Why Chores Matter (And What Your Kids Can Start Doing Right Now)
For most of us, cleaning the house is hardly the highlight of our day. We can, maybe, at least appreciate a clean house…but our kids are often far less motivated by the idea that the only payoff for cleaning the bathroom is that it’s, well, clean. This can lead to a lot of drama and conflict at home, and the end result is that an awful lot of parents today don’t insist on having their kids do chores. Like many of us parenting in Oakville, perhaps everyone is very busy with school or extra-curricular activities, or there just has been so much hassle when chores were introduced that it seemed easier to hire a cleaning lady. Maybe we say to ourselves, “I don’t love cleaning either, so why should I insist my kids do something that I don’t want to do myself?” Whatever the reason, though, we’re doing our kids a disservice by not getting them involved in keeping the house running.
Here’s a great summary of How Children Benefit From Chores. And it’s also interesting to note that Less Screen Time and More Chores Makes Kids Happier.
Still not convinced you should cancel Molly Maid? In his book Authentic Happiness, Dr. Martin Seligman writes:
Chores may sound boring, but George Vaillant has found them to be quite an astonishing predictor of adult success in his two massive youth-to-death studies of the Harvard classes of 1939 to 1944 and Somerville inner-city men. Having chores as a child is one of the only early predictors of positive mental health later in life. (page 224)
That to me sounds pretty remarkable.
So let’s talk about how to make this happen in your own family. In another blog post, I talked about some ideas on how to successfully get your kids involved in the household chores. Today, let’s brainstorm ideas of what kinds of things might be appropriate for kids of different ages to do.
Here are some things preschoolers can do:
- pick up their own toys and put them away
- sort laundry
- set the table with cutlery and napkins (anything unbreakable!)
- with supervision, make themselves a simple breakfast of cereal and milk, or toast and peanut butter
School-aged kids can:
- dust and vacuum, and clean bathrooms
- be responsible for making part of their lunch (maybe adding snacks and treats after you’ve made the main course)
- take out the garbage and help with putting it and the recycling to the curb
- help with grocery shopping and putting groceries away
- load and unload the dishwasher
Pre-teens are ready to spread their wings, and have a bit more responsibility by:
- taking on bigger jobs around the house, such as cleaning floors or more yard work
- packing their own bags for trips (with the help of a checklist)
- taking over more of the work in managing homework and school assignments
- putting their own laundry away neatly
By this time, younger teens are well able to:
- make simple meals for the whole family, after a few cooking lessons
- set their own alarms and get themselves into their morning routines without prompting
- do laundry
- run a few simple errands, like getting the mail or picking up something from a friend’s house
Sometimes kids have a sense of what they’d like to do for themselves, so ask their opinions. They might fight you tooth and nail on cleaning the bathroom, but happily take over mowing the lawn and weeding the garden. While it’s still important that they learn how to clean a toilet, you might get more buy-in by letting them make some of the decisions as to what they tackle regularly. Because it isn’t just about how clean the toilet is, it’s also about how much “grit” they’re developing in the process.