When did you start having chores when you were a kid and as a parent, have you started your kid(s) on household chores? Did your own experience guide you to having your kids help around the house?
Well, from what I remember, I was around 8-9 years old (tall enough to stand at the kitchen sink) and started washing the dishes. Then around 10 I was taught how to operate the washer and dryer and entrusted with laundry! I’m sure I helped with taking out the garbage around this age range as well, and helping with yard work.
Now as a parents of a 4 1/2 year-old and a 13 month-old, my wife and I believe in having kids help around the house. Just think about the first toddler play group sessions at Gymboree, Music Together, Park District, etc. and the sessions always end with the “clean-up” song…so if it starts at 12 months of age at a play group, why not at home also?
Our 4 1/2 year-old, Julia, helps with these chores fairly regularly:
- Get the mail out of the mailbox.
- Get the newspaper from the driveway.
- Wipe kitchen counter tops and diningroom place mats.
- Put things in the recycling bins.
- Sort clothes (darks vs. whites) in the laundry bins.
- Place new plastic bag in garage cans throughout the house.
- Help unload dishwasher (extremely helpful that we have 2 kitchen drawers for her plates, bowls, utensils and cups that she can get to all on her own).
Our 1 year-old, Stella, follows suit and helps take utensils out of the dishwasher for us too (as soon as I remove any knives or kitchen shears).
Below is a great article, “Chores for Children” that I read from WedMD.Com that made me want to write this post. Obviously I agree with Roger W. McIntire, Phd. author and professor of psychology, that “Kids can do a lot of chores at an early stage…”. We just have to give them the chance, show them how and be patient. I believe this helps them contribute to the household and feel more like a responsible & helpful family member.
Chores for Children
Dividing household chores and getting them done isn’t always easy, but there are ways to make chores feel a little less like work.
By Annie Stuart
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
It’s Saturday morning and time to start thinking about those dreaded household chores. But your 5-year-old is glued to the television, your middle-schooler is texting friends, and your teen is howling at the latest, coolest YouTube video. Scrubbing the toilet is not exactly a big draw. And do any of them really care how many layers of dust have collected on the coffee table? What’s a parent to do? Dividing household chores and getting them done isn’t always easy. But there are ways to make chores, well, a little bit less of a chore. Think of it as one-part attitude and one-part approach. Read on for some tips to guide you. The Value of Chores for Children Most experts agree that chores are good for children. For instance, parenting expert and author Jim Fay calls chores for children essential. Here’s why: In addition to our needs for physical and emotional safety, love and affection, and healthy amounts of control, he says, we also all need to be needed. That’s because we’re pack animals by nature. “If your child never has to raise a finger, that basic need has been stolen away,” says Fay, co-founder of the parenting philosophy found at the web site loveandlogic.com. “Children need to feel as though they’re a cog in the wheel. But they can’t feel that way if they don’t have chores and make contributions to the family.” In her book, Raising Compassionate, Courageous Children in a Violent World, Janice Cohn, PhD, cites studies showing that helping others not only promotes higher self-esteem, but increases academic and social skills while decreasing the risk for depression and anxiety disorders. Elizabeth Pantley, author of eight parenting books, including Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate, identifies still more benefits to be derived from chores for children: Chores are one of the best ways to build a feeling of competence. Chores help children understand what needs to be done to run a household. Chores establish helpful habits and good attitudes about work. Chores teach real-world skills and valuable lessons about life, easing the transition into adulthood. According to Roger W. McIntire, PhD, author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, “A child has to have some responsibilities. Then by the time they go off to college, you don’t have to have a three-hour lecture on the steps of the dormitory.” A professor of psychology at the University of Maryland for 32 years, McIntire witnessed firsthand how a lack of responsibility could influence college students’ behavior. As associate dean, one of his jobs was to interview students who had decided to drop out. It turned out that those who were living at home and had all college expenses paid by their parents were one of the highest-risk groups. McIntire theorized that many of these kids felt they had nothing to lose by dropping out. For them, the maxim “nothing ventured, nothing gained” apparently morphed into “nothing invested, nothing lost.”
Kids’ Chores: Common Mistakes Parents Make
Maybe you’ve tried to assign chores to your children but found yourself butting heads more often than not. Or, maybe you’re not quite sure whether your child is ready to take on household chores. You can learn from other parents’ mistakes.
Many parents insist on perfection at the outset, says McIntire. This can delay dividing household chores, turn household chores into a struggle, or prompt parents to take over when spots are missed on the mirror or the water glasses don’t end up on the dining room table.
Kids can do a lot of chores at an early stage, McIntire says, including getting clothes to the laundry or cleaning up after dinner, for example. “We hold back too long because we think they ought to be ready first. But that puts the cart before the horse,” he says. The learning is in the doing.
Out of frustration, though, many parents eventually get to the point where they want to suddenly assign some chores for children, saying, “It’s time for you to do it.” But if perfection is the expectation, a big struggle ensues. And if you consistently redo your child’s chores, you may send the signal that it wasn’t done well enough — not a great way to ensure cooperation.
Another common mistake parents make, says McIntire, is to wait until a chore is completed to show appreciation — or to not praise and encourage at all.
But inconsistency may be what trips up parents the most, according to Pantley. If your kids aren’t expected to regularly follow through, she says, they might start putting off chores in the hope that someone else will do it for them.
How to Get Cooperation With Household Chores
The authors of Raising a Self-Disciplined Child: Help Your Child Become More Responsible, Confident, and Resilient offer this advice: “We have found that when parents say, ‘We need your help,’ children are more likely to respond cooperatively, since they are less likely to interpret the parents’ request as an imposition.”
Shelly Jefferis, a mother of three who lives in Valencia, Calif., uses a similar approach to household chores. She and her husband have explained to their children that everyone in the family has a responsibility to pitch in. “I still have to prompt and remind,” she says, “but it isn’t so bad once it becomes a habit.”
The parenting experts WebMD talked to say there are ways to keep the nagging to a minimum.
“Create a list of every job it takes to keep a family going,” says Fay. Have kids pick out the chores they’d like to do the most — or at least the ones they’d hate the least. Of course, you may need to ensure that each member of your household is capable of handling the chores they sign up for.
Create a chores chart with three columns — one for the list of chores, one for deadlines, and one where you can each make a check when the chore is completed. You might find it easiest to have two lists: one for daily household chores and one for weekly household chores.
Pantley and Fay offer some general guidelines for household chores:
- Provide a wide berth with deadlines. You do this so family members can complete the chore at their leisure, says Fay. But make sure kids don’t “hold the family hostage” if they don’t get them done, he says. For example, Suzie can’t unload the dishes if John hasn’t loaded the dishwasher yet.
- Be specific with instructions. “‘Clean your room’ is vague and can be interpreted in any number of ways,” says Pantley. “Instead, be explicit by saying, ‘Put your clothes in the closet, books on the shelf, dishes in the kitchen, and toys in the toy box.'”
- Ease into chores for children. First, demonstrate step by step. Next, let your child help. And then have your child do the chore as you supervise. Once your child has it mastered, he’s ready to go solo.
- Offer periodic praise. Especially with younger children, don’t wait until a chore is complete to drop some well-placed kudos.
- Go easy with reminders. Fay says to never, ever remind your children to do chores, but do have a backup plan if your child fails to follow through. If you think your system won’t work without reminders, make sure everyone, including parents, lets others know how they would like to be reminded. Pantley suggests using the “when/then” technique, such as, “When the pets are fed, then you may have your dinner.”
Allowance for Chores
Then there’s the million-dollar question: Should your child get an allowance for chores? Most parenting experts say “usually not.” That’s because the main purpose of an allowance is to teach kids how to handle money.
It’s especially important to not tie allowance to chores for younger kids, says Pantley. That’s because a younger child may be less motivated by money and simply choose to not do them. Once an older child has established a sense of responsibility, however, money can become a nice motivator for certain chores.
One approach, says Fay, is to put parents’ most-hated chores up for the lowest bid. This gets the job done and teaches a lesson or two about a free-market economy, he adds.
Age-Appropriate Chores for Children
How can you know what to expect of your child at what age? If you ask your child to put the forks on the left side of the plate, does she know what you mean and is she physically able to do it? If not, take a step back, says McIntire. Maybe you’ll simply start by having your child get the silverware to the table. The point is, he says, you want an immediate payoff for you and your child.
Most parents, however, underestimate what their kids are able to do, says Pantley. “Keep in mind that a child who has mastered a complicated computer game can easily run the dishwasher.” In general, she says, preschoolers can handle one or two simple one-step or two-step jobs. Older children can manage more.
And, as your children grow up and get busy, don’t let them off the hook, says Fay. He says to tell them, “I hope you get so quick with your chores that they don’t interfere with everything else.”
Here is a sample of chores provided by Pantley that will work for many children in these age groups.
Chores for children ages 2 to 3
- Put toys away.
- Fill pet’s food dish.
- Put clothes in hamper.
- Wipe up spills.
- Pile books and magazines.
Chores for children ages 4 to 5
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Make own bed.
- Empty wastebaskets.
- Bring in mail or newspaper.
- Clear table.
- Pull weeds.
- Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs.
- Water flowers.
- Unload utensils from dishwasher.
- Wash plastic dishes at sink.
- Fix bowl of cereal.
Chores for children ages 6 to 7
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Sort laundry.
- Sweep floors.
- Set and clear table.
- Help make and pack lunch.
- Weed and rake leaves.
- Keep bedroom tidy.
- Pour own drinks.
- Answer telephone.
Chores for children ages 8 to 9
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Load dishwasher.
- Put away groceries.
- Help make dinner.
- Make own snacks.
- Wash table after meals.
- Put away own laundry.
- Sew buttons.
- Make own breakfast.
- Peel vegetables.
- Cook simple foods, such as toast.
- Mop floor.
- Take pet for a walk.
Chores for children ages 10 and older.
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Unload dishwasher.
- Fold laundry.
- Clean bathroom.
- Wash windows.
- Wash car.
- Cook simple meal with supervision.
- Iron clothes.
- Do laundry.
- Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home).
- Mow lawn.
- Clean kitchen.
- Clean oven.
- Change bed.
- Make cookies or cake from a box mix.