9 Reasons Why Kids Need Chores
Considerable debate surrounds whether or not chores are suitable for kids in our modern age. Should parents expect their children to help around the house? Opponents argue that chores rob youngsters of their fleeting childhood. Since much of adulthood is consumed with work, stress, and responsibility, many parents believe childhood should be savored—not filled with mundane duties that can be easily mastered later.
Snag a DeLorean, and let’s time travel to colonial America. In this era, farmers expected their young’uns to plant and harvest food and hay, feed livestock, milk cows, and drive horse teams. It was a time when children of planters bore the administrative responsibility of overseeing the family plantation during a parent’s absence. Girls helped with sewing, cooking, and babysitting younger siblings while boys tackled hunting, fishing, and horse shoeing duties. Each member of the family played a key role in sustaining the household.
Today, lives are not at stake when it comes to divvying family chores. We don’t have to kill our own game to have a meal or harvest a crop to survive winter. Thanks to thousands of retailers, we won’t traipse around naked if we’re not skilled seamstresses. Unlike colonial children, the caliber of chores we assign to our kids won’t make them grow up too soon. Instead, chores can be fashioned to build character, teach responsibility, and train our kids to be productive members of society.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Karen is the typical millennial. By the time she graduated high school at nearly 19, she never had a job. She never relished the feel of a paycheck sliding from her fingers into the drive-through bank canister. She never experienced the satisfaction of writing a check for a purchase—a purchase made with her own hard-earned money. Because she didn’t work, Karen qualified for free college tuition and free campus housing. Her grandma had pinched and saved to give her an investment that would cover all her college-related expenses. Her dad gave her a car with new tires, and her insurance was covered by her mother’s policy. Even though scores of retailers in her city advertised they were hiring, Karen “couldn’t find” a job. Karen is a product of her generation—a generation that puts fun before responsibility. A generation that feels entitled to everything without investing any effort. A generation that believes “freebies” are a “right” rather than a “privilege.”
It’s your parental responsibility to teach diligence and hard work to your children. If you are balancing a career and family life, you are already modeling industriousness. Little eyes observe dad working long hours, only to return home to a lawn that needs mowed, cars that need washed, bills that need paid, and minor repairs awaiting his attention. Mom hustles and bustles to ready kids for school, dashes to her job, flies home to make dinner, yet still manages to juggle laundry, ironing, errands, cleaning, and the plethora of mini tasks that never end. Kids soak up the clear message sent by their parents—work matters.
On the other hand, parents who watch too much TV, play Facebook games all day, let domestic duties slide, and miss a lot of work send quite another message to their children. What message are you sending your kids? Just watch how they utilize their free time, and you’ll quickly discover the answer. They are a reflection of the ideals you have taught them. Are they quick to offer a helping hand, or do you have to beg them? Are they driven to finish their homework promptly, or do you check the homework hotline to learn what assignments they are hiding? Do they take responsibility for themselves, or do they expect you to do everything for them? Allocating chores to your kids will strengthen their work ethic, especially when you’re in the trenches with them and not shouting commands from the couch.
Benefits of Age Appropriate Chores
There are clear advantages to assigning chores to your kids.
One goal in assigning chores is to build your child’s confidence in his or her competency. If you ask a 3-year-old to make his full-size bed to perfection, you’re setting him up for failure. He’s not tall enough, and he doesn’t possess the adequate strength and coordination to tug all the blankets into militaristic tightness. Ask him to clean up his toys or throw his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, and he’ll nail it!
Age appropriate chores train kids to be independent. This is particularly important if you’d rather not have your kids living in the basement at 40. Even if the prospect of empty-nest syndrome makes your heart heavy, the core of parenting is raising children to be independent. Visit any elementary classroom when “Weekly Helper” duties are assigned, and you will witness a sea of flailing arms vying to be chosen by the teacher. Kids like to be helpful! They relish the satisfaction of contributing to their classrooms, and this same sense of community should be replicated at home. Teachers expect students to Clorox wipe their desks, handle their own bathroom needs, obey school rules, follow directions, and be responsible for themselves and their belongings. Why should it be any different at home?
3. Life Skills
Age appropriate chores teach life skills. How many times have you blocked out a little voice imploring, “Can I help?” because you didn’t want the “help” to slow you down? Your child needs you to model the correct way to master life skills. Show them how to load the dishwasher, sweep the carpet, sort the laundry, empty the trash, or do yard work—whatever task they can successfully complete for their stage of life. Shewing your kids away when they offer to help discourages productivity—when they are teens, they will expect you to keep doing it all! Ask a mechanic when he took an interest tinkering on cars, and you’ll probably hear about the hours he spent as a child watching his dad in the garage. Compliment a woman on her immaculate home and outstanding dinners, and she’ll no doubt tell you she got it from her mother. Today’s young observers and helpers are tomorrow’s achievers!
4. Team Building
Besides feeling good about their own growing competency, a child asking to “help,” is also signifying they want to spend time with you. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids how to be team players who work toward a common goal. When all the work is finished, there can be more time for family and fun! When they are grown, the ability to work together with others is a crucial skill for success in the workplace. What parent wants their adult child to be the jerk at the office who doesn’t pull his weight?
Chores teach kids personal responsibility. Expecting your child to tie his own shoes, button his own pants, and zip his own jacket might not be chores per se, but accomplishing such tasks pushes him towards autonomy. Too many parents hover over their children, helping them scoop food onto their forks, dressing them, blowing their noses—probably to keep things moving to get done faster—but such parental helicopters promote dependence rather than self-sufficiency.
How many times have you mopped or swept the floor only for your kids to track in mud or drop an avalanche of crumbs from the table? Unless your kids have attempted this chore, they are unmindful of the connection between their actions and the work it creates. Make your child responsible for some of the jobs they typically decimate. They won’t appreciate having their efforts destroyed! It wasn’t fun to clean the first time, let alone a second time. This is a real eye opener for them. They learn that inconsiderate actions create consequences that can be avoided. They will develop a respect for your time and effort because they will have a new awareness of the repercussions of wanton disregard.
The average credit card debt in America is $5,700. The United States debt itself is over $19 trillion. It’s time people start learning to live within their means and for America to balance the national budget! Your great-grandparents, and probably even your grandparents, knew how to do this. They may not have boasted a closet full of trendy clothes, the latest technological gadgets, a big house, the nicest car, or taken lavish annual vacations, but they PAID CASH for their purchases and entertainment! They were savers who stuffed cash in mattresses and accrued coin in coffee cans, or as they put it, saved for a rainy day. If meat ran out of the freezer before pay day, they didn’t run to the grocery for more food—they made due with what they had. It wasn’t unusual to have a pot of green beans for dinner or maybe pickled beets and eggs for lunch. Cupboards weren’t stuffed with potato chips, candy, and cookies. Your great-grandparents gardened and canned and hunted to save money so they always had a stash of cold, hard cash to buy what was necessary. The mindset of paying cash for purchases is a foreign concept in modern America. We want instant gratification, and if that means charging our purchases and figuring out how to make our minimum payment later, so be it. We want to keep up with the Jones’s so our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts reflect a wonderful life to those we wish to impress. This is wreckless. From the time your children start earning an allowance, teach them how to budget their money. If you are a person of faith, make sure they tithe 10% of their income. If you are not, at least teach them the concept of charitable giving by donating to a cause you support that helps people in need. Most importantly, teach them to save. A penny saved is a penny earned! When they are old enough, teach them to save their own money for gift-giving instead of expecting you to provide it. When they have to invest their own resources into mom’s Christmas present or their sibling’s birthday present, more of their heart goes into the action. Once your kids obtain a driver’s license, don’t hand them gas money. If they want a car, they need to work to make enough money to take care of it. Are you paying for your teenager’s cell phone bill? How about making a rule that if they want a cell phone, they have to pay for their own. If your kids live with you past high school or college graduation, make sure they are responsible for their own bills! It’s not that you don’t love them or want to help them. Sometimes, you just need to make them sweat a little to motivate them to work hard. Learning to live within a budget will make them much more responsible as adults and spare them the stress of insurmountable debt, bad credit, and bankruptcy.
Most of us would rather sleep to our heart’s content and do our own thing all day, but that is not reality, and it’s not responsible. Kids thrive with structure. They like to know what to expect each day. A typical schedule for a child consists of getting up at a set time, preparing for school, catching the bus, coming home, doing homework, helping with chores, enjoying free time before and after dinner, participating in extra-curricular programs, showering, and heading to bed at a set time. While weekends might be more relaxed, the discipline of a schedule will help prepare your child for his or her future when staying up late and sleeping until noon won’t float with the responsibilities of family life and a career. A person of integrity will display the self-discipline of arriving to work, appointments, and commitments on time. The discipline of a schedule keeps one organized. The discipline of punctuality teaches your kids to respect the time of others and not keep them waiting.
9. Work Ethic
An alarming number of millennials are embracing socialism—mainly because they don’t know what socialism even means. Those of us who comprise the informed electorate understand that socialism has never worked in any country in which it has been implemented. In essence, the government controls everything and individual freedom is lost. Wealth is redistributed so everyone can enjoy having nothing together. The younger generation has a naïve view of socialism. The idea of getting free candy is very appealing; however, as they say, eventually you run out of other people’s money.
Capitalism works. Teach your children to identify their gifts, talents, and interests. Encourage them to use their God-given abilities to prosper. Help them learn how to set goals and devise a game plan to meet those goals. Make sure they understand there is no such thing as a free lunch. They are responsible for making their own way through life. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to teach your kids that hard-working Americans—spanning all economic classes—do not owe them anything. Not free college, free health care, free cell phones, or government subsidized income. They are not entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor. The American Dream is still alive and available to everyone in our great land of opportunity, but it requires strong grit on their part—it’s not going to be served on a silver platter. If they will work for it, they will attain success.
Should Your Kids Receive an Allowance?
Do you work 40 hours a week out of the goodness of your heart, or do you expect compensation? Of course you should reward your kids for successfully completing their chores! A reward system reinforces a strong work ethic, gives you kids goals to work toward, and is a huge motivator. Schools even do it because it works! Some schools offer rewards to the quietest class in the cafeteria, “bucks” for being caught doing something good which can be traded for prizes, or popsicle parties for good behavior. Some parents insist that feeding, clothing, and housing their children is payment enough. When you decide to start a family, however, you are making a commitment to take care of the little life you bring into this world—that includes, feeding, clothing, and housing them until they fly the nest. What incentive will your kids have to work hard at home when they get nothing tangible in return? It’s one thing if you simply don’t have the financial means to compensate your kids, but if you have the resources, your kids should be paid for a job well done. Some parents use daily chore charts and award a weekly allowance. Other parents divvy out the dough once a sticker chart has been filled. Other parents offer rewards like a trip for ice cream, a toy, or a form of entertainment. You know your kids better than anyone, so design a reward system that will motivate your kids and help build a strong work ethic.
The End Result
When you expect your children to work hard (for their age level), budget wisely, and save up for their own purchases, they learn to appreciate the value of a dollar and the sacrifice involved in earning it. They will develop more wisdom regarding money management, and they will better understand the value of all you do for them financially. When they are adults, they will already be trained to be team players who take responsibility for themselves and not expect entitlements from others. They will be self-disciplined goal setters who aren’t afraid to tackle difficult challenges to attain success. Who knows? They might even balance our national budget!
How About You?
Do you assign chores to your children?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Should kids have homework?
Absolutely! Homework not only reinforces academic learning, but it is a great exercise in self-discipline and in taking personal responsibility.Helpful 1