Chores Make Responsible Kids
I recently had a great conversation with my friend. She is the type that loves to be a mother. She genuinely likes being with her kids and is completely content parenting.
I asked her how she manages her life so that she can enjoy her kids.
She listened to me for awhile and then she observed that I was feeling pressure to make my kids happy. She explained that she always reminded her kids that they were in charge of their own happiness and led them to a literal chart that had options for how to get happy. They could do jumping jacks, dance, go outside, do chores, give mom a hug, read a book and a bunch of other things, depending on how they are feeling.
Here is a visual of what hangs on Emily Stapp’s fridge:
This idea of my kids being responsible for their own happiness should not have shaken me, but it did. It is not my job to make my kids happy every hour of the day. For the rest of their life they will have to choose happiness, even when something that they don’t like is happening. I was super impressed with Emily’s system, and I am determined to help my kids find ways to choose happiness.
I kept listening intently to my friend. She explained that when her kids start to fight or get bored she immediately has a chore for them. She has a running list of chores for the kids to do and her kids know right away that if they can’t find a way to fill their free time well, their mother will fill it for them. You can imagine that her kids don’t take their free time for granted.
Working is one of the best ways to help kids learn personal responsibility and a way to channel emotional energy.
Impact of Chores on Kids
“Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.
Furthermore, research by Marty Rossman* shows that involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life. In fact, says Rossman, “the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20’s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four'” (The Center for Parenting Education).
Real World Responses to Chores
I also asked a question on Instagram Stoires: how do you motivate your kids to do chores? The responses interested me.
- “We just let her know that everyone needs to do their part. Sometimes we have something fun planned for after the work is done.”
- “Make a list for each kids to check off their jobs.”
- “It’s different each day. They draw a popsicle stick (and I do too) on what chore they do…”
- “Teach them the reason. It’s to respect our belongings and keep the house happy…”
Our girls have been lectured on the importance of pitching in and we also emphasize the rewards of pitching in: a clean, functional and peaceful home and the opportunity to enjoy the play.
I have been pleasantly surprised at the response of my girls after the chores are done. They do complain while we clean some of the time, but after it is all done the complaints are gone and the girls seem to enjoy the next activity with more satisfaction.
I think any time that we spend teaching our children to work is well worth the effort. I am excited to see my children grow in capacity and appreciation. My other hope is that as we consistently work together my kids will complain less because it is simply a way of life. I think as our kids get older we will implement extra chores that they can earn money for. For now, I am teaching my kids how to do their chores well and setting expectations. It is super important that you to work alongside your children so they can learn by example. Although it will take more time up front, they will do their chores better if they have seen it modeled well. Set high expectations, but when it is not perfect, do not berate them. Be grateful and show them how they can improve the chore.
Age Appropriate Chores
To help you implement chores, here are age appropriate chores from 2 years old-18 years old. (taken from Focus on the Family) I like this list because it is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of the types of jobs that your child can do.
Ages 2 and 3
- Assist in making their beds
- Pick up playthings with your supervision
- Take their dirty laundry to the laundry basket
- Fill a pet’s water and food bowls (with supervision)
- Help a parent clean up spills and dirt
Ages 4 and 5
Note: This age can be trained to use a family chore chart.
- Get dressed with minimal parental help
- Make their bed with minimal parental help
- Bring their things from the car to the house
- Pick up their toys
- Wash hands
- Set the table with supervision
- Clear the table with supervision
- Help a parent prepare food
- Help a parent carry in the lighter groceries
- Sort colors for the laundry
- Match socks after clothing is washed
- Answer the phone with parental assistance
- Be responsible for a pet’s food and water bowl
- Dust with supervision
- Hang up towels in the bathroom
- Clean their room with supervision
- Clean floors with a dry mop
- Wash indoor windows at their height-added by me.
Ages 6 and 7
Note: This age can be supervised to use a family chore chart.
- Make their bed every day
- Brush teeth
- Comb hair
- Choose the day’s outfit and get dressed
- Write thank you notes with supervision
- Be responsible for a pet’s food, water and exercise
- Vacuum individual rooms
- Wet mop individual rooms
- Dust individual rooms
- Fold laundry with supervision
- Put their laundry in their drawers and closets
- Put away dishes from the dishwasher
- Help prepare food with supervision
- Clean their room when asked
- Empty indoor trash cans
- Answer the phone with supervision
Ages 8 to 11
Note: This age benefits from using a family chore chart.
- Take care of personal hygiene
- Keep bedroom clean
- Be responsible for homework
- Be responsible for belongings
- Write thank you notes for gifts
- Wake up using an alarm clock
- Wash dishes
- Wash the family car with supervision
- Prepare a few easy meals on their own
- Clean the bathroom with supervision
- Rake leaves
- Learn to use the washer and dryer
- Put all laundry away with supervision
- Take the trash can to the curb for pick up
- Test smoke alarms once a month with supervision
- Screen phone calls using caller ID and answer when appropriate
Ages 12 and 13
- Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
- Write invitations and thank you notes
- Set their alarm clock
- Maintain personal items, such as recharging batteries
- Change bed sheets
- Keep their rooms tidy and do a biannual deep cleaning
- Change light bulbs
- Change the vacuum bag
- Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
- Clean mirrors
- Mow the lawn with supervision
- Baby sit (in most states)
- Prepare an occasional family meal
Ages 14 and 15
- Responsible for all personal chores for ages 12 and 13
- Responsible for library card and books
- Do assigned housework without prompting
- Do yard work as needed
- Baby sit
- Prepare food — from making a grocery list and buying the items (with supervision) to serving a meal — occasionally
- Wash windows with supervision
Ages 16 to 18
- Responsible for all personal chores for ages 14 and 15
- Responsible to earn spending money
- Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
- Responsible for maintaining any car they drive (e.g., gas, oil changes, tire pressure, etc.)
- Do housework as needed
- Do yard work as needed
- Prepare family meals — from grocery list to serving it — as needed
- Deep cleaning of household appliances, such as defrosting the freezer, as needed
Now that you know what they can do, now it is time to choose a system for accountability and or motivation. Keep in mind that whatever system you use should make less work for you and give your children more responsibility and accountability. If the system is adding more stress on you or your family, it is not the right system.
The key to making a method work is also consistency. No matter how you choose to implement chores, do it the same every time so everyone understands how it should be done and the end results.
Here are some cool systems I found:
My hope is that kids will find joy in being part of creating a beautiful, clean and functional home. Truly, the best reward for them is the satisfaction of knowing that their contribution makes a difference to everyone in their home. We all want to feel needed and useful.
Moms, I hope you will get more done and be able to truly play with the family once the chores are done! Remember that your job is to teach and model behavior that brings happiness, but it is not your job to make all your children happy all of the time–that is their job.