One of the biggest complaints that parents have is that their children don't help out around the house. It can feel like a constant battle, so should we bother? Surely it is just easier to do it ourselves? Well, yes to both. It might be easier to just do it ourselves initially, but the research is overwhelming, in the longer-term adults who did chores as a child are happier and more successful.
The benefit of doing chores is more than just having some help around the house. Having a child do chores impact their self-esteem, gives them sense of responsibility, helps them feel like a valued and trusted part of the family. Children who do chores are given the opportunity to develop skills to manage frustration as well as gain pride and achievement. It's hard to believe that all of this can come from making their bed, cleaning their room and taking out the rubbish, but it is true. On top of this, as children get older and are given more responsibility, they are learning life skills and independence.
So when can children start doing chores?
This is something that parents find difficult, what should we expect our kids to do and at what age? Well, children as young as 3 years old can do some basic chores but we do have to get our expectations right. e can't expect that a 3 year old will be able to put their clothes away in the right drawers or completely clean their rooms themselves. However, they can pack their toys away and help you with other chores. In the same way, teenagers should be doing more than just getting their dirty clothes in the the laundry. We have to get the balance right and remember that they are going to need some help sometimes.
Now every child develops differently. What one child will be able to do will be different to another. But to give a rough guide of chores that most children can do at individual ages I have put together a bit of a list. There are a lot of things on this list but each family and their requirements will be different. This is just meant to be a guide of what children might be able to do.
Assist in making their beds
Pick up toys with your supervision
Take their dirty laundry to the laundry basket
Fill a pet's water and food bowls (with supervision)
Help a parent clean up spills and dirt
Ages 4 and 5
Get dressed with minimal parental help
Make their bed with minimal parental help
Put their bag and shoes away
Set the table with supervision
Clear the table with supervision
Help a parent prepare food
Help a parent carry in the lighter groceries
Match socks in the laundry
Be responsible for a pet's food and water bowl
Hang up towels in the bathroom
Ages 6 and 7
Make their bed
Get dressed and ready for the day
Be responsible for a pet's food, water
Vacuum individual rooms
Put their laundry in their drawers
Put away dishes from the dishwasher
Help prepare food with supervision
Empty indoor rubbish
Ages 8 to 11
Take care of personal hygiene
Keep bedroom clean
Be responsible for homework
Be responsible for belongings
Wake up using an alarm clock
Wash dishes, stack and unstack dishwasher
Wash the family car with supervision
Clean the bathroom with supervision
Learn to use the washer and dryer
Put all laundry away
Take the rubbish to the street for pick up
Ages 12 and 13
Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
Set their alarm clock
Maintain personal items, such as recharging batteries
Change bed sheets
Keep their rooms tidy and clean
Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
Mow the lawn with supervision
Prepare an occasional family meal
Ages 14 and 15
Responsible for all personal chores for ages 12 and 13
Responsible for library card and books
Do assigned housework without prompting
Do gardening work as needed
Prepare food — from making a grocery list and buying the items (with supervision) to serving a meal — occasionally
Ages 16 to 18
Responsible for all personal chores for ages 14 and 15
Responsible to earn spending money
Do housework as needed
Do yard work as needed
Prepare family meals — from grocery list to serving it — as needed
So how do we get them to do these chores?
Well this is not always easy but you are more like to get compliance from children if you give them some control and choice. However, cleaning up after themselves is not an extra chore, this is just learning to be responsible for themselves and they will have to do this regardless.
1. I suggest sitting down as a family with a list of all the chores that need to be done. You may have to explain why these things need to be done and how often. A child won't understand that a bathroom needs to be cleaned regularly or mold and bacteria will build up.
2. Give your kids a chance to say what they would be willing to do. They need to be sure that they will commit to these jobs
3. Make an agreement about how often these should be done and when. Some things have to be done every day but you can negotiate about the time.
4. It needs to be clear if they are expected to remember or you will be asking them to do the job. Some things like putting their dirty clothes in the laundry will be expected without reminders, but you might remind them to clean the bathroom
This is also a good time to discuss any difficulties that you have had in the past with getting them to do chore. Brainstorm with them about what they could do to avoid having arguments or having to nag them. Having a chart that they can tick off can be helpful. I'm not suggesting a rewards based chart, just a visual reminder to they can see what they need to do on which days. Give them a chance to have ideas too, nobody likes the arguing, they may have some suggestions to help avoid this.
Whatever chores you decide are best for your family is really up to you. The size of the task really doesn't matter but it is the responsibility that comes from doing the chores that is incredibly valuable. Not only will working as a family lighten your load and bond you as a family, but the skills and development that your child gains will set them up for future success.