Household Chores – The Younger the Better

Most parents can agree that having kids do household chores is a good thing, but the reality is that most American kids today do very few and children as young as 3 and 4 are not generally expected to do any. If you have young children and this sounds like your home, read on, because as it turns out research has found that chores performed at a young age create a platform for future success.

Researchers looked at longitudinal data and concluded that 3 and 4 year olds who performed household chores were more successful in adulthood. If kids did not begin participating until they were 15 or 16, the participation backfired and these teens were less successful. The assumption being that values learned early are more affective.

The study and others like it, conclude that young children who perform chores internalize a sense of responsibility, competency, self-reliance, family values and self-worth.

How chores are presented is important. Here are tips:

– Chores Should Not Be Overwhelming: Keep chores age appropriate and time appropriate. For example, a 3 year old can’t carry out a heavy garbage bag or clean an entire playroom alone. A rule of thumb is 5-10 minutes for children under 7, 15-25 minutes for children age 8 to 10, 25-45 minutes for children over 10. Dividing up chores into different times of the day can help keep them more manageable.

– Establish Routines: Have regular chores that happen daily like taking dishes to the sink after each meal, putting clothes in the hamper before bath and straightening up the bathroom after brushing teeth.

– Involve Kids and Consider Their Interests: Some kids may prefer gardening while others don’t mind doing the dishes. Take note of what your kids are best at or gravitate towards. You can also give kids a say in what chores they would like, but this is not a way to get out of them. If you have more than one kid who likes to do the same chore rotate between kids.

– Make it Fun: Turn on music, make jokes, and be playful. This is not necessary all the time, but sometimes having fun can be an added plus.

– Manage Your Own Expectations: The goal is not to have chores done with the same competency of an adult, but rather to instill and teach children values and skills. So encourage your child’s effort even if they spill their plate on the way to the sink.

– Explain Why Chores Are Important: Talk to kids about responsibility, contributing toward the greater good, learning skills, pulling their own weight and more.

– Do it Together: Kids love to spend time with parents so do chores together. Weed the garden, clean the floors, anything that they can participate in.

– Be a Good Role Model: Do chores the way you wish your children would do them and remember to have a good attitude.

– Chores Should Not be Tied to Allowance: Experts go back and forth on this, but more experts feel that chores should not be tied to allowance, especially when children are young. Children should be performing chores as a way to contribute and learn values and skills.

Parents cite the following reasons for not having kids do chores or their fair share of chores:

– Parents feel that getting kids to do chores is more work and takes more time than if they had done it themselves. This can be true, but the ultimate goal is to teach children values and skills. Long-term goals usually require more patience than short-term goals.
– Parents feel that kids perform chores sloppily or not to their satisfaction. This can also be true, but again the long-term goal is to teach children values and skills.
– Parents feel that homework is enough “work” and children should not be further burdened with household tasks. School work can be taxing but as this study points out, the benefits of chores creates a platform for future success.

More facts:

– A recent study concluded that the average 6-12 year old American kid does 24 minutes of household work a day, yet averages 2 hours of TV.
– Another study found that American kids did not perform chores routinely or without being asked, something not true in some other countries.
– Household chores are cited as a source of conflict in many marriages. The focus is usually on increasing the men’s contribution, but another option is increasing the kid’s contribution.
– One study found that even if children performed tasks at a young age, their participation dropped off between the ages of 15-16.
– One important thing you can do to make chores more manageable is to get rid of clutter.

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