Kids & Chores
What is a chore? It sounds like an old-fashioned word, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is, but the benefits of “doing a chore” are just as powerful today as they were in the old days. A chore is simply a task that is done regularly.
This blog is mainly for moms and dads, but if you are the grandparent, you can require a few chores out of your grands, and they will still love you. In fact, you are doing them a big flavor if you asked a little out of them.
It can often be a huge challenge to get kids motivated to do their chores—and nearly impossible to get them enthusiastic about their household duties. But the truth is, as parents, it is an essential part of our job to teach kids how to help around the house and to learn how to become productive members of society.
Not only does the task of “doing chores” make family life run smoother, it is also essential to the child’s development and self-respect. Yes, contrary to some popular beliefs today, doing chores has more to do with building a healthy self-esteem than telling a child they are amazing at sports or drawing or anything. When people reach outside of themselves to help others, in return they are helping themselves become better people.
When children take on and understand the importance of doing chores, they are using mature judgement, less impulsivity and exhibit more awareness of the world around them and the needs of others. These are traits we want all of our children to have.
What you can do:
- Have a heart to heart with your kids—no matter what age—and tell them they are a part of this household and because of that, they have a responsibility to help. Ideally this conversation begins around age 3 with telling your child that he or she can “help” the family by keeping their toys picked up and putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
- Make chore times consistent—like after breakfast, after supper. Getting chores done can become a helpful habit in life. After you eat, you brush your teeth. After the meal, you take your plate to the sink. Before bed, you brush your teeth. Children thrive on consistency so helping your children develop these types of habits is a lifelong gift.
- Make it fun. Especially for younger kids, chores can be a game until they learn it’s a part of life. In my family, we did what I called a ten-minute tidy. You can put on a happy song and dance and sing through the chore! This also teaches children what can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
- Don’t pay them! Research suggests that external rewards can lower intrinsic motivation and performance. Psychologists say that money can lessen a child’s motivation to help, turning an altruistic act into a business transaction. I believe it’s fine to offer “extra” jobs when money is needed as a child gets older, but don’t pay them for the jobs that have to get done daily.
- Include chores that benefit the whole family: It’s important to teach kids that others are their responsibility too. Have them do chores that are just me-centered but benefit the whole family. Unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, scrubbing the toilet (ush!) and helping with the yardwork are good examples.
- Model the right behavior: If you complain about chores, they will do. Chores should be a natural part of life. Treat it that way and your children will grow up with a healthy attitude about chores and their responsibility to the family.
I hope this helps you think through this very important life-lesson. Now on to mow the yard or load the dishwasher!