Chores are a part of daily life for us parents, and they should be a part of daily life for our kids, too. Having kids help around the house supports their developing minds and bodies as they build emotional awareness and practical life skills. Most children should be able to begin helping their mom, dad, or other care-givers with routine tasks by age two or three. Simple tasks like sorting the silverware from the dishwasher, setting the table, and wiping down the counters are good places to start.
When kids are involved with the daily activities of a household, they are supported in developing healthy social and emotional skills. These opportunities are invaluable and help kids learn and demonstrate such qualities as care for others, personal independence, and a sense of familial community. Chores tend to have a poor reputation in the parent-child world and can turn into a frustrating battle of wills. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There are a number of ways to reframe chores in a positive light.
Make it a Game
Though it may sound like an oxymoron to those of us who grew up dreading our household duties, chores can actually be fun. Lots of kids (and adults) will find joy in helping out around the house if there is an element of play involved. You might consider making chore dice or a spinning chore chart in order to determine who takes out the trash or does the dishes on any given day. Some chore games don’t require any props or preparation, though. After all, you have your little one’s amazing imagination on your side. It is easy to turn chores into a creative, brain-stretching story. Are you janitors? Chefs? Servants in the queen’s castle? Pretending is fun, as your young ones naturally demonstrate. And another fun thing—make-believe games can easily result in real-world chores being crossed off the list.
Encourage New Skills
Kids love to learn. They do it every day, from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep. There is so much to see and experience in the world, particularly when you are young and bright and full of energy. As a parent, you can help make household chores a part of this learning experience. If your child gets bored washing the dishes, show them how to do the laundry. Once they have mastered that, teach them how to make an easy meal. Chores can be an enjoyable way to spend time with your kids and help them learn valuable life skills.
Create a Sense of Purpose
Kids are a part of the family unit. Motivated by love and care, they will often take pride in being able to provide something of use to the household. Talk with your kids about how their chores help you and the other members of the family. Having conversations with your kids about their chores is a good place to start. Help them to understand that you don’t do chores “just because”—you do them because they are necessary. By doing chores, each person is supporting the other members of their family. Thank your child for their acts of service and care, and make an effort to return the favor. When you do your chores, verbalize it and show your child that you are acting out of love and care by serving them.
Many 18-year-olds go off to college without having ever done a load of laundry in their lives. While it may be tempting to take care of your child for as long as possible, it does not serve them well in the long run. By encouraging new household skills you are helping your child become autonomous. When children can take care of themselves, they feel more secure in their personal identity and abilities. Chores, and the skills that they bring about, help to integrate kids into the family unit, while preparing them for life outside it.
Don’t Assign Chores as Punishment
Chores are a part of daily life, and it can be somewhat dangerous to associate them with punishment. If your child breaks a household rule, don’t make them do the dishes. This turns chores into a consequence for negative action, and a child may feel that they should not have to contribute to the daily activities of the household unless they do something wrong. Over time, these negative associations are likely to decrease a child’s motivation to do chores. They will associate negative emotions with the tasks and begin to avoid them as much as they can.