The word chores stirs the imagination of adults and kids a like, from family fights over not getting them done to reasons why kids shouldn’t have to do chores. “I want my kids to enjoy their childhood” or “Sam is already involved with so many extracurricular activities, I don’t want to burden him with more things to do.” When viewed from this perspective it’s no wonder kids resist.
Chores aren’t the issue – attitude is. Substitute the chores for the responsibilities, contribution or life-skills and all of the sudden it makes sense why kids benefit by participating in helping maintain the family home. When parents allow kids to take an active role in family life kids get the message that they make a difference in the lives of their loved one. Chores teach kids about real life.
Young kids want to help all the time. “I do it! I do it!” is the universal battle cry of all toddlers. This is the perfect age to introduce children to the concept of chores. Toddlers love to help adults so give kids chores that fit their growing sense of independence. Begin introducing chores like:
- Cleaning up their messes.
- Making their beds.
- Gathering their dirty clothes.
- Cleaning their car seats and the area around it.
A sense of purpose
Preschoolers are at an age of developing mastery over the world around them. They look for ways to be helpful because it gives them an opportunity to show off what they can do. This is the perfect age to turn chores into life long habits. Preschoolers love to work with others. Along with the tasks listed above, add responsibilities that are physical as well as collaborative:
- Setting or clearing the table.
- Helping to cook and/or barbecue.
- Helping to wash the family car.
As school-aged children grow, they are constantly looking for opportunities to prove they are mature and can be trusted and counted on. This is the perfect age group to give graduated responsibilities. Kids love tasks where they can show they’re more ‘grown up’ than the year before. School ages children want a say in the tasks they are responsible for. This is a good time to introduce a chore list and let your son or daughter choose the tasks that best fits his or her personality.
- Take care of the family pet.
- Vacuum the inside of the family car.
- Make part of the family meal, such as salad preparations.
- Wash windows (including car windows).
- Take out the trash.
Having a healthy work ethic
Middle school aptly fits how kids at this age feel: too old to be considered little and too young to be considered “old enough”. This group of kids is literally caught in the middle. Giving kids responsibilities at this age fosters what will become their work ethic. At this age kids understand how their contribution fits into the grand scheme of family life. Having responsibilities is an opportunity to show independence, involvement and having a say in how things get done.
- All aspects of laundry.
- Developing the family menu and preparing one family meal
- Developing the grocery list.
- Shopping for grocery items.
- Washing and waxing the family car.
- Managing the calendar for the family car service needs.
- Cleaning the garage.
High school kids are learning how to balance all aspects of life – school, friends, extracurricular activities and household responsibilities. Their lives are an age-appropriate mirror of their parents. In addition, this age group is preparing for life outside the family, for some this may mean college and for others it may mean work and shared housing. Chores at this age give kids as sense of being self-sufficient and the knowledge to know they will be able to take care of themselves.
- Taking the car for servicing
- Power washing the house, patio or garage
- Doing minor household repair work
- Doing minor car repair and maintenance work
- Chaperoning younger siblings.
While chores are not fun all the time (or maybe any time) getting them done gives each of us a sense of pride and accomplishment. Keep in mind that doing the same chore all the time can lead to a feeling of drudgery. To avoid boredom, give kids a choice in the tasks they are responsible. Each of us can be guilty of thinking our job is hard than someone else’s to avoid resentment or rivalry, rotate chores so the kids develop a sense of empathy for others. To ensure everyone feels like they are making a contribution to the family develop a motto – The family that cleans together is a team together!