Probably one of the easiest questions to answer for ourselves when it comes to children rearing is whether or not children should do chores around the home. Unequivocally, the answer is a resounding ‘YES’ they should all do some sort of chores. Even young children can get in on the action, unloading the dryer, helping clean a floor as well as other easy to do things that need doing. I’m not talking Cinderella type chores or hole digging just for the sake of doing it; rather constructive day to day things that keep the order and routine of the home running smoothly.
Any parent who has a houseful of kids probably like me accumulates the weekly laundry in a mounting pile. By week end the pile is so high and the clothes all look as though they need to be ironed (opt for throwing them back in the dryer instead) and it can be hard to tell the dirty ones from the clean ones. This chore is called laundry duty – where all participants; meaning anyone who can walk and wears clothes is responsible for helping to sort the pile according to who they belong to. Afterwards assuming that some of the participants are old enough (meaning they can reach the closet rack using a step stool), they put it away themselves. Sure – this may mean that clothes are hung upside down and socks end up in the under wear drawer; but allowing children some sort of responsibility is key to building their confidence. One bonus is no one can blame me when they can’t find their own underwear or favorite t-shirt.
Children are well equipped to handle household chores from dishes to cleaning the bathroom. While it would never be appropriate to schedule all of their free time with tedious chores and mind sucking household labor, predetermining a few odd and end jobs around the house is great. Have them clean up the table after dinner, after all someone else cooked. Have them sort their own laundry, put clothes away, take out the trash, wash the car, unload or load the dishwasher (age appropriate of course) rake leaves, clean up the yard and by all means look after their own room.
Children usually feel that doing anything is a chore and they need to be taught by example and expectation that cleaning up after themselves is not a chore; rather a polite and responsible part of cohabitating with people. I love my kids, but I still don’t want to pick up their dirty q-tips or stinky socks. Part of being a good adult one day is learning and knowing how to take care of yourself and how to fend for yourself when it comes to the domestic duties around the house. Imagine marrying a person who has no idea how to do laundry, properly clean the kitchen or who never thought of vacuuming their own home. Pretty gross and by not asking children to do chores and not teaching them to do certain things they will grow up with the expectation that other people should or will always do it for them.
So, now that we agree that yes – children should do chores, it’s time to talk about appropriate chores. Many parents request chores at the spur of the moment right before company is about to come over, or on a night where they are extremely tired and just don’t have the energy to do it themselves. It usually sounds something like ‘WASH THE DISHES’ and is commanded in anger. The kids will look at you as though you have just lost your mind, not because they can’t do it but because it is something never asked of them before. Chores should be a routine. Whether you have young or older children chore charts or a calendar tracking what is expected are exceptional ways to avoid being given a thousand excuses why they weren’t done. Chores should be one of the things we expect of our children to do without being nagged to do so and if not done they should result in some sort of consequence. On average chores should not take a child more than 15-20 minutes per day to do. This ensures that they aren’t being taken advantage of and will never be able to rightfully say that all they have to do is chores and they never have time to play. If chores are just made a part of the routine, such as after dinner every night we vacuum the living room- than kids are clear what to expect and begin to see it as family ritual rather than work. In addition to that, extra chores are adequate punishment for just about everything.
Many parents make the mistake of assigning chores around the home and than harassing the kids for not doing them properly. They will either rescrub, re-do or re-sort and re-hang the clothes depending upon the chore, trying to show the child the right way to do things. I find this rather odd behavior as it quite simply defeats the child. It would be like them throwing you a tea party or fixing you breakfast and all the parent notices is the mess. If you must redo the chore, do it when they aren’t looking and never tell them – especially if they gave earnest effort to begin with. It may not look like earnest effort but keep in mind that these are children doing the chores and they won’t be as carefully or as expertly done as if an adult did them. As their age progresses so will the quality of their workmanship.
Should children do chores? The only reason not to allow or assign chores around the home is to be on the selfish mission of keeping children helpless and unable to care for themselves. A parent would only choose to do this if they had a desire to always feel needed and worry that by giving a child responsibility and know-how they would no longer be necessary. Take heart, it is much more important to be needed as a parent than it is as a maid. Mother hens don’t even keep young chicks helpless and eventually will let them starve if they can’t find their own food. Children should always do age appropriate chores so that they will have a first hand idea of things like responsibility, diligence, time management and respect for when other people do things for them. A child (thinking teenage boy here) that has no idea what goes into cleaning a toilet, will never care if they use it properly or not. This may seem funny at first, but honestly – once they realize how much they are peeing on the seat from having to clean it themselves; they will be less likely to keep on doing it.
Chores build confidence, teach responsibility and give kids purpose in the family structure. When each member of the home has certain things they are required to uphold than they all feel like they are contributing when they do their share. Assigning kids chores also frees up time for parents to hang out with their kids rather than running around in a cleaning frenzy. Hang out time with our kids is definitely above all else, what family is about. The dishes, the vacuuming, the dusting and even the laundry will wait for you. Your children will not!