We all have different memories of how chores are handled in a family. We remember June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, who seemed to do everything for everybody in her household (and no maid either!) But then I also remember Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons where the kids were expected to do their fair share.
We could argue that was during a different day, without modern conveniences, so kids HAD to help so the work would get done. And MAYBE that is true, however, there is more at stake than just getting the work done.
Why kids should help
1. Kids need to learn to do their part so that they learn to be part of a team. They need to learn the earth does not revolve around them. They don’t need to expect you to do everything for them. And help us all if this generation continues to grow up with this sense of being “entitled” to everything!
They need to learn to take care of their belongings so that they last longer, or they don’t get lost. They need to learn to help one another and do something for others, just for the sake of being nice. Teaching them to help around the house will help to instill these character lessons.
2. You should not have to take care of everything yourself. Or you and your husband. Every household has a different dynamic, whether you work in the home or outside of the home, the number of children and their ages, etc. And I am a firm believer in both man and woman doing their fair share.
If your children are very young, of course most of the work has to be done by the adults in the family. However, as a child grows, they can begin to learn some responsibilities. This is a tough stage as many times it would be easier and quicker to just do the task yourself. I promise you though, if you will take the time to train your kids when they are younger, and set the standards for teamwork in your family, you will eventually reap the rewards. And they can be some really BIG rewards.
If you happen to be a stay-at-home mom who feels it is her responsibility to take care of her family, I applaud you. However, taking care of them does not mean being at their beck and call. Once children get to the ages of 3 or 4, they should beginning to learn to do some things on their own. And once that expectation is set, you can increase their responsibilies as they mature.
One major goal of parenting
Remember, your job as a parent is to raise a mature, responsible, well-rounded adult. Not a young adult who has not been expected to do their own laundry, clean their bathroom, vacuum the house, take out the garbage, etc.
The goal as they mature is to be able to turn over areas of responsibility to them. It becomes THEIR job. Not only is this important for them as a growing adult, it will greatly reduce your physical load (the emotional load is a whole different story and post!)
Having raised 4 children to adulthood, I learned much of this the hard way. I will tell you this, my children were doing all their own laundry by the time they were 11 or 12. And before that point, they had to help fold and put away laundry. Having 4 kids, it was a big relief to me to not have to do their laundry. It was no longer my responsibility. I was only responsible for myself and my husband. See: How to do less laundry
Another task I passed on to my children was the dishes. They would help me when they were younger, but eventually the task was rotated monthly between kids and I very rarely ever did the dishes for the last 10 years (until the last 2 kids moved out this summer!)
Teach beginning household tasks while young
Teaching children household responsibilities should begin when they are young and still very eager to help. As you are taking care of your kids day-to-day, use your everyday experiences to teach them responsibility.
Many times toddlers get underfoot while you are doing tasks. Instead of shooing them away to play, let them help you match socks or put the spoons away. While you are cooking, let them bring you and ingredient or stir. They need to learn to clean up the bathroom after they’ve had a bath or put their plate in the sink or even rinse and put in the dishwasher.
A short list of age appropriate chores
- empty trashcans
- carry dishes to the sink
- help with dishes
- pick up toys
- fold washcloths
- match socks
- tear lettuce for salad
- make bed
Once children hit elementary age, they can really take on harder chores with some supervision. While you want them to learn skill and learn to do a job correctly, remember that they are children and extend some grace!
- clean bathroom
- sweep and/or mop kitchen
- assist with laundry, sorting, starting a load, switching out, folding
- putting away dishes
- learn to cook easy dishes and eventually easy meals of their own
- taking care of younger siblings, get them dressed, entertain
- raking leaves
- cleaning out car, washing car