Research shows that giving kids daily chores can help them in school, with relationships, and later in their professions.
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The next time you sign your kids up for Mandarin lessons, or STEM classes, consider carving out time for something that is proven through decades of research to help kids academically, emotionally, and professionally:
Yes – an activity that according to a study by Braun Research, 82% of us did when we were kids but only 28% of children do today.
Why daily chores are so beneficial for kids
So what makes chores so impactful?
According to a study conducted by Marty Rossmann of the University of Minnesota, young adults who began daily chores at age 3 or 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.
The study followed 84 children across four periods in their lives — in preschool, around ages 10 and 15, and in their mid-20s and looked at parenting styles, gender, types of household tasks, time spent on tasks, and attitudes and motivators associated with doing the tasks – to determine their impact on the children.
A separate study, from Harvard Graduate School of Education, also found that daily chores teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs.
And let’s not overlook the most obvious benefit: chores give kids the basic skills and knowledge necessary to maintain a home and household. Not having this basic knowledge can be a source of embarrassment for young adults.
How to set your family up for success with kids chores:
While the research is compelling, getting started with kids chores and keeping them going can feel like a tall hurdle to jump. But with a little up-front effort, having kids do chores can eventually become a normal part of your day. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
- Ideally, start them young (but don’t worry if your kids are older): The easiest time to start chores as a family is when kids are young and eager to help. Starting around age two, kids can help with simple tasks such as folding towels, sweeping the floor, or dusting. Preschool children can help set the table, and begin to help put away laundry while older elementary school kids can put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and make their own school lunch. While older elementary school, tweens, and teens might need more convincing to get started doing chores, it’s not too late to begin. (See my free chores course for more advice about how to get started with kids chores).
- Pick a time of the day: To help both kids and parents to remember to do chores it helps to agree on a time of day that works for everyone. If your kids are early morning risers, chores can be completed before going to school, or if they tend to sleep in, fit them in just before or after dinner. The key is to have a specific time of day when both you and your kids will remember that it’s time to do chores.
- Use visual reminders: Having prominent visual reminders of the agreed upon chores can help both parents and kids remember that chores are now apart of the daily routine. These printable chore cards, that can be placed on refrigerators or bulletin boards, can serve as reminders with their large images and bold colors. For older kids, this chore chart is a helpful way to keep track of who is responsible for different chores.
- Focus less on how many chores and more on developing a sense of responsibility: Parents often wonder how many chores their children should do every day. The number of chores will differ from family to family and how much time children have. The main goal with chores is to develop a sense of responsibility in our children. While in some families it makes sense for kids to have a number of daily responsibilities, other families may decide that a once-a-month family cleaning day plus a few smaller daily chores work best.
- Getting away from a “me” mindset: In addition to making their bed and putting together their school lunch, kids should also do tasks that help the family as a whole. These could include sweeping the floor, taking care of a pet, or doing dishes, to name a few examples.
- Let kids learn their mistakes: Jessica Lahey, the author of “The Gift of Failure” says parents shouldn’t swoop in and fix the mistakes kids make when doing chores. As she says in this Slate article: “…what’s more important—that the dishes are immaculate, or that your child develops a sense of purpose and pride because he’s finally contributing in a real and valuable way to the family?”
- Be a teacher: While Jessica Lahey’s argument is compelling, Parents can also provide kids with some direction, in the beginning, to help kids be successful. But the key here is to explain with an attitude that kids are capable and it’s OK if perfection isn’t achieved overnight (or over the next year).
Interested in more advice about kids chores? My FREE four-day course will teach you how to be successful with kids chores even if you’ve tried before and failed. Click the image below to join the course. You’ll also receive my Age-Appropriate Guide to Children’s Chores as a bonus to get you started.