Many families subscribe to the philosophy that everyone should “pitch in” to help with household tasks. Washing the dishes, folding laundry, preparing meals, making beds, and picking up toys are tasks that anyone could accomplish – even young children can participate!
Some parents may wonder whether it is “okay” to ask children to perform tasks around the house, or feel guilty for asking their children to take care of something that they could easily take care of themselves. If you are one of those parents, then perhaps one of these questions will seem all too familiar:
- Is my child too young to be expected to do their own chores?
- Is it faster for me to just take care of this myself?
- My child already has homework responsibilities; do I really need to add to that?
- Am I being selfish by asking my child to do this for me?
- Playtime is important too; should I just let my child play?
All of these questions are perfectly valid, but they overlook an important aspect of your child’s development: having chores and responsibilities is actually a critical part of your child’s growth!
Completing Chores Boosts Your Child’s Confidence
Research shows that children who regularly contribute to household chores have a greater sense of self-esteem and confidence. This effect is visible at every age throughout their childhood:
- Young children take great pride in accomplishing things that their parents can do, from learning to throw a ball, to making their own bed. Just think of their pride the first time they tied their own shoelaces! Doing adult tasks helps your child to feel more grown-up, boosting their confidence along the way.
- Older children, particularly those around primary school age, seek ways to establish their independence, and performing their own chores is an excellent way to do this. They will feel a great deal of personal satisfaction from being able to demonstrate that they can “take care of themselves” by packing their own lunch or cleaning up their own dinner plates, which in turn feeds into their sense of independence and self-sufficiency.
Even teenagers can gain satisfaction by contributing to the family’s bottom line and performing tasks that sustain the family rhythm, such as folding washing or taking trips to the grocery store. The key is to show your child that they can accomplish these tasks on their own and, as they get older, to explain to them how they can complete tasks to support the family.
Regular Household Duties Impart a Sense of Social Responsibility
Many children are naturally more inclined to perform chores willingly when they are aware that they are helping the household to run smoothly. Knowing that doing the dishes and sweeping the floor after dinner allows you the time to catch up on emails or write tomorrow’s grocery list increases your child’s sense of satisfaction from accomplishing those tasks.
Additionally, framing chores in this perspective will teach your child to be more in tune with the needs of the people around them, and to seek out ways to be helpful or to provide support to those in need. The sense of “togetherness” that your child will feel through understanding that every family member is doing their part to achieve a common goal is irreplaceable and will go a long way towards encouraging your child to participate in chores each week without complaining.
Chores Teach Children to Prioritise
Even when your child can recognise that helping with household tasks is a burden that you all share and tackle together, odds are good that they still won’t enjoy doing their chores. When children are young you can turn chores into a game (such as racing to see who can finish cleaning their bathroom first), but as they get older the appeal of this approach is bound to wear off.
However, the fact that those tasks no longer seem fun does not make them any less necessary; therefore, when your child is focusing on washing the car or picking up their toys, they are inherently putting off doing a more pleasurable activity in order to accomplish the goal at hand.
This is a valuable life skill that all children must learn in order to succeed later in life. Other regular activities, such as doing homework each night, teach a similar skillset. Learning to put off a fun activity in order to focus on completing a more mundane (but still necessary) task is a skill that your child will continue to use throughout their lives, such as:
- Staying in to study for an exam instead of going out with friends
- Going to the grocery store instead of buying a new outfit
- Paying bills instead of planning an exciting holiday
- Purchasing a sensible car instead of an expensive, flashy one
As you can see, the ability to prioritise responsibility over a more immediately desireable options is a skill that will serve your child well over the years. Maintaining a list of chores or household responsibilities is just one way that your child can develop this responsible mindset.
Learning Chores Prepares Your Child For Adulthood
You are probably not ready to think about your baby boy or girl growing up to live on their own. You still have ten or more years to prepare for that! So why worry about that now?
Part of our responsibility as parents is to teach our children the skills and maturity that they will need to succeed on their own when they are finally ready to move on into the wide world. At some point your child will have to take the initiative to cook, clean, and organise their lives for themselves, and the sooner you get them involved in those processes the more comfortable they will be taking those tasks on for themselves.
Teaching your child to have ownership of these tasks at an early age helps them to develop the maturity required to willingly complete chores.
How Can I Encourage My Child To Willingly Participate In Household Chores?
Unfortunately, none of the many benefits of contributing to household chores will make your child more excited about completing them. Simply telling your child to complete their assigned tasks “because you say so” will not make the experience more enjoyable for any of you.
Your child may stubbornly refuse, or beg to get out of doing them, or try to bargain for an extension, forcing you to find a way to make them participate unwillingly.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can try to make your child a more willing participant in sharing household duties.
When your child is young:
- Appeal to their desire to “be a big boy/girl.” You could explain to them that, since they are so grown up, now they get to put away the plates on the tallest shelf, or explain to them that older children get to have more fun but also get to take care of themselves. Younger children will love to show you just how big they are!
- Turn tasks into little games between you and your child. You could race to see who can sort the most pairs of socks in each load of washing, or create a “clean up song” to play whenever it’s time to pick up their toys.
As your child grows older:
- Create a chore chart to show how each member of your family is contributing. This will inspire a greater sense of working together that your child will value, and they are likely to be more willing to complete their tasks when they can see how everyone is working together to keep the house neat and tidy.
- Ask for your child’s input when assigning chores. They may despise sweeping the floors, but also may not mind cleaning up after dinner. If your child has a say in which chores they are assigned, they will be less likely to object when it is their turn to accomplish something
- Plan a fun activity when all of the weekly chores are complete. This is particularly effective for families who accomplish the bulk of their chores on the weekends. The activity does not need to be extravagant; simply reminding your child that you can all play a game together after everyone’s bedrooms are clean can be a powerful motivator for a child to complete that task willingly. Additionally, when you are all working at the same time towards reaching that fun activity, you can inspire a sense of camaraderie that will discourage your child from complaining.
While children are not likely to ever truly enjoy doing their chores, knowing that the experience benefits them in the long run can make enforcing their assigned tasks easier for you as a parent. Hopefully, with the tips in this article, you will be able to avoid any serious tantrums. However if not, simply remember that chores really do provide lasting, lifelong benefits and are a crucial part of your child’s long-term development.