Kids Doing Household Chores; Is it Right or Wrong?

People can be quite divided when it comes to opinions on kids doing household chores. So is it right or wrong? Read on as I discuss this topic further and reveal my own thoughts and opinions.

Introduction

We can all do with a little bit of a helping hand around the house, right? Although asking children to help with chores may seem harsh to some, having children assist in the household has many benefits. When children go to more formal school settings, they learn a lot of skills academically, but many life skills are, in fact, picked up from the home environment. Let’s dig deeper into chores and whether they are appropriate for our little ones!

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kids doing household chores, laundry
Many kids love helping out with chores! Try asking them their favourite chores – you might be surprised at the answer!

Should kids of all ages do household chores?

Yes, children of all ages can help with chores. For the purposes of this article, I’m referring to all ages as beginning from approximately 2 years of age. To begin with, support children in doing simple tasks with your guidance, e.g. a toddler putting away their own toys. As children grow older, you can increase the complexity of the tasks. Try not to overwhelm children and consider that there are many things that children might already do on their own, e.g. tying their shoelaces, getting themselves dressed, taking their cups and plates back to the kitchen.

It should also be mentioned here that sometimes the word ‘chore’ or ‘chores’ in itself seems to have negative connotations with some people. When you look at some of these ‘chores’ as more like life skills, the building of independence skills and look at each task for the lessons it can teach our kids, we can view these tasks a bit differently. When you look at the principles behind Montessori-based education, children are seen as competent learners and educators encourage children to learn important life skills through tasks such as pouring their own water into a cup, cleaning a table and looking after their own belongings.

When completed in a classroom environment, these tasks may be viewed as necessary, important developmental skills, yet when we ask children to complete similar tasks in the home environment, sometimes it is viewed in a more negative light, seen as ‘chores’ or ‘labour’, rather than the building of life skills.

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“Our children won’t become responsible unless they have responsibility. And like everything else, that starts in the home.”

Thomas Lickona, PHd (author ‘How to raise kind kids’)
kids doing household chores, packing the toys away
Packing the toys away can be fun! With a bit of creativity, any chore can be made fun!

Why is it important for kids to do household chores?

Children need to be given a sense of responsibility to contribute to the household. They will also feel empowered and feel valued when held accountable for certain things. A recent study by La Trobe University found that children who partake in chores regularly displayed better executive functions such as planning, shifting between tasks, and self-regulation and could memorise instructions more efficiently. 

What do kids learn from doing household chores?

A significant reason why supporting children to help out with chores early on is teaching them value and respect. When children are aware of the mess they may have created, they are less likely to leave things cluttered and may pack away before even being told. Tackling chores also provides lots of opportunities to problem-solve and learn how to prioritise.

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As summarised by raisingchildren.net, when children are involved in household chores, they also learn relationship skills such as co-operating, negotiating and communication skills. Sharing housework between family members can also reduce family stress helping families to work better together. Additionally, if tasks are divided, it frees up more time for family members to spend doing an activity together.

kids doing household chores, washing dishes
Getting involved in chores can teach many valuable life skills, including problem solving skills, independence and a sense of responsibility

Are there any drawbacks to kids doing household chores?

The downside to giving children chores may be that sometimes it might get a little stressful for them when balancing school and home life. E.g. if children have a lot of homework and assignments, it can get tricky for them to manage their time. Demands from extra-curricular activities after school, such as sports, can be time-consuming too.

As children are learning new skills and refining their motor skills, risk management and problem solving skills, things can go wrong – E.g. dropping something or breaking a glass item. This can sometimes cause extra work. However, it can be an excellent opportunity to further problem-solve, look at solutions, learn important skills for next time they complete that task and also teach children that mistakes are a part of life.

It’s also worthwhile to note here that children learn from play and children need play time as much as they need food, shelter and love. If children are being asked to complete chores for longer periods of time than they are allowed to have free play time, it’s simply not ok. If children are being asked or encouraged to complete chores, this really should only account for a few minutes in their day, depending on their age.

For very young children, a few minutes each day may be appropriate whereas older children could be expected to spend more time completing tasks, but the important thing to remember is that chores should never be replacing large chunks of valuable free play time, as children need to be permitted plenty of free play time, as it is crucial for their physical, social, cognitive and intellectual development.

How do you get kids involved in doing household chores?

Start by modelling chores for children and getting involved with them until they can complete them independently. Adults are huge role models early on, and children often follow their lead. Creating a schedule might also be beneficial for some families to ensure chores are divided equally. Setting time limits to tasks is also crucial; we really don’t want children spending hours on simple tasks.

Don’t forget to make it fun for them, so it does not seem like a burden. E.g. play some music in the background or tell children some jokes to lighten the mood whilst they are busy.

Sometimes I ask Andy which favourite songs he would like to have playing while he’s doing some chores, and sometimes we even turn it into a bit of a dance party! Move, sing and dance while we move about the house getting the chores done!

You could also give the kids some choice about which chores they would like to complete, or which ones they want to do first. That way, they are still getting involved but if they feel a sense of agency, it gives them a feeling of more control.

kids doing household chores, cleaning
Some kids might benefit from a chores list where they can tick boxes as they complete tasks – you could try it to see if kids respond better this way.

Should kids get pocket money for doing household chores?

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald discusses this topic. A study revealed, eight out of ten Australians said children should do weekly chores to earn pocket money. 

Many parents have differing opinions on whether or not children should be given pocket money. Sometimes it can be okay to provide pocket money for certain chores to teach valuable lessons about how to earn money. Pocket money can be a great incentive for more challenging household tasks. However, many daily chores around the household are typically just expected, e.g. placing the garbage out, emptying/stacking the dishwasher or putting laundry away.

Whichever method you choose to adopt in your household, the expectations should be very clear to children to build their self-awareness and sense of responsibility as a family member.

“When we talk about kids earning commission for chores, we always have at least one parent who argues that children should do chores because they are part of the family. I agree, but if you don’t involve money in a few chores, you lose the teachable moments in the work, spend, save, and give principles.”

Dave Ramsay

For my son Andy, I have made it clear to him that there are some chores he needs to complete as being a part of the household. As a working single mum, this is non negotiable as I can’t possibly do it all. So Andy is expected to do chores on a daily basis such as emptying the dishwasher, watering the garden, putting clean clothes away and helping to prepare dinner.

kids doing household chores, vaccuuming
Some chores could earn kids pocket money, while others may not – this will be different family to family

There are other chores however that I don’t mind giving him pocket money to complete and those chores are tasks such as vaccuuming the house, dusting hard surfaces, scrubbing shower walls or cleaning kitchen cabinets.

Over time however, sometimes I have changed my strategy. Just recently, it seemed that Andy was less motivated to save money for particular items he wanted and he was more motivated by being permitted screen time. I was also seeing an increase in his screen time and a change in his behavoiur so I decided that the screen time needed to be more closely monitored, and given out as a reward. So the ‘currency’ for completing chores, or consequences for undesirable behaviour or attitude was TIME on the X box.

For example, if Andy completed the vaccuuming of the house as well as dusting, he could earn an extra hour of X box time for the week. If I was seeing disrespectful behaviour or poor listening skills, he would have an hour of X box time taken away for the week.

The bottom line is, what works for one family may not work for you, and whether or not you choose to hand out pocket money is an individual choice. It can be a very valuable way to teach children about the value of money and teach them important money lessons.

I highly recommend having a read of The Barefoot Investor for Families by Scott Pape which talks about introducing the jars for children to help them learn how to allocate their money – the Save, Spend and Give Jars. I did this with Andy and he loved the idea. We also introduced an ‘Invest’ jar. We still add to these from time to time, and it has worked really well, along with meaningful conversations regarding money, saving, and avoiding debt.

“Why is sweeping the floor and clearing the table so important to kids’ well-being in life? One reason is that kids feel competent when they do their chores. Whether they’re making their bed or they’re sweeping the floor, helping out around the house helps kids feel capable. Doing chores also helps kids feel like they’re part of the team. Pitching in and helping family members is good for them and it encourages them to be good citizens.”

Amy Morin – verywellfamily.com/the-importance-of-chores-for-kids

What are some age-appropriate chores for kids?

Chores should be given according to the children’s abilities. Here are a few guidelines, but every child is different, so ensure your children are ready to take on such tasks.

 –         2-3 age group (toddlers)

Toddlers can help with small and simple tasks. At this age, they are curious and find it exciting to help others as they observe older adults and children around them. Here are some examples of tasks you could set:

  • Help dust or wipe hard surfaces with a cloth
  • Pick up books and pile them
  • Watering the plants with a small watering can
  • Put clothes away in drawers
  • Pack away their toys

 –         4-5 age group (preschool age)

Children have developed more hand-eye coordination and fine motor and gross-motor skills at this stage. Hence, you can introduce tasks with a little more complexity. E.g.

kids doing household chores, watering the plants
Let’s face it, watering the garden is just a form of water play, as well as a great sustainable practice! Most kids love watering the garden!

–         6-12 age group (school-aged)

As children start school, they are more capable of taking on further responsibilities to develop their skills. Children will become more independent, so getting children to help with chores may get more challenging. It’s essential to remain consistent with your expectations. Some chores could include:

  • Wash dishes (or stack/unstack dishwasher)
  • Throw out the garbage/ take the bins out
  • Peel vegetables or help with meal preparation
  • Pack their own lunchbox
  • Fold and put away laundry

–         13-18 years (teens)

Most teenagers will be able to help you with any chore in the house as they become more independent. You may need to adjust duties according to their school schedule to ensure things aren’t too overwhelming for them during exam time etc. Here are a few examples of chores:

  • Meal preparation or cooking some meals independently (after learning important safety precautions)
  • Ironing Clothes (after learning important safety precautions)
  • Cleaning the bathroom
  • Vacuuming and/or mopping the house
  • Mowing the lawn/ raking leaves
  • Deep cleaning the kitchen

You can visit the following website for more ideas on age-appropriate chores.

kids doing household chores, washing machine
Older kids and teen are usually capable of more complex chores – such as putting a load of washing on, or cooking a meal independently.

What if kids don’t want to participate in doing household chores?

Provide children reasoning as to why chores are necessary and how they can help them develop skills that are necessary further in life. Avoid forcing children or using chores as punishment, as this can create distrust. Look for things children enjoy doing, e.g. if they like baking or cooking, then give them cooking a meal twice a week as a responsibility. Focus on instilling the values and lessons learned rather than ‘getting the job done.’ Remember, when kids are having fun, they are learning, so try to add a play element and make the chore fun!

This might also be a timing issue if kids are reluctant to complete chores. If they are deeply engaged in play, it may be worthwhile to allow them to finish their play, before asking them to do chores. It will be up to you whether that is appropriate or not, but it is worthwhile to consider the value of play in learning too.

It may or may not be helpful to give your kids a household chores list listing all the chores that need to be completed. This will depend on individual children. Some kids may love the idea of ticking off a weekly chore list and feel a sense of accomplishment, while other kids may feel that household chore lists are boring or overwhelming. There’s no harm in giving it a try to see how your kids respond.

My son Andy used to ask for the list as he loved ticking boxes and feeling that accomplishment. Personally, when it comes to myself and my own To-Do lists, I have to say I’m the same – I work better and more efficiently with a list and I enjoy ticking the boxes when I’m done.

kids doing household chores, kids doing dishes
What are your thoughts? Should kids do chores? Do your kids do chores? Why/why not? Let me know in the comments!

Conclusion

Delegating daily chores, weekly chores, monthly chores and yearly chores can be beneficial in increasing children’s self-esteem and giving them a sense of responsibility, as well as help them understand the importance of keeping the house clean!

Children are both capable and competent in completing simple tasks in the household, which can increase in complexity as they get older. Ensure that children are not forced into doing things they don’t like and avoid using chores as punishments. Try to commend and thank children after completing tasks to increase their confidence. 

What are your thoughts on Kids doing household chores, and earning pocket money vs no pocket money? Let me know in the comments!

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