5 Lessons Children Learn From Doing Chores
Growing up, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have assigned chores. Whether it was setting the table, carrying folded laundry to the rightful owner’s room or later on, as I got older, mowing the lawn. I rarely complained, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it.
There were many times when my parents would make an announcement about a chore we would be working on as a family on a particular weekend day. Being the youngest, I would conveniently disappear for frequent intervals for urgent restroom trips as well as other “life/death” dependant errands until the task was complete. Everyone clearly knew what was going on but for the most part would let me slide since I did all my other chores without much fuss.
Years later, looking back as a parent, I realize having chores was one of the best things my parents could have ingrained within us. When I truly think about it, doing chores was such a great way to prepare for the real world and life in general. It not only taught me patience and humility, but also pride and responsibility. The sense of accomplishment can be habit forming just like other less worthy traits.
In many cases, in the developed world, we live in the realm of instant gratification and sometimes entitlement. While technology (wireless phones/internet) in itself is not the culprit, its instant access to information may be triggering a tendency within each of us which we should look to manage. This is not to say we are of weak character necessarily, but more so that we have become conditioned to expect “things” almost immediately. I have three kids in a fairly wide range of ages (one in college, one in high school and the little one in 1st grade). Reflecting on each of their tendencies, I believe chores are significant in various ways:
Delayed Gratification:We live in a world of instant gratification. Chores allow for a space to potentially learn patience and the reward(s) associated with completing tasks. This is especially significant when tied to something they like to do as in going out with friends, playing video games or whatever. The connection between work and reward can be established early on.
Value:Believe it or not, I find having a sense of responsibility can be a way of attaching a certain degree of value in who you are within the family unit. Kids gain more of a contributor mentality and ownership within the family versus being a bystander coming along for the ride.
Independence:Learning to complete a chore (how to iron, fold laundry, etc.) helps develop a skill that adds to their bank of tools. As they develop and build on their “tool set,” their sense of independence grows. This has implications further down the road as they grow into young adults. My son is very proud of the fact that he knows how to iron and is not dependant on mom/dad.
Connection to Family:A family that can work together can build stronger bonds. A common task of cleaning the yard/the garage, depending on the family’s approach, can create a space for cooperation and consultation. Learning to work toward a common goal and helping each other, can reinforce the skills necessary to connect with the parents and siblings. I find, common chore days are great opportunities to show kids how to plan, allocate resources and drive as a group to get the job done. It creates an atmosphere of teamwork - feeling like you’re part of a team is not only a great motivator, but again, can create that connection with the family.
Keeps them Busy:Let’s face it, keeping kids busy not only develops good habits, but also is a great way to keep them out of trouble.
One of the lessons that I have learned, especially after having two teenagers, is to not underestimate their capabilities at younger ages. Looking back, I think each could have taken on more difficult tasks a little earlier on. Hindsight is 20/20 but we have been given the opportunity to test out the theories with our little one.
There are multiple articles/books on “age appropriate” chores. I recommend looking at some and finding what you feel works best for you kids and their personalities. Most importantly, remain consistent and supportive until that all important habit is formed.
Hugs, Mama K