a Strong Parent–Child Relationship. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 4(10), 2493-2501.
- Loderup, C., Timmons, J., Kimball, E., Hill, J., Marks, L., LeBaron, A. (2021). How Do Parents Teach Their Children About Work? A Qualitative Exploration of Household Chores, Employment, and Entrepreneurial Experiences. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 42:73–89. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10834-020-09709-5