How many and what kinds of chores do your kids do?
Yesterday I met a friend at the park so our kids could play and we could chat. You know, we moms get together just as much for ourselves as for the kids. One of the things my friend talked about was that her kids don’t do enough chores. She made the statement:
“We do everything for them. They just don’t know what it means to work.”
It shocked me to hear her say that. I’m pretty laid back about a lot of things with my kids. But one thing I insist on is them working around the house.
Why Kids Need Chores
I believe that kids NEED and WANT to work hard. It makes them feel good about themselves. It shows them that, in a very tangible way, they’re essential to the running of the household. Instead of being a burden, they’re important helpers.
Years ago for my podcast, I interviewed a woman named Kelly Nault. She wrote a book called When You’re About To Go Off The Deep End, Don’t Take Your Kids With You.
One of the core principles in her book was that kids WANT and NEED to do chores. In our interview she pointed out that years ago, young kids were entrusted with valuable tasks.
For example, a child of 10 may have been operating the family tractor – something more costly than the home they lived in! It helped them develop self esteem and self worth, among other benefits.
With my kids, I like to talk about what life was like for early American children. We’ve read the Little House series of books more than once. I remind them that Laura and Mary Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder went to the breakfast table HUNGRY in the morning because they had already done chores for an hour or two before they got there (after arising at sunrise or earlier!).
There was no pickiness at the table back then. When you’re hungry you don’t care much about what’s put in front of you.
Organizing Kids and Chores
My boys have chore charts on the refrigerator, and before they are allowed to do something like play on the computer or watch a PBS show, they have to have their chores completed.
They have daily chores (putting their dishes in the dishwasher, helping me unload the dishwasher, feeding the cat and the chickens and gathering eggs, taking out the trash, picking up their play areas before dinner) and they have weekly chores (things like mopping the floor, vacuuming, helping me clean out the car, sweeping the front porch).
(Update 2016: this post is a few years old, but I agree more than ever with the idea that kids need chores. My children are older and I have more of them now. The older children do: dishes, sweep and mop floors, clean their bathroom, wash/dry/fold their own laundry, and help babysit the little ones a few minutes here and there.)
The oldest cooks a lot too. And they all put their laundry away after I fold it.
The little girls don’t have chore charts yet but I expect the 5 year old to pick up her toys twice a day, to keep the mountain of artwork she creates in check, to put her laundry in the hampers, and pick up her closet area. She also likes to help wash dishes. And anything that has to do with spraying a cleaner and wiping anything.
(She was 3 in this picture, and melted my heart when she donned her tiny apron, washed all the dishes because I wasn’t feeling well, and then led me by hand into the kitchen to show me.)
And the baby “helps” me pick up toys. Sometimes. She has a little kid size mop and broom that she loves to use whenever one of the older kids or I are sweeping or mopping too. At this age, it’s more about practice and getting into a routine of helping rather than actually being helpful.
Maybe because my friend has her husband to help, and also doesn’t work from home every day, she can handle it all herself. But I can’t.
If I had to do everything I would lose my mind, and I wouldn’t have any time to get work that earns money done either! Even if I could do it all, I would be doing my kids a disservice by not expecting them to work.
And you know what I’ve noticed about kids?
They resent being told what to do but love to join you in whatever you’re doing.
It’s natural and normal for kids to want to mimic adults. That’s why they’re always getting in the way trying to help when you’re doing something.
How many times have you been doing a chore and had one of your kids ask if they could help?
Of course they don’t do a very good job but who cares?
I’ve always tried to be a little more patient and lower my expectations. Helping is how they learn and I don’t want them turned off of cleaning or cooking because I always shooed them away.
Aurelia, miss Real Life Coach extraordinaire sent me this article today and I decided to publish it here.
Let me know what you think and how chores are handled in your house.
Children and Chores – Do You Delegate?
A few generations ago, children were commonly expected to help around the house. When society was mainly based on agricultural endeavors, children were expected to help around the farm as well. Our society has changed and so has our expectation of our children. Learning to delegate household chores to children can benefit both the children and the parents.
Let’s admit it, mom and dad work hard all day. Facing household chores in the evening can take away time that should be spent with kids, stress you out or just add another burden to your otherwise overloaded to do list. Delegating household chores between all the occupants of the house seems only fair. There are jobs around the house even the smallest child can do.
Chores are great for the kids as well. Though they may complain, forget or otherwise try to find ways out of chores they do benefit from them. They are taught responsibility, essential life skills and even some reasoning skills. Learning to do dishes or laundry is essential to any child. They need to be able to do these on their own some day so they may as well start doing these at home. It also gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
What chores kids can do, really depends on the age and the ability of that child. You may want to do the chore with them to begin with. Show them the correct way, then let them try it with your supervision. If they do ok, assign them this chore. Always follow up and make sure their chores are done and done correctly. Remember they are kids and are just learning.
Preschoolers can perform the basic chores. They can learn to pick up after themselves. Take care of their toys, make their beds and this kind of chore is ideal. Older from 6 to 9 children can do all this plus learn to take care of the pets, fold and take care of laundry and even learn to vacuum and sweep floors. Children for 10 to 13 can take on even more responsibility. They can do dishes, clean the bathrooms and even learn to cook simple meals with supervision. Once they have reached the age of 14 consider more responsibility. Laundry can be done by older children as well as car care, preparing meals or any other chore that parents feel they are capable of doing.
Some children are more adapt at helping around the household than others. Children who want to learn to cook and clean should be encouraged. Supervising young children around the stove and other hot appliances is essential, but they should be allowed to try these things when they feel they are ready.
With the question of chores comes the question of allowance. This is a very popular subject in many a child’s mind. There are different theories as to who should get allowance, how much and what for. Sit down and discuss with your child their responsibilities around the house. Talk to them about how much they think these chores are worth. Teach them that their time and effort is worth something, but they have to be realistic. Let them be part of the decision of allowances and what chores are parts of that.
Parents are responsible for teaching their children important life skills. Teaching them how to keep up a house and themselves should be included. Show them it is a team effort to keep the house running smoothly. Everyone pitching in to keep a comfortable, clean house will show them it is worth the effort.
Aurelia writes about balancing work and family and avoiding the supermom trap.