Research shows that giving kids daily chores can help them in school, with relationships, and later in their professions.
The next time you sign your kids up for Mandarin lessons, or STEM classes, consider carving out time for an activity 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 Kids Should Do Daily Chores
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 kids 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 Successfully Get Your Kids to Do Daily Chores
OK, so we now know giving kids household responsibilities can be beneficial but how do parents get started and how can we create an environment that decreases the need to nag kids to get their work done?
- Start Young: Young kids are eager to help and feel included in the household whereas older kids tend to be a little more “me” focused. If kids begin helping around the house by the time they’re in preschool, chores will be natural to them as they grow up.
- Pick a Time of the Day: If your kids are early morning risers, have them do chores before going to school, or if they tend to sleep in, you could fit them in just before dinner. The key is to have a time of the day when both you and your kids will remember that it’s time to do chores.
- Don’t Pay Them: Research shows that paying kids to do chores not only lowers kids’ intrinsic motivation but also makes chores optional – there may come a time when kids decide that taking out the trash or putting away dishes simply isn’t worth the money you pay them. See: The Hidden Cost of Paying Kids for Chores
- Work as a Team: As best as you can, make your kids feel like you are in this together – all family members have chores and responsibilities and everyone is counting on everyone else to get them done. This attitude will make your child feel important and self-assured. One way to emphasize this sense of teamwork is to create a chart that even includes the chores that parents do for the family.
- Getting Away From “Me”: In addition to making their bed and putting together their school lunch, make sure kids also do tasks that help the family as a whole. These could include sweeping the floor, taking care of a pet, or doing dishes.
- Watch What You Say: Kids will pick up on your complaints about doing chores and begin to think of work around the house as a burden. Also, thanking your kids for “being a helper” is better than saying “thanks for helping” since the former creates a positive identity.
- 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).
Are you ready to begin chores with your kids? My Age-Appropriate Guide to Children’s Chores can help. Click the link below to access the list. You’ll also be signing up for my weekly newsletter where I share tips on how to raise strong, independent and ultimately self-sufficient kids.