Education Blog

Bring Back the Chores! Why Our Children Aren’t Doing Them and Why They Should

By Charlotte Foster, Curriculum Coordinator and English Department Chair, Westminster School

Most of us remember doing household chores in our childhood, and although that probably wasn’t our favorite thing to do, it taught us more than we probably realize.  A recent national study cited in the Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com) shows that whereas a majority of adults (82%) regularly did chores as children, only 28 percent of adults ask their children to the same.  What has changed over the years?  Why are parents hesitant to ask their children to help around the house?  Would some parents be more inclined to ask their children to perform chores if they knew it would benefit them academically and socially?

The majority of parents seem to realize that chores are important, teach life lessons, and are important in terms of children learning responsibility.  Why are they not being done then?  A local mom says, “When I ask my child to help around the house, he asks me how much money is he going to get.  I try to explain that he should be helping around the house because is a member of the family; however, he just spends so much time complaining that it’s not worth the overall effort.”  This is a common complaint of busy, working parents.  It takes more time to harass the child to get the work done, check that it’s done properly, argue about the payment (if there is one), and then start it all over again when the chore needs doing.  Charts, reward systems, and threats seem to just upset the family balance, and parents aren’t finding it worth the effort.

Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist and researcher from Brown University who worked on the study by Whirlpool, says that chores shouldn’t become obsolete in our society.  “Chores have a lot of short-term and long-term developmental benefits in terms of academic and social success.   One of the reasons chores have such a positive effect is not just the idea of kids learning responsibility, per se, but a broader perspective that kids are learning they have a role in the family.”  This is a very important part of having children do chores—it teaches them that they are an integral part of the family unit.  Research also shows that doing chores can promote empathy, and this is something that our children need more of, most especially with the growing use of screens.

So, how do we encourage and promote doing chores without the arguments and the complaining?  There will probably be a certain level of complaining no matter what.  It’s always good to handle that with a little bit of humor.  Setting up habits early is also critical.  It’s much easier to continue the chores rather than start instituting them at age 13.  What chores should children be doing at what age? Today.com has a great guide that can help parents assign appropriate chores by age.

Early Grade Schoolers

  • get clothes out
  • make simple lunch
  • dress themselves
  • tie shoes
  • help younger siblings
  • clean up after bath
  • make their bed
  • put away clothes

Older Grade Schoolers

  • get ready for school
  • do homework independently
  • bring in mail
  • take out the trash
  • keep their rooms clean
  • dust
  • setting and clearing table

Middle Schoolers

  • cook
  • help clean
  • yardwork
  • wash car
  • babysitting
  • pet chores
  • laundry

What about allowance for these chores?  Earning an allowance is a great way for children to learn about money—how to save it, when to spend it, and just how far it goes.  Rather than ask parents for money whenever they need it, earning an allowance is another way that children learn life lessons and responsibility as well as the value of a hard-earned dollar.  It’s never too late to start a chore/allowance system at home!  If you don’t have one in place at your house, consider what your family is missing.  Not only will you get some deserved help around the house, but your child will also be reaping the benefits.

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