Every now and then I come across parents who do not believe in getting their children to do chores. I know one argument for this approach is that the children will not do a satisfactory job and the parent will have to redo or complete the chore so they rather not face that hassle and so prefer to do it themselves.
Another argument is the hassle of just getting them to listen and do the chores in a timely manner.
I cannot stress enough what a huge disservice it is to not require your children to do chores. Firstly doing chores prepares them for the real world. Secondly, it gives children a feeling of belonging and importance in the family, their contribution is valued and so builds self esteem. Finally the tediousness of doing chores actually trains them to handle the tediousness of study and schoolwork. I saw clear proof of this with one of my sons. At around the age of 7 he was lacking focus in school, so we added him to the family dog feeding schedule (each boy had a duty to feed the dogs for one whole week, there being a few brothers older than him, he only had to do it every 4 weeks). He was also assigned other small chores. The term he was given these responsibilities his school and homework performance significantly improved. It was not a coincidence. Many psychologists and parenting experts agree with this approach.
How young can they start doing chores and what chores are appropriate for what age children? This is a very important question and must be carefully considered. Some parents go to the other extreme and make their children do too much, and give young children adult responsibilities, so much so that they rob the child of child play, these children become like little adults by the age of 9 or 10. The deprivation of healthy play can have adverse effects on the child later in life.
So what are age appropriate chores? And how well must they be done?
I’d say children as young as 4 can start sponging dirty spots off walls, fridges, mirrors and furniture. They can push a mop, broom or vacuum cleaner around. Water house plants and scrub shower stalls, wash toys and plastic dishes. Outdoors, raking leaves or transferring them to big containers is easy and so too is helping to wash the car, to name a few.
WARNING: do not criticize chores not well done. Demonstrating how you want it done is best. Clearly describing what a job well done is like is also helpful and my favorite approach when the job is unsatisfactory is to remind them what is expected THE NEXT TIME they are about to do the same chore. Eg “ Hey honey, remember when you wash the car this time, to wipe evenly so as not to leave dust spots on the doors”. “ Hey sweetie, when you vacume this time, remember to do the corners”.
Asking them how they feel about their accomplishment at the end can be a good self esteem builder so don’t forget this part. It can also be a prick in their conscience if they know that they did not put their all into it.
No matter how its done, always show gratitude and express that you value their contribution.
Get the gist?
Stay tuned for the next post about how to get them to actually do the chores without nagging.