8. “How Chores benefit Kids and Families”

Parents love kids to help with chores. But did you now that participating in chores is actually really good for kids and can impact their success as adults?

[…] children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.


Research from a Harvard study found that children who were given chores became more independent adults.

[…] the Harvard Grant Study […] found that professional success in life, which is what we want for our kids, … comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started, the better, that a roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me, a mindset that says, I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole, that that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.

https://www.ted.com/talks/julie_lythcott_haims_how_to_raise_successful_kids_without_over_parenting/transcript at 9:17

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist from Boston says that chores help kids feel competent and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Chores also help kids feel part of their family team and it encourages kids to ultimately grow into contributing and responsible citizens.

Nancy Darline notes that chores offer kids additional benefit including pride in hard work and contributing to the greater good and being praised for their contribution. She also connects a child’s contribution through family chores to developing gratitude for other’s contributions. Engaging in hard work opens kids eyes to realize how much others around them contribute every day in so many ways. Being part of the team can prompt a child to be more appreciative of others when others share their appreciation with the child.

The Centre for Parenting Education in Washington adds two more benefits to this growing list: the development of important life skills and self-esteem.

Holding kids accountable for chores increases their sense of responsibility, thereby making them become more responsible.

Children will feel more capable for having met their obligations and completed their tasks.

By expecting children to complete self-care tasks and to help with household chores, parents equip children with the skills to function independently in the outside world. Not being taught the skills of everyday living can limit children’s ability to function at age appropriate levels. By completing household tasks, kids know that they can contribute to the family, begin to take care of themselves, and learn skills that they will need as an adult.

Laura Grace Weldon points out the benefits of slowing down, unplugging and engaging in real world activities:

Children accustomed to flashy toys and rapidly changing screen images may become so wired to this overstimulation that without it they’re bored. The slower pace of yard and household tasks can be an important antidote, especially when we’re willing to go at a child’s pace…whenever possible, slow down so you can make working together enjoyable. Letting a small child spread peanut butter, cut sandwiches, and pour milk into cups from a small pitcher affirms the value of the present moment.

She goes on to stress that these benefits continue as children grow by building skills and character. “Hands-on experience in all sorts of tasks and hobbies promotes learning, builds character, and helps to form the basis of our future selves.”

In his book, The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture,
Neurologist Frank R. Wilson recounted that in his interviews with high achievers, many credited their expertise to attributes learned through hands-on activities. He emphasizes that resourcefulness and self-definition arise from the use of our hands more than from the dictates of our educational system.

Laura Weldon also notes that we model delayed gratification each time we choose to work for a later or larger goal. This includes saving, making do, and making it ourselves. We teach it when we let a child see that if he doesn’t do the laundry when it’s his turn, there won’t be a clean team shirt to wear to the game. And we show that it’s expected every time our kids pitch in with the ordinary jobs necessary to run a household. She stresses why learning to delay gratification is so important for kids:

[…] multiple studies [demonstrate that] children who were able to defer gratification grew into teens and young adults who were more socially competent, better able to deal with frustration, more dependable, reached higher educational attainments, and were effectively able to make and reach long-term goals. Delayed gratification is also related to impulse control. Research shows that a child’s ability to control his or her impulses at an early age is predictive of success even decades later as a healthy, financially stable, and positive member of the community.


Expecting children and teens to take an active part in running a household gives them plenty of opportunity to gain the positive coping skills that help them control their impulses and delay gratification.

Chores build skills and make children feel capable

Not only do chores allow children to grow proficient at the jobs necessary to sustain their families, but they result in the child feeling capable – a perception that transfers across all endeavors in life says Weldon.

There’s no denying that children who participate pick up useful skills. They discover that maintenance is easier than waiting for the car or laptop to break down. They can set the table, toss a salad, make a sandwich, and boil pasta. Not necessarily right away, but eventually. While they are making real contributions to running the household they’re actively learning how to cook, launder, clean, make repairs, maintain a vehicle, budget expenses, and other tasks which are essential for independence as adults. Important connections between cause and effect are established when children complete tasks and benefit from the results.

Seeing oneself as an agent of useful change is priceless.

Chores can be tackled beginning in preschool and the type and scope of chores can be expanded as they grow up. For example, Preschool children can be given simple chores that involve picking up after themselves, cleaning up toys, and putting their dishes away after a meal. When children begin attending school, their responsibility with chores should increase as well, with tasks such as putting shoes and backpacks away when they get home from school.

As chores become more complex, teach them in a step-by-step manner how to do each task. For example, if a child is expected to put his own clothes away, teach him where to put the clothes and discuss your expectations. Praise them for their efforts and encourage them to keep practicing. Don’t expect perfection.

Stick to your guns parents – it’s worth the struggle.

I’ve noticed parents who are reluctant to engage in continuous struggles for fear of damaging their relationship with their children. Others may feel guilty asking their children to help; after all, children are so busy with all the other demands on them from school, peers and extra-curricular activities that you may be reluctant to add to the pressures. Many parents don’t know what age chores should start and may believe their little ones are too young to take on responsibilities, not realizing how capable their youngsters actually can be.

My reluctance with chores in my home is that it can be really hard and it take a lot more time to involve your children with chores.

Insisting that chores be completed can feel like a never-ending battle. Because it can feel like you are constantly reminding, nagging, or imposing consequences just to get your children to follow through, you may decide to let chores slide. It becomes easier in the short run to do the jobs yourself.

I learned that it’s worth the struggle. It’s important for everyone in our family unit to contribute. If I didn’t engage the kids, I would not only be doing all the work myself but I’d be doing them a disservice by not teaching them basic life skills they will need as an independent adult.

It took me awhile but I finally realized that I had to take the time to teach my children how to do a chore. A lot of my frustration was asking for a chore to be done and either the kids didn’t do it or they didn’t do it properly. I realized that I had to slow down and start at the very beginning and invest in training them. I had to teach them how to sort laundry, how to wash dishes, how to sweep, how to tidy a room, etc. Once I surrendered to the amount of time and patience that was required to teach my kids to do a chore, it was far more enjoyable and relaxed. My kids also appreciated being taught how to contribute. Once they felt competent they were easier to motivate and they did a much better job at their chores.

Doing chores for your kids can have a negative impact

Experts warn parents to not let kids off the hook for chores even because they have a lot of school work, sports commitments or other obligations. By letting a child off the hook for chores you are saying, intentionally or not, that they are not capable of meeting their demands and obligations. You are also setting a dangerous precedent for adult life – that their academic or athletic pursuits are most important than contributing to their family unit and that someone else will pick up the slack for them.

This naturally leads to the topic of allowances. I do not believe in paying kids for contributing to family chores, because it takes a lot of effort for a household to function smoothly and children should participate without pay – they are part of the family.

Amy Morin concurs and suggests that:

There’s no need to reward a child for every task he completes. Picking up after himself and cleaning his room, for example, are part of pitching in and helping the family.

However, some families pay their kids for doing extra chores over and above daily chores. Morin suggests that this can be a good way to start teaching your child financial responsibility. If you don’t want to pay your tween real money, you could create a family reward system where you child is rewarded by other things like a new game or outings with friends. As kids grow, chores can earn privileges including using the family car.

Continue to: The Power of laughter in Families

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