There are lots of good reasons to have your kids do chores. Chores teach skills that kids will not learn in school, but are critical for them to learn before they’re on their own. They also teach responsibility and give your kids a sense of accomplishment for learning (and hopefully mastering) some important life skills.
There is another important reason, though, to have your kids do chores and at the same time shift your thinking from “this is good for my kids” to “this is good for our family”. If you have two parents working outside the home, it is completely ok to ask your kids (and your husband!) to do what they can to support the whole family working together to keep their home and their family running smoothly.
When I was 9, my mom went back to work. Although she had been working from home, she and my dad weren’t making enough to support 4 kids, so she took a full-time job as a bookkeeper at a nearby business. Needless to say things changed at home when she wasn’t there all day. There were always dirty dishes piled in the kitchen (we didn’t have a dishwasher), the trash always needed taking out, the laundry basket was always full, and house cleaning became a much rarer event.
As a result, we were all expected to pitch in and help with the endless pile of housework – created by all of us. Since there were 4 of us, ranging in age from 9 to 17, our responsibilities varied by age. The older kids who were driving ran some errands and watched younger siblings after school. They were also expected to do their own laundry, mow the lawn and help with dishes. The younger kids (myself included) helped with family laundry, those endless dishes, and house cleaning. We all fixed snacks and lunches for ourselves, and helped with dinner prep. We understood that with mom working all day, we all needed to pitch in and do what we could to keep everyone fed and in clean clothes.
Here is an example of the kinds of things kids can begin to take on at what age. Don’t expect your kids to master these skills at each of these ages, but they can start practicing and learning. And you may find they are more capable and helpful than you thought they would be:
I have occasionally had people respond to this proposed list of chores by age with skepticism, or even downright anger. Here is one example:
“I thNK IS HORRIBLE!! SO WHAT THE PARENTS DO IF THE KIDS DO IT ALL! It’s wrong to use your kids to do you work because is slot lazy parents !!!” — Ana
I’d ask Ana (and others who think that kids should not have to do chores because it is the parents’ job, or the mom’s job) – what would they have suggested my mom do? Even with the help of the kids, she was exhausted and overworked all the time. With four kids in school, who each had homework, activities, and social lives, not to mention all of the eating, showering, and wearing clothes they did, there was just a ton of of work to do. My dad worked two jobs, and was gone from 8am – 9pm 6 days/week. In addition to her full time job, my mom handled 100% of the child rearing and the housework, except for what the kids stepped up to do.
Ana may also have younger kids, and I can understand feeling like younger kids should be allowed to play and not work all the time. But what age is the right age for kids to begin doing chores? My personal opinion is that having everyone in the household help at whatever level they are able sets an example for how a household should be run. It’s very simple: these tasks need doing, everyone in the family benefits, and everyone can and should pitch in, regardless of gender or age. Boys will learn at an early age that they can’t expect anyone else to take care of all of this stuff for them. Girls will see that their brothers and/or their father pitch in because they too eat, wear clothes, and enjoy the health benefits of a clean house, and they will expect the same from their spouse (and their kids).
Others have told me it actually takes MORE time if the kids ‘help’ than if they just did it themselves, and I can’t truly argue with that. Starting young kids on these tasks can be pretty time consuming – teaching a kid any new skills takes time. But the investment will be worth it in the end, and little kids will understand that they are helping the family in the best way they can. This is big, real world stuff, and that’s awesome. Help them feel awesome.
And if you are truly of the mind that as a parent, or as a mom, it is simply your job to do these care taking tasks for others in the family, think instead of the importance of your kids learning to do these things before they set out on their own. My oldest is a sophomore in high school this year, and I am being bombarded with the realization that in 2 1/2 years he will be largely on his own, and that’s all the time I have left to make sure he knows how to do all the things he will need to do for himself very soon. One of my college roommates didn’t know how to write a check, or how a vacuum worked, and I had to teach her so she could pay for her books and clean up our room when she spilled. I don’t want that to be my kid!
Here is a great list of things that all kids ought to know in order to be successful adults.:
I have tried a bunch of different ways to assign chores with my two kids. What’s worked best has a changed a lot over the years. When they were younger, we used a weekly list that helped them keep track of all the things they needed to do after school (including their chores):
Now that they’re older, we have a family chore list and we all take turns picking from the daily chore list each day:
I made each of these charts with The Trip Clip. It offers a very flexible solution to creating a chore chart that is just right for whatever your family needs.
As parents, our job is to raise our kids to be functioning, capable, productive, and happy members of society. Doing everything for them won’t do them any favors in the long run. And if you are a mom who is also trying to be a functioning, capable, productive, and happy member of society by working outside the home, you will realistically need everyone to do their fair share of the housework and family care taking rather than taking on that load for everyone yourself.