As an adult, I have had moments when I struggled to stay on top of housework. I reflected on how my parents got it all done, and then I remembered that they had lots of help. My siblings and I had chores to do each week, and that experience gave me the knowledge to take care of my own home.
According to Better Homes and Garden Magazine, household chores help children in four areas:
- Independence: By the age of 18, your children — male and female — should be familiar with and practiced at every single aspect of running a home. They should be able to wash and iron their own clothes, prepare basic meals, run a vacuum cleaner, and clean a bathroom.
- Self-esteem: Chores create feelings of accomplishment. When your children know that their efforts are contributing toward helping their home run smoothly, their feelings of worth and self-esteem grow immensely.
- Good citizenship: President John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This philosophy applies to families as well as to the nation. Chores teach children that the reward of membership in a family comes more from what’s put into the family than from what’s taken out of it.
- Values: Chores bond your children to your family’s values. Throughout our nation’s history, the children who were most likely to carry their parents’ values into adulthood were those raised on farms. Among farm families, chores are as much a part of daily life as three meals a day.
How much time should kids spend doing chores?
According to Psychology Today, families today are busy. According to Pew research, about 60 percent of families have dual incomes. On average each week, mothers spend 21 hours doing paid work, 18 hours doing housework, and 14 hours doing childcare. Fathers spend 37 hours per week doing paid work, 10 hours doing housework, and 7 hours doing childcare.
What about the kids?
According to research by Sandra Hofferth, children between six and 12 years of age spend an average of just under three hours per week on housework (and almost 14 hours per week watching television!). While it’s important that children not have to shoulder adult-size responsibilities, pitching in by helping with household chores won’t hurt them and may even help them.
Chores build confidence
Research tells us that children actually feel happier when they make a meaningful contribution to the family. A diary study by Eva Telzer and Andrew Fuligni found that U.S. teens reported higher levels of happiness when they provided more family assistance, and they did not find this work stressful.
With older children, you may want to hold a family meeting and get their help with deciding how to divvy up chores fairly. Do they prefer assigned chores or rotating chores? When is the best time during the week to do chores? Having some say in how housework gets done can make kids more willing to participate. Put your kids in charge of creating a list or chart to record the agreement.
Should kids get paid for doing chores?
Susie Walton, master instructor at Peace in Your Home who has taught a Redirecting Children’s Behavior course since 1991, advises to keep chores and allowances totally separate.
“Allowance is one thing,” says Walton. “When it comes to chores, life skills, responsibilities — that’s a whole different venue. Say to your kids, “Chores is what we do to keep the family going. We all live in a house here. These are things we do together. We do it as team.”
For more chore ideas that are age appropriate, visit the website www.parents.com/kids/discipline/rewards/downloadable-chore-charts/.
Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.