Chores for Kids: Good or Bad?

7 Minutes to Read -
Chores for Kids Article

When I ask my children to do any chores around the house I tend to be polite and always say, “Please babies, do you mind emptying the dishwasher?” My husband is constantly reminding me that the job will never get done if that’s how I ask .

He demands I tell them by saying, “Go  and empty the dishwasher please”. I find it a little harsh but to be honest it works.

I have read a lot online about children not doing enough around the house and quite often parents feeling as if they are almost slaves to their children.Quite often very, very young children can unlock a mobile phone, open up their required app, play games that they want to play and even operate YouTube!

So is it too much to ask our children to do simple chores around the house?

My kids are pretty good at keeping their bedroom tidy however it often takes having to nag them to get it as tidy as I may want it to be. I guess we must remember that our standards of cleanliness compared to the standards our children uphold are quite different.

Their standards include getting it done ASAP so that they can do what they want to do. Whether it’s good enough for mum is not that important.

I don’t know about everyone else but it was important for my parents to get me and my siblings to do chores around the house daily. I remember I helped my mum cook from the age of around 11 years. I have to admit, as a child it was a real pain. I didn’t want to do it.

I think at times I even got angry because I was asked to vacuum or wash the dishes. Looking back now my parents have really helped me to become the independent person I am today and I have learnt vital life skills.

Working in tertiary education, it is shocking to see how many teenagers are unable to cook very simple meals for themselves. They do not know how to make their  beds . They are not familiar with the types of products needed to clean the kitchen or the bathroom.

Some didn’t know that the bath would even need cleaning a few times a week and thought that miraculously, the bath would always stay clean. What world are our children living in and what are we teaching them?

I often ask myself how ready are our children for real life? Are we preparing our children for their future? Are we giving them the skills they need to become independent adults who are able to look after themselves without having to rely on others. If I’m totally honest, I don’t think we are.

But more importantly as parents today the pressures we are under to do everything we are expected to do can be so overwhelming that if we can do something to relieve our self of some of that pressure, then why shouldn’t we?

As much as our children may loathe us for asking them to wash the dishes or load the washing machine or vacuum the house, it means we can actually sit back and have some time to take a breather.

Initially, it will take some time for our children to adjust to changes and you may even witness some tantrums, maybe even some arguments, but it’s best for all of us;  don’t you agree?

My children have been helping out around the house a lot more recently.  They sort the laundry, load up the washing machine, load up the dishwasher, empty the dishwasher, do the vacuuming, tidy their rooms, make their beds, clean the bathroom, and quite often they will even help me with the cooking.

I know that may sound like a lot, however they don’t do all of these things every single day.

I’m sure there is plenty more that they could be doing but we have to be fair and not overload them with household chores. Quite often, they will tell me that they enjoyed doing their chores. Sometimes, we do chores as a family and help each other out, this makes it so much easier for everyone and you have a laugh along the way.

My oldest likes to set a timer to see who can fold they clothes the quickest, it becomes competitive and makes it much more fun.

We often like to tell our children, that they need to take responsibility. However, it’s not always easy for our children to understand what this really means.

However, by telling our children that they are responsible for certain tasks around the house, this teaches them that this is something that they are responsible for and if they don’t do it it’s not going to get done.

When they  start complaining that certain things are untidy or the bin is overloaded or, ‘why is the bath dirty when I want to shower?’,  they would soon  realise that had they done what they were supposed to do,  things would be in much better order.

Too often, I ask my husband why do I constantly have to tell the children to put things in the bin, or why are they unable to see when something needs doing and just do it? Why is it so hard for them to be able to find the motivation to do the chores that need to be done without me having to nag them ?

It seems the answer is simpler than I thought. It seems that children are not born with these traits. It is something that they develop as they grow and mature. This doesn’t make me feel any better because it means I have to continue nagging and telling them and it really does tire me out. I’m sure you know what that feels like.

Our job as parents is to help our children learn to develop  qualities of making  good judgement, being less impulsive and becoming aware of perspectives and needs. Ultimately this means being able to show some initiative.

More often than not, parents feel guilty for asking their children to do chores around the house and we question whether it is worth the struggle. It can seem like a never-ending battle and it is sometimes easier to just do it ourselves.

But then as a consequence we are creating lazy children.

If we not feeling guilty about asking our children to do chores, we fear that we are damaging our relationship with them. Although these may seem like valid considerations, we are actually doing the opposite.

Like I said earlier, very young children are operating mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. However, as parents we can sometimes feel that our little ones are too young to take on responsibilities when in fact they are much more capable than you might realise.

There is a lot of research around this subject, I will not bore you with all the science however, these are some of the key points that I would like to bring to your attention.

  • Research indicates that children who have developed a set of tools and skills have higher self-esteem, are more responsible and are better able to deal with frustration and delayed  gratification. These can contribute to greater success in school.
  • Involving children in household tasks, as early as 3 or 4 years, can have a positive impact later in life.
  • Doing chores helps the child feel a connection to the family. It gives the child an opportunity to ‘give back’ to their parents for everything they do for them.
  • Holding your child accountable for their chores can help your child feel a sense of responsibility and actually make them more responsible.
  • One of the most common causes of overindulgence comes from parents doing too much for their children and not expecting enough from them. Actually not being taught the skills of everyday living can limit your child’s ability to functions at age- appropriate levels.
  • When we expect our children to complete self-care tasks and to help out with household chores, we are giving our children the tools and the skills to function independently in the outside world.

By giving our children chores and insuring that they complete them teaches our children that it is an important skill, as important as other skills they may learn whether that is academic or athletic or otherwise.

Our children have very busy schedules. So as  parents we must strike a balance and give importance to all aspects of their lives. Our children want to make us proud; we must allow them the opportunities to do so.

If we deem academic studies to be more important than  other aspects, and they happen to fail at something they have done at school, they may feel that they have failed us because we have not given them other pillars of competency upon which to rely.

By completing chores around the house, they may not always be best academically or athletically however, they will know they have contributed to the family, that they are able to take care of themselves and learnt some of the skills that they need as an adult.

So what can we do as parents to help our children become the best they possibly can?

  1. Set an example. Be the role model that you would want your parents to be for you. Have the right attitude. Set the tone.  If you feel that household chores are a real pain then your children will feel the same. Commit to your chores, have patience and use humour. This will make it so much easier for your children to be the same.
  2. From a young age, encourage participation.Children naturally want to take part in the things that we do as a family. This is the perfect opportunity to make it a habit and get your children to participate in chores that you do around the house. It can start off with as simple as taking cutlery and placing it on the table ready for dinner.
  3. It’s never too late. If you did not start doing chores with your children from a young age it’s not too late to start now. The use of reward charts are brilliant as they work as an incentive and really get your kids more competitive and gives them the motivation to complete their tasks.
  4. Think about… What chores do you need help with? Are they the best fit for each of your children? Do they teach the skills that your children need? Do they give them responsibility?

There is a lot of debate around whether our children should earn an allowance or privileges for doing chores but I think that may be a debate for another day although if you have an opinion I’d love to hear it.

I want to leave you with two things to remember.

Firstly, remember that it is not the size of the task that matters, it is the responsibility associated with it that is important.

Secondly, your children may not thank you in the short-term for giving them chores but remember you are teaching them life skills and a sense of responsibility that will last a lifetime.

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