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Household chores for children: Striking the right balance

Should kids do chores and why

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Thinking about dishing out some household chores for children? As we all know, kids will do practically anything to get out of chores, from faking illness, to staging an elaborate alien abduction, to simply saying ‘I’m a kid, I shouldn’t have to do chores.’ Around 75% of parents report their children rarely help out with chores, unless nagged, and 50% say they spend as much time arguing with their children about  chores as the kids spend doing chores. With so many tears and tantrums, it can be easy to whip the vacuum cleaner around yourself, but chores can be a valuable way of teaching responsibility.

Chores teach life skills

When children do chores, they are learning how to be responsible. They are learning the harsh lesson that life requires work. Although the child may not realise it at the time, helping out with chores is equipping them with basic life skills. By doing the laundry, feeding the dog, and unloading the dishwasher, children are learning how the world works.

Set chores according to age

When I was nine, my dad insisted on me teaching me how to use the lawnmower so he could watch the cup final. The joke was on him as I ploughed straight through his vegetable bed, giving his prize leeks a buzz cut, and bashed the mower into his BMW. Giving children age-inappropriate chores make life horrendous for everybody, and my dad learned the hard way.

4-5 years old: sort socks and underwear, tidy up toys, help lay the table.

6-7 years old: unload up the dishwasher, take the dog for a walk, feed the pets.household chores for children: Striking the right balance

8-9 years old: load up the dishwasher, lay the table, clean the bathroom sink, brush and bathe the dog.

10-11 years old: take out the rubbish, fold laundry, put away shopping.

12-13 years old: change sheets, mow the garden, make basic meals, clean the toilet and shower.

Personalise chores

Cleaning her own room will make much more sense to your daughter than having to clean her brother’s room. By personalising the task, you teach your child self-reliance, and how to take care of herself.

Make chores obvious and visual

Get your children to make a chore timetable, bearing in mind that some need to be done daily, and others once a week. Then the household can see who’s done what, and who is slacking. It also stops chores becoming overwhelming for the children, because it’s visual.

Get a chore app

There are loads of funky chore apps in the App Store – by making the list high-tech, children may be more willing to complete tasks.

Relax your standards

If you sneak into your son’s room and straighten of his bed after he’s made it, what’s the point of him making it in the first place? Chances are, your children won’t carry out the chores to your same high standards, especially at first. So, be realistic about standards, and make sure you build your children’s confidence with plenty of praise.

Work through the whingeing

Here’s a great idea, and one I’m going to try this weekend: Enforce a two-for-one policy when your kids start to whine. If your child complains, they get another chore in addition to the one they’re already working on. They will learn pretty darn quick that whining doesn’t work.

It’s toooo hard

However, if a child is saying that a chore is too hard for them, feel free to help them out. This stops them equating chores with punishment and gives the message that you are in it together.

Our survey says

A recent survey in the Guardian said “Lack of household chores is making children less responsible.” The study of letters to parenting magazines between 1920 and 2006 revealed most modern day kids are only asked to take on trivial chores, such as clearing the table, tidying up after themselves, or feeding the pet. In the past, adolescents and children were given much more autonomy and responsibility, which were claimed to be antidotes to teenage rebellion and listlessness. Giving children chores helps them to remain grounded, and nurtures them a caring attitude. It seems nowadays, parents are reluctant to ask children to do household tasks, despite the evident benefits.

And perhaps the best reason children should help with chores? It’s the perfect opportunity for parents to spend more quality time with each child individually. So you get a gleaming sink, and your kid feels the love…







One Response to “Household chores for children: Striking the right balance”

  1. Marblous

    Sending out a 6-7 year old with a dog is not an age appropriate chore but highly irresponsible – regardless of the temperament of your dog you cannot possibly know what they will encounter while out. If you mean accompany an adult on the dog walk that is something entirely different and should be made clear!


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