Age-Appropriate Chores for Your Kids

Updated January 2020

It is easy to raise lazy, entitled, dependent children. All we have to do is…everything! Pick up their clothes, pick up their toys, pack their lunches pick their friends. Cook their dinner, clear their plates, clean their tubs, change their sheets and, most importantly, immediately rescue when we hear, “But I don’t know how!” and “I need your help!”

This month’s column is dedicated to parents of school-age children who find themselves saying, “It’s just easier to do it myself,” or who love that warm feeling of being the family hero: the only one who can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in that “special way.”

To someone who doesn’t have children, it might seem crazy that doing everything for kids is “easy.” But to those of us in the trenches of parenting, we know it is—at least in comparison to getting children to perform those tasks themselves on a regular basis. It’s easier, and it can be fulfilling in a weird sort of way, because, let’s face it, for most of us it feels great to be needed.

Unfortunately, when we consistently give in to the easier road or the warm feeling we get from being needed, it has dire consequences for our children.

“When parents do everything for their children, their children don’t learn to be responsible for themselves and their behavior,” said Trena Hickinbotham, certified child and parenting specialist. “They tend to have little respect for authority, are demanding and lack self-control.”

According to Hickinbotham, this kind of parenting even has a name, the “permissive-indulgent parent.” Though none of us like to think of ourselves as being “permissive” and “indulgent,” when we continuously do the things our kids could, and should, be doing, we are.

“Children who are 6 or 7 can dress themselves with clothes that are appropriate for the weather or the event, clear the table after meals, empty wastebaskets and clean out the inside of the car,” Hickinbotham said. “At 8 and 9 children can take their own bath, sweep or mop the floor, as well as load and run the dishwasher. By the time they are 10 and 11, they can help prepare dinner, mow the lawn and clean the kitchen.”

So yes, with just a little perseverance and persistence on your part, you get out of doing the dishes and mowing the lawn, PLUS you get the satisfaction of knowing you are raising decent human beings. Not a bad deal.

But how do we move from knowing it’s the right thing to do to actually getting the kids’ hands off the remote and onto the vacuum cleaner? Here are Hickinbotham’s suggestions:

  • Begin early giving children responsibility. At 2 years of age, children typically start wanting to do things for themselves and desperately want to help with chores. Even though it is often more work for the parent than it is helpful, start allowing them to do simple tasks for themselves.
  • When teaching a new task, use simple repetition. Demonstrate how the task is to be done, do it with the child a couple of times and then let the child do it alone.
  • Resist the temptation to redo what the child has done because it undercuts the child’s feelings of competence and self-worth.
  • Give children choices about which chores they prefer to do. Sometimes rotating chores can help the task to be more interesting for the child.

“Developing responsibility for household chores takes time,” Hickinbotham said. “Children often need to be reminded and supervised.”

Okay, it is easier to do it yourself than to get your kids to step up. But, as with all aspects of parenting, it’s well worth the effort. A study done by Marty Rossmann, emeritus associate professor of Family Education at the University of Minnesota, revealed that “the best predictor for young adults’ success is that they did household chores as kids.”

The study found that kids who did chores became young adults who were more self-reliant, responsible and competent. It also noted that the earlier parents required their kids to pitch in, the better adjusted the kids were later on.

So step away from that jar of peanut butter, stop changing your children’s bedsheets, put down the dishcloth and use the time to create a chore chart and plan a family meeting. Eventually your children will thank you for it!

Tips For Getting Kids To Cooperate With Chores

1. Announce expectations: Hold a family meeting and announce your new expectations. Expect groans and moans. So be it!

2. Specify Assignments: Find the best for your family and stick to it. Each week hold a brief meeting to review assignments.

3. Set deadlines: Set specific time limits for completion, such as “by bedtime” or “before Saturday.”

4. Make them matter: Give jobs that allow kids to feel they are contributing to the family. Teach tasks that will help them when they live on their own.

5. Use reminders: Chore charts are helpful.

6. Chunk tasks: Break down each task into smaller, more manageable parts. Be explicit about what you expect.

7. Watch your tone: Don’t nag!

8. Acknowledge efforts: Don’t forget to praise for jobs done well and on time.

9. Attach consequences: Set up suitable repercussions for uncompleted tasks such as:

  • Logical consequences: if clothes aren’t put in the hamper, he forgoes clean clothes until next laundry day.
  • Withhold allowance: never pay kids for work that isn’t completed.
  • Pay the price: If she doesn’t rake the leaves, have someone else do it and take the payment out of her allowance.

From: The Big Book of Parenting Solutions by Michele Borba

Categories: Big Kids