Kids will typically resist doing chores, and who can blame them? I can easily think of 20 things I’d rather do than clean the toilets. Because of their developmental stage, young children are self-centered and self-absorbed. They do not have the empathy or the abstract thinking skills to understand how much work parents have to do to keep home life running smoothly. They don’t see why it’s so important to have clean bathrooms or to brush your teeth. And they are impulsive — they want things NOW, making it hard to wait to play until after the chores are done.
So is it worth the effort and struggle to make kids do chores? The research says “yes!” Studies have found that one predictor of success in people in their mid-20s is whether or not they were required to do chores. Those who did chores from an early age were more successful in life.
Children who are expected to do chores demonstrate these benefits:
- Have higher self-esteem
- Are more responsible
- Are better able to deal with frustration
- Can delay gratification
- See themselves as important to their families
- Feel needed by their families
- Feel more capable
- Have better skills to function outside the family
What may happen to kids who don’t have any family responsibilities? Let’s consider three children: Marita, Eli and Kelsey.
Marita is off to kindergarten. She doesn’t know how to button her coat, hang it up or help put toys away. Mom and Dad always did those things for her. Now she is corrected by the teacher for whining to have her coat buttoned or for throwing it on the floor instead of hanging it up. The other children criticize her for not helping at clean up time. Marita’s self-esteem is taking a hit.
Ten-year-old Eli is invited to stay overnight at a friend’s house. At dinner, the milk is passed and everyone fills their own glass. Eli has never been taught to pour milk. After dinner, he heads off to play, but notices that the other family members clear their plates, scrape them and load them in the dishwasher. Then they all help clear the rest of the table. The father says, “Good job, guys.” Eli wonders about his importance to his own family.
Kelsey is off to college, excited about this new chapter in her life. She and three roommates share a bathroom. They decide that they will take turns cleaning the bathroom each week. When it’s Kelsey’s turn, she has no idea what she is supposed to do or what products to use. Her mom always cleaned her bathroom at home. She grabs a spray bottle of cleaner and wipes off a few surfaces. Later, her roommates are complaining because the bathroom smells, the sink isn’t clean, and she ruined the rugs by using bleach spray near them. Kelsey is not feeling very capable.
Contributing to the family by doing chores makes kids feel needed and capable, and teaches skills for life. Chores include personal hygiene tasks like brushing teeth, bathing and washing hair; self-help skills like hanging up clothes, serving yourself at the table and putting away dirty clothes; and chores that benefit the whole family like cleaning the bathroom and mowing the lawn. Children not only learn how to take care of themselves and contribute to the family’s well-being, but also that doing work now gives us time for fun later, and that there is satisfaction in a job well done.
In part II of this topic, I’ll give you some tips for teaching kids to do chores, and some ideas for chores that are appropriate for different age groups.