Chores are simple jobs that routinely need to be done in and around the house. They come in all sizes and shapes, and there are a wide enough variety to suit any child’s age and abilities.
Chores are a great way to teach your children many of the skills they need to know to take care of themselves as adults, while also teaching them to take responsibility for a job and feel pride in work successfully completed.
Probably the most important reason for doing chores, though, is simply that they are members of your family and they need to participate.
There are many little jobs that need to get done during the day, and it is fair for every member of the family to do their part. By doing so, they invest in the success of the family as a whole.
The investment can be as simple as helping to make dinner or putting their dirty laundry in the basket. Every little duty adds up, creating a whole in which people depend upon and trust one another. “I’ll make dinner, you fold the laundry, and Meg can walk the dog.” Families function when the members work together as a team. Later, when they need help, they will call family. When family needs help, they will come. As they work together, they strengthen bonds and create memories and emotions that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
If your children do not do their parts, a link in the chain is broken. “You give to me, but I don’t give back” does not make for a long-lasting relationship. Ask any family in which one child was favored above the others.
Work Bestows Value
Even if we aren’t planning to be a close-knit family later, it is a human truth that we need to pay for what we receive. An oddity of the human mind is that it does not appreciate what it gets for free.
Allowance that is granted as a gift can be thrown away; allowance that is worked for is treasured. We are proud of having earned it, and we are more careful of how we spend it. It has value.
Watch your children’s faces when they see the results of work that produced something that the family needed. They will make sure you know all about the work they did. They washed those carrots and picked out the best ones! You will see pride of accomplishment–value added to their own self esteem.
Your children receive things for being members of your family. You give them shelter, food, and video games. It will be easier for them to appreciate the work other people do for them if they have also done work. If they do not learn to appreciate what they are given, they will grow up to be jerks. You want people to like your children—and nobody likes jerks. Give them work.
Chores are also a great way to learn responsibility. The most obvious chore is cleaning up after themselves. Toddlers can pick up their toys; six-year-olds can dust and bring their dishes to the sink, and ten-year-olds can put away their laundry. Teenagers should be capable of anything, but they are limited by their busy schedules.
Let them know how much you appreciate their work. Since they saved you all that time, now you can do something fun together! They will remember the satisfying feeling and be more likely to do it again, maybe with less argument.
Chores also teach useful skills. My son was the only guy in his freshman dorm that knew how to do his own laundry. Kids who know how to cook can feed themselves. Knowing how to clean can keep them healthy. A parent’s desire to take care of their children and be reassured that they themselves are needed can sometimes interfere with their children’s need to learn. They will be happy to let you do all the work. Don’t allow them.
One of the skills they learn by doing chores is time management, so give them a time limit to get the job done. They will learn all about the evils of procrastination. “Sorry, hon, you can’t go over to John’s house because you haven’t finished your chores yet.”
Chores also get kids off their bottoms and away from the television, which is always a good thing. Make sure some of their chores involve physical work. A three-year-old can run back and forth, bringing you items to put in the toy box. An eight-year old can help you wash the car. For a teen, yard work and mopping are good. Letting them figure out how to get it done will exercise their brains as well.
Chores Mimic Real Life
Chores give kids a chance to earn things above what you feel are their needs. If you are willing to pay for the plain bike and they want the fancy one, they can earn the difference. Name brand clothes are a want, not a need, and their savings can bridge the gap. They will appreciate the items more because of the work they invested, and they will take better care of them.
Make a chore chart and put it up somewhere visible. The basics earn them their allowance; extra chores earn points toward something they want but do not need.
Arguing for a higher dollar value per point will teach them negotiating skills.
Doing chores prepares kids for real life. Knowing how to work, how to do work well the first time, and how to not procrastinate will serve them well in the workplace. Which employee would you prefer if you were hiring: the one who whined and weaseled his way out of chores his whole life or the one who gets things done quickly with minimal supervision? Which would you fire first?
In real life, work is how you get money, and money is how you pay rent. The other option is moving back to your parents’ basement.
But what chores for which kid? Come back next week!