Some parents call them “chores” while others call it “helping around the house.” The question of what to do around the topic of chores is one that brings forth a multitude of opinions. Everyone has a different view and experiences on what worked best for them. In general, there are some points that I like to highlight when working with parents who are questioning what to do about having children help around the house. Chores benefit your children for a variety of reasons.
Chores teach responsibility.
Contributing to the care of the home is a great way to teach children how to be responsible. This is an important skill for them to develop and while it takes a long time, and consistent reinforcement, it is one of the most important skills that we help our children develop. When we give them chores, it allows them to learn to take care of what is theirs, which can apply to toys and clothes, but also to their home in general. It helps them make a connection between their actions and the natural consequences. For example, if you are not responsible and you leave your toy out and it gets broken, then that is a natural consequence. If you, however, are responsible and pick up your toys then the natural consequence is that they remain in one piece, and you know where to find them when you want to play with them.
Chores teach them life skills.
There are many life skills that our children need to develop beyond being responsible. Chores contribute to the development of capabilities such as problem-solving, decision-making, creative thinking, self-esteem, and more. Additionally, it helps them learn vital skills for when they are older and need to take care of things without the help of their parents. At some point in time they are going to have to do things like laundry, dishes, scrubbing a toilet, mowing a lawn, and so on. It does them no favors to have it all hurled onto them when they leave home for the first time. The more they can help around the house, the better prepared they will be for the time in their life when they are no longer living with mom and dad.
Chores teach self-reliance.
A natural part of childhood is that, over time, they grow to be more and more independent. They enjoy getting to do things on their own. It helps boost their self-esteem when they can accomplish a task on their own. Doing chores builds their ability to be self-reliant and boosts confidence in themselves. Research has even shown that children who do chores have higher self-esteem, which leads to greater success in school.
Chores help teach teamwork.
Maintaining a house works best when all hands are on deck. Your children are part of the team which means that they are an important part of keeping your home. Not only does that knowledge boost their self-esteem (you are important, we need your help to function), it also teaches them a valuable lesson in teamwork. When we all work together, it makes the home function more efficiently, and it means that there is more time leftover for doing fun things.
Chores can instill a strong work ethic.
Having chores allows a child to learn the value in working hard. It helps them get satisfaction out of doing their best. This is something that children are taught; they don’t just happen upon a strong work ethic. It comes from having parents who involve them in the work, teach them how to do things, and how to do them well.
Chores can help them learn time management and planning skills.
When children have chores, it helps them develop their time management and planning skills. For example, say your child knows that they have to pick up their toys before dinner and there is 30 minutes before dinner, you can help them develop time management and planning skills by thinking about what toys they can successfully play with in that time. Legos which need to be built, or Barbies which have a lot of pieces may not be the best idea. Maybe building a puzzle or playing with some figurines may be a better choice.
Chores can be an opportunity to bond.
When our children are young, doing chores together can be a way to enhance connection between parent and child, or sibling and sibling. It is a wonderful thing to watch my toddler jump in and help her big sister clean up a mess so that they can move onto the next activity. Or when her big sister sees that she needs a hand and shows her exactly how to be successful.
When our children are older, chores can offer an opportunity for conversation and discussing life’s happenings. Just the other day my kids and I all helped my adolescent niece switch over laundry, fold, and put away her clothes. It was a great time for us to all talk, share some giggles, and sparked play between all of the kids. And if you think about it, this is something that adults do all the time. We help one another with cleaning up after a delicious shared meal, or we work on a project together. When all hands are on deck it makes quick, and more enjoyable, work.
If you give allowance, it teaches them financial literacy.
There is a lot of debate over whether a child should earn allowance for helping around the house. I don’t suggest either way but what I do suggest is that if you do choose to pay an allowance, that it is not a large amount, and that you use it to teach them financial literacy (which is a really important skill!) Young children, aged 8 and under, really enjoy getting coins. It is fun to put change into their piggy banks. I don’t suggest going over a dollar or two per week for children 8 and under. Why? Because really, helping around the house is part of being a member of the family. Allowance shouldn’t be given because they helped, it should be a tool for teaching financial literacy. How do you save money? What are you saving up for? Are you donating money to any causes? Your child should have a say in this so that they can be invested in what their money goes toward. Once your child is older, you and your spouse should determine how much spending money your child will be allotted each week, if at all. Then allowance can be determined based off that, and if it is tied to chores or not.
Chores, or helping around the house, work best when you start at a young age. Young children enjoy helping out and they respond well to recognition, praise, thanks, and the ability to be independent by doing things themselves. It is never too late to start though. It doesn’t matter what age your child is, they will benefit from everything mentioned above regardless of their age.
Regardless of the age in which you start having your child help, make sure that your expectations of them are age appropriate. If your child is struggling to accomplish a task, consider breaking it down into smaller steps. This makes it less overwhelming, gives them specifics on what you are looking for, and gives them an opportunity to see progress as they work. And, if needed, work together to get it accomplished. Remember, we are teaching our children skills and that takes practice, patience, and sometimes, flexibility.