Having your children complete any amount of chores around the house can be a chore in and of itself. Growing up my mom made sure that my sister and I were responsible for doing certain chores around the house. We weren’t reimbursed for our work in the form of an allowance but instead were told to consider it our room and board fee. If we needed money for a movie or food with our friends they were always willing to give us a little something if we helped out and did our share of work in the house.
It was pretty straightforward what needed to be done to keep the wrath of my mom at bay. Don’t leave your laundry laying around, take it downstairs to the washing machine. Make your bed daily and keep your room clean. Put your shit away and my shit when you take it out.
These are rules I still follow to this day in my own house for myself. Now getting my children to abide by these rules and follow what I feel are pretty easy chores is another story.
Children want what they want when they want it and asking them to do chores that might interfere with them hanging out with their friends right now is a problem in their eyes. Watch the eye rolls if your child is ready to leave and you ask them to clean their room first. Children are self-absorbed. They aren’t thinking about the amount of work you need to do around the house to keep the place functioning and safe. Children are more concerned about creating the next big Tik-Tok video that’s going to help them go viral for some perceived fame.
Our job as parents is to help them develop the maturity and awareness needed to become functioning adults and the use of chores is imperative in this development. If you’ve ever met a self-absorbed adult I will tell you that they most likely never mowed a lawn or emptied a dishwasher when they were a child.
The struggle is real
Insisting that your child complete their chores can feel as if you are merely repeating yourself daily. “Can you please do your laundry”? “When are you going to do your laundry?” “Is this laundry going to sit here forever?” Sure it sounds like you’re continually reliving the same day and nagging over and over again. Sometimes you may even resort to threatening your child if their chores don’t get done. Seems counterproductive right?
Some parents avoid these daily struggles because they don’t want to annoy their children or become confrontational with them. Others feel a sense of guilt for asking their children for help at all. Some parents just rationalize the situation and decide that their children are too young to help out around the house and “pull their weight”.
However, there are actually benefits to your children performing chores.
The benefits of chores
Let’s look at the research
Research in this area shows that children who have assigned chores have higher self-esteem and are more responsible. They are also able to deal with becoming frustrated.
In my own personal research, I decided to look back on my childhood and look at my group of friends. One particular friend comes to mind, In thinking back, I realized that this individual never had to mow the lawn, clean or do anything around the house. It was always taken care of by his mom, cleaning people, or landscapers. As a result, he grew up to be someone who was not driven and always looked to someone else for help.
The flip side was another friend who was constantly working around the house helping out his mom and dad. He went on to be a successful manager in the hospitality field with a work ethic I have always tried to match.
Chores and life skills
Chores provide your child a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of belonging to the family. Chores provide a deeper connection with you as a parent. It’s their first job in life and if handled correctly can set the stage for future success.
If you assign chores you need to hold them accountable which will instill responsibility. Children will feel more capable for having met their obligations and completed their chores.
If you’ve ever gone away to college you inevitably came across one or two teenagers who obviously never had to do chores in their life. These were the teenagers whose room was a disaster and had no idea how to work a washing machine or cook something as simple as a grilled cheese or Ramen noodles (two staples when I was in college). Mom and dad most likely took care of their every need and forgot to instill any semblance of responsibility in them.
Builds time management skills
Completing chores require a specific amount of time based on what needs to be done. If your child is told they need to complete their chores before seeing their friends they will begin to learn an important lesson in time management.
Setting aside 10 minutes to put their laundry away or 15 minutes to take the garbage out becomes a lesson in making sure they have allotted the correct amount of time to complete a job, something that will surely help them at some point when they enter adulthood.
I did my fair share of work around the house but it wasn’t until I owned my home that I realized how much it takes to maintain a home. The simplest amount of help that I provided to mom and dad growing up was actually huge to the successful running of the home.
If my dad didn’t have to worry about mowing the lawn that was an hour of his life that he got back every week. They might not realize it now but one day they will appreciate all you did for them.
To provide an allowance or not for chores
The age-old question is should you pay an allowance for chores or not? In the end, it is your decision but I offer you a few options.
Chores = allowance
Would you go to work every day for free? Money is their incentive for getting the job done and getting the job done right. It’s called earning your keep.
Chores are not tied to an allowance
Some parents believe that helping out around the house does not merit being paid, it is merely a function of living under their roof. This may seem like a harsh reality for a child but there is a lesson to be learned with this approach.
Children should want to contribute to help out the family and maybe give mom and dad a break without having to receive money to do it.
The last alternative substitutes a financial reward for some other form of perk. If your child helps you clean out the garage they can have their friends over for the weekend. Maybe if it’s an older child you allow them to take your new sports car for a drive.
Allowance is fluid
Deciding what form of allowance if any you give ultimately is your decision. It’s not a bad idea to have some negotiations with your children about their allowance or revisit allowance now and then.
Toddlers (Ages 2-3)
That’s right, even toddlers can complete simple tasks around the home. Starting them early and getting them in a routine can help ease any arguing about doing the chores as they become older and begin to test boundaries. Toddlers are also at an age where they find the idea of helping their parents, caretakers, or older siblings one of the most exciting things they could do.
Toddlers learn by watching others and this is the rare age where they actually enjoy helping mom and dad. It’s important to provide supervision and guidance with their chores to make sure they are doing things correct and not getting hurt.
Here are a few examples of chores that toddlers can do:
- Put their toys away after playing with them. They teach this in school as well so it shouldn’t be new to them.
- Fill up the dog’s food bowl
- Put their dirty clothes in the hamper
- Clean up spills
- Take their dish to the sink after eating
- Help make their bed
Preschoolers (Ages 4-5)
Preschoolers still feel the same desire to help their parents, because they are still learning through copying their elders. At this age, there are even some chores children can do without supervision. Typically, these will be the ones they began doing when toddlers, although there might be one or two new tasks, they are naturally talented at. In addition to the chores listed above, preschoolers can typically help with the following:
- Make their bed without supervision
- Clear the table
- Pull weeds
- Water the flowers
- Put away clean utensils
- Wash plastic dishes
- Help bring in light groceries
- Sort laundry into whites and colors before wash
- Match socks together
- Dust with a cloth
- Fill the pets food and water dishes
Primary Schoolers (Ages 6-9)
Once a child reaches primary school age, they can take on a lot more responsibility without supervision. They can start learning more physically difficult or complex tasks, as they are continuing to learn the necessary skills to do so. Parents should understand that this age group will sometimes start “rebelling” against the idea of chores, as they learn more independence. With patience, however, they will understand they are still expected to help around the home.
Primary schoolers between the ages of 6 and 9 can usually do the following chores:
- Sweep the floors
- Help make bagged or boxed lunches
- Rake the yard
- Clean their own bedrooms
- Put away the groceries
- Load and empty the dishwasher (I still despise this chore and my wife knows it)
- Help a parent make dinner
- Make their own snacks/breakfast
- Clear the table after meals
- Put away their own laundry (in the drawer not in a pile on the top of the dresser)
- Take the family dog for a walk (in the yard or with supervision)
- Wet mop
- take the garbage out
Middle Schoolers (Ages 10-13)
Preteens or middle schoolers can do many tasks on their own and can be held responsible for them without constant reminders. At this age, many families decide to create a chore chart or task list for their children. Then, parents can hold the child responsible and check just once a day to see that things were checked off the list or chart. In addition to all the tasks listed in the sections above for younger ages, children between the ages of 10 and 13 should be able to do the following chores:
- Wash the dishes or load the dishwasher without assistance
- Wash the family car
- Prepare easy meals without assistance
- Use the clothes washer and dryer
- Take the trash to the bins
- Take the trash bins to the curb
- Babysit younger siblings with parents at home
High Schoolers (Ages 14+)
By the time your child reaches high school, they can do nearly any household task you can. This is the perfect age to start making sure your child is fully prepared for the eventuality of living on their own since those years are coming up soon. This age is where time management becomes more important as most likely they are also holding down a job, or participating in after-school sports and extracurricular activities. That doesn’t exclude them from their chores but instead forces them to pay attention to their time more.
In addition to the tasks listed in previous sections, children over the age of fourteen can do the following chores:
- Clean out fridge
- Help deep clean kitchen (appliances and cabinets)
- Clean the toilet, sink, and shower in the bathroom
- Babysit younger siblings independently (for short periods)
- Mow the lawn
- Care for pets independently (including walks)
- Make more complex meals
- Accomplish small shopping trips alone (after receiving their license) or walking to a nearby store
- Iron clothes
- Resew buttons on clothing
- Help parents with simple home or auto repairs
Believe it or not, children want to be a part of the family. It might not always seem that way but they want to spend time with you and help out when they can. If they ask then let them help. Even if it means that you’ll rake a giant pile of leaves and they’ll run through it.
Let them run through it! One day you’ll miss them running through those leaves with you so enjoy it while you can. And enjoy the help while you can get it.
Do you have any tips involving children and chores? Comment below.