People often wonder why I decided to have children, or more specifically so many children. The answer is quite simple, so that one day I could relax while someone else took care of the house. I hated doing dishes as a child, and I wanted to pass that experience along to my own kids.
Just kidding! I simply felt the need to poke all those people that scoff at the idea of making kids do chores. “Let them be kids.” “They’re not your slaves.”
Seriously. There are people that truly feel this way.
Personally, I (along with herds of other parents and parenting experts) think chores are an integral part of teaching my children responsibility and life skills which they will one day be extremely grateful for. My kids will know the importance of contributing and having a good work ethic from a young age, and it will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Kids should know that they too play an important role in keeping the household running smoothly. Not only do my husband and I appreciate the help, my children feel a sense of accomplishment when they do a task well. And we all feel like we are part of a team.
Though most of us know what an important role chores can play in a child’s development, getting started can be confusing and tricky. Just Google the word chores, and you will come up with millions of articles. And the truth is you have to find what works for your family and your kids. The last thing you want is for the process of getting your kids to do chores to become a chore in itself.
Age Appropriate Chores: What Is My Child Capable of Doing?
There is no shortage of detailed charts available online specifying what chores your kid can do and at what age they can do them. And while these may be a good starting point, ultimately, you know your kids best. My one piece of advice would be, “Do not underestimate their capabilities.” If one hundred years ago an 8-year-old could take care of their younger siblings and make dinner. Surely, your kid can load a dishwasher.
Start young with simple tasks like putting their toys back in the toybox, and make a game out of it. Two and three-year-olds do not know that chores are supposed to be work, and therefore not fun. Instill good habits when they’re little.
Think about which chores/household tasks will translate into good habits and life skills to have as an adult. For instance, I want my kids to know how to do laundry and make a healthy meal before they go off to college. It may also be beneficial to their roommates if they know how to clean up after themselves.
At the end of the day, our chore list is directly influenced by my cleaning schedule. I know what chores need to be done each day, and I divvy them up based on everyone’s abilities. My goal is that each person (including my husband and I) has no more than 20-30 minutes of chores per day.
The Need to Give Up Control
I will be the first to admit that I do not like to give up control. I know that when it comes to household chores, I can do it better and faster. And I will confess to taking over sometimes when I am in a hurry or need something done especially well. But I am doing a disservice to my children by not allowing them to contribute. I have had to learn over the years to give up control, to let things be slightly less than perfect. And you know what? It’s been freeing for me, and the children are benefiting as well.
Train Them: A Household Chore Apprenticeship
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, when I hand the reins of a particular chore over to the children, I want to make sure it is done correctly. And, if you think about it, you would never start a job without some training first.
Take each chore, one at a time, and teach your kids. First show them, have them observe you. Then, do the chore together, have them help you. Finally, have them do it themselves under your supervision. Give them that one chore as their responsibility for a couple weeks before you move on to the next chore.
Trust, But Verify
We know our children, and we know what it was like to be a kid. Oftentimes, they don’t want to do their chores. Or they hurry through them so they can watch a show or play with their friends. We want to trust them and believe they are responsible little people, but we also need to verify.
Make it a habit to have periodic checks. Let them know you will be reviewing their work from time to time, but don’t let them know when. Maybe give them a reward for a particularly good job.
To Pay, Or Not to Pay, That Is the Question
Should your kids be paid? People seem to fall all over the board on this one. And let’s face it, not everyone can afford to give their kids an allowance. So, choose to do what aligns best with your principles and works for your family.
My belief is most chores are simply a requirement for being part of the family and helping to keep the household running. Making your bed, putting your clothes away, and cleaning up after yourself are responsibilities, not jobs to be paid for.
That being said, I think it is very important to teach my kids about earning money. It is an essential life skill that is, unfortunately, not taught much in schools. Plus, once they are able to spend their own money on the things they want, they put a bit more thought into it.
My husband and I like to pay for larger tasks which are not part of their daily chores. Some examples include: mowing the lawn, shoveling, raking leaves, or helping with the Six-Month Purge. We also pay if they do one of their chores particularly well, go above and beyond the call of duty, or take on a special task without being asked.
Sit Back, Relax, and Reap the Rewards
Any way you slice it, when you teach your kids chores, you are giving them “real-life skills” they will thank you for later. You are teaching them how to be responsible, hard-working, contributing members of society. And, ultimately as parents, isn’t this our goal?