Between dance practice, classes, homework, sports, and other responsibilities, you may worry that you’re overburdening your children by adding chores on top. So, should kids do chores? While you wouldn’t expect a 2-year-old to mop the kitchen floor, there are appropriate chores for nearly every age. While the word “chore” may have a negative connotation, it’s important that children learn how to play a part in contributing to the household from a young age.
Or it may just be that you, as the stressed-out parent and adult, are able to complete the tasks much more quickly and efficiently than your children are. While this is true, no child (or adult!) is perfect from the start and they will get faster over time! A 9-year-old attempting to mop the floor will probably leave it cleaner than it was originally, even if it’s not gleaming.
With age-appropriate chores, children learn responibility and consequences. While many parents don’t want to over-burden their children, you also don’t want them to move out without knowing how to do their own laundry, clean their own bathroom, and cook their own meals. Chores teach life skills that will become incredibly important as they advance into the world on their own.
Benefits of doing chores
Even science agrees! This 25-year study from the University of Minnesota found that children receive many positive benefits from cleaning up, making beds, and taking out the trash when they’re young. The researchers looked at the household work children did in three distinct periods of their childhoods (defined as ages three to four, nine to ten, and fifteen to sixteen) and looked at correlations to their adult selves.
They found that children who began participating in household tasks at three or four years of age had a more positive correlation with completing education, avoiding drugs, and beginning a career path. Interestingly, not starting participation in household tasks until well into the teenaged years (the 15-16 year old category) backfired and those individuals were less successful by these measures.
That’s not to say that it’s too late for your older children to start helping out in the house! The idea is that the earlier you start, the better. Young children have more natural enthusiasm and often want to copy what their parents are doing, whereas older teenagers often don’t see the same. Starting chores young, even imperfectly, can help build self-reliance and a sense of competence and independence from a young age.
Setting and clearing the table, sweeping the floor, and wiping down the counter may seem like small things, but they teach children to to take pride in helping family members. There’s also the added benefit that the more your children can handle as their get older, the less of the burden falls entirely on your shoulders!
Keep the timing responsible
While of course you want your children to do well in school, that is not a separate responsibility from helping to maintain the household. Even with a busy schedule for your children, make sure you leave time for them to finish their chores. You can turn it into a family event (everyone finishes their chores for 30 minutes after dinner, for example) with you the parent also finishing your chores.
That said, it’s important to keep chore expectations reasonable. If your kid’s at school until 3pm, after-school care or extra-curriculars until 6pm, eating dinner until 7pm before working on two hours of homework, it’s already 9pm! Keep the work-play balance of your child as reasonable as possible.
Also, remember that children need to be taught how to do chores. They won’t be able to do them perfectly at first, and it’s important to let them navigate the learning process instead of taking over and doing it for them. You may be faster, but everything will likely end up cleaner than before, and that’s how they learn! Being overly critical of how a job is done can have the opposite effect and discourage them from wanting to help out at all.
Age-Appropriate Chores for All Ages
Preschoolers may be more capable than you think (at least with a little practice). They will need more supervision while navigating chores for the first time, but at 3-5 years old, a child start learning how to clean up after themselves. Obviously they can’t reach tables or counters yet, but preschoolers can pick up their toys, help make their bed, help sort laundry, and learn to fill pet food bowls.
Sticker charts (they get to pick the sticker) can act as a reward system for these early tasks. The sticker may be enough incentive for a young child, though an older child may be in need of a stronger incentive. Perhaps a trip to the roller rink or a movie if they get a certain number of stickers in a row, depending on the inclinations of your child.
At this age, many children want to do what their parents are doing and anything can be turned into a game. Use that to your advantage! Race to separate the laundry or see who can put away more toys in a minute. If your child has a toy vacuum or toy dishes, they could follow along as you do the “grown-up” chores. At this age, it’s more about warming them up to the idea of chores as part of something you do in a family – not a punishment.
Grade School Age
As children work their way through grade school, they can start acquiring more responsibilities. But don’t expect perfection! Putting their clothes away, keeping their room clean, setting the table, and helping (in what ways they can) with dinner are a good start. You don’t want to be too critical at this stage, as they are just beginning to master the chores and may need encouragement. If they are still in a stage of wanting to do what you do, make sure you take advantage of that!
The years between childhood and teenagerhood are a good opportunity to begin giving more responsibility to tweens. They may now be tall enough to reach and wipe down counters, sweep, walk any dogs, vacuum, take out trash, put laundry away, rake, and put away clean dishes. At this age, keeping their room clean should be the standard.
You may also be able to start using financial incentives for more difficult and time-consuming tasks. For example, cleaning out the entire fridge or washing cars for money to see a movie with friends.
If you’re not comfortable with your tweens having cash money, creating some kind of token system could also work. Make sure the tasks and rewards are clear, so there’s no confusion along the way!
With your teenagers, don’t think about it as loading them up with chores, but as preparing them for their soon-to-be adult life. While it can feel like a struggle with teenagers because they often are involved in multiple activities, full-time school, and maybe a part-time job. That doesn’t change once they’re out of the house, though; they will still need to work or study (or both) while balancing hobbies and relationships while still being able to feed themselves and provide themselves with clean clothing. Ingraining these practices as habit while young can only help further down the road.
Don’t give your teenagers money they didn’t earn, and no extra loans whenever they ask. By teengaed years, they can hold down basic chore repsonsabilities, and if they’re compensated when they do their work well and on time (and not when aren’t), they will learn how to manage their own money and save or spend how they like.
We are Bates Cleaning Service, a reputable and reliable residential and commercial cleaning service company in Austin, Cedar Park, and surrounding areas!