When I was the age my kids are now, I was forced to do a 20-minute chore around the house. And by “forced,” I mean incentivized with $1 a minute of pay, which was a decent wage for an inexperienced kid like myself. Essentially it was my allowance, but my mom made me “work” for it. My work was subpar at best. The idea of dusting a wall of wooden shutters made my skin crawl. I hated it. And when the clock approached my 20-minute commitment, I would finish quickly whether the dust was removed or not. My household responsibilities were minimal at best, and as I grew into my teen years I avoided any type of chore like the plague. It wasn’t until I got my first job that I realized what actual “work” was and the extreme difference in pay. No more $1 a minute. It was more like $0.10 a minute. A whopping six dollars an hour for grueling roll-up-your-sleeves-and-don’t-complain type of work. Ugh, it wasn’t until my first year in college that I realized how good I had it at home — something most teenagers eventually admit once they are on their own.
Fast forward to today and I have two kids that are at the age where they are more than capable of doing chores. It hit me when I noticed the kids conspiring to steal the forbidden candy which was hidden atop the refrigerator. They demonstrated teamwork, devised a plan, and executed flawlessly, only to be caught by the wrappers in the trash can. Otherwise these two would have gotten away with it. I thought to myself, “Hmm, y’all can work together to steal candy? Y’all can also reach the plates, cups, and bowls in the cupboard when you’re hungry then, surely. And clearly y’all have the energy of, well, a 7- and an 8-year-old.” They were ready for some chores!
The first chore I assigned — which was unpaid, I might add — was laundry. Yep, one of the most tedious and unforgiving tasks in a person’s life, right there next to dishes. At first, I introduced them to the washing machine and offered them limited assistance while they excitedly navigated the detergent and the machine’s buttons. Then I showed them how easy it was to transfer the wet clothes into the dryer and push the fun little buttons on it as well. The real excitement came next, though. After they were both on cloud nine for being entrusted with the big machines, they were now responsible enough to hang, fold, and put it away all the fresh clean clothes in their respective drawers. It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been “adulting” long enough to know that hanging, folding, and putting away laundry absolutely sucks. And to the innocent eyes of a young child, well, they thought it sucked too. Ha! Now they felt my pain and frustration from folding all their teeny-tiny clothes over the years (insert evil mom laugh here).
My kids quickly mastered the laundry and dishes. So, naturally, after a few months it was time to increase their household responsibilities. I assigned my daughter the trash duties and my mini-but-mighty son the chore of vacuuming the floors. Upon accepting his new vacuuming responsibility, my son was awarded his very own little DustBuster. It was perfect for his pint-sized stature. They took pride in all their assigned chores and happily completed them when asked. I thought this was almost too easy. For sure they would put up a fight and protest? But to my surprise, and to the surprise of the family and friends I confided in, they didn’t resist. I decided to poke around on the internet to inquire about how chores affect children. Are chores a good thing? Do chores have lasting affects on kids? What will chores teach them?
What I discovered was children actually need chores and household responsibilities. The benefits were astonishing! I’ve listed them below…
- Chores promote teamwork and family bonding
- Children learn essential life skills and self-reliance
- Chores teach time management, responsibility, and accountability
- Chores build a strong work ethic and confidence
- Chores are a predictor of healthy, happy, and independent adults
My approach to assigning chores is to start with age-appropriate tasks (e.g. picking up toys during preschool) and increasing the responsibilities as the capabilities improve. I also got creative with checking how well my kids complete their chores by having them grade each other. To make it easy the possible grades are A through F, just like in school. This is so fun! Once I announce the grading will begin, one will usually rush out of the room claiming he or she “forgot” something and quickly correct it. They also know all the good hiding spots. When it’s time to check each other’s clean bedrooms they find things in the nooks and crannies which I may have missed. I don’t usually compensate them for chores unless they went above and beyond the normal responsibility. Like when my daughter takes the trash can out in the pouring rain, or when my son vacuums the entire downstairs after a party using his little DustBuster. Then I may hand them a dollar or two.
Lastly, chores need kids too. Why? Because we simply cannot, and should not, do it all. Especially when we have these energetic little beings running around our houses. It was frustrating when I found myself constantly cooking, cleaning, washing, drying, and organizing, and all the while my sweet and perfectly capable kiddos were chillin’ and watching TV. That did not last very long in my home, though, and soon the kids were participating in the laundry and kitchen duties. And shockingly, they eventually asked to do more! So I assigned more. Winning!
Parents, admit it, you can use the help. You have earned it and you deserve it. I dare you to take a staycation day at home and assign all of the day-to-day tasks to your kids and see what happens. You may be surprised. Go on, give it a try if you haven’t already done so. Parenting is never easy, but I have found introducing chores to my family was one of the best decisions I have ever made.