Life is busy. No matter who you are, where you live, what school your kid goes to, or what activity they are in, you’re busy. Taking time out of any busy schedule to train up kids in essential life skills can often take a back seat. After all, it’s just easier and faster if I pick up the toys. Or clean the bathroom. Or make their beds. Ever fall into that trap? I know I do.
Teaching our kids to be involved in household chores isn’t just a good idea. It’s essential to raising them up to be independent, self-sufficient adults. They need to know how to do their laundry. And wash dishes. And be responsible for a pet. All of these things need to take place while they are busy with life. Why? Because that’s how real life goes. No one gets to adulthood and has a free schedule that allows them ample time to keep their room neat and tidy.
Our goal as parents should be to work ourselves out of a job. If they’re seventeen and we’re doing very little hand-holding, then we’ve done something right.
This isn’t just my opinion. Research has shown there are ample benefits to teaching your kids how to take care of things starting at a young age. I won’t go into the data here, but benefits include higher self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, feeling of belonging in the family, and ultimately success as an adult, just to list a few.
If your kids are older, it’s never too late to start giving them chores. If they’re young, it’s a great time to start – usually around ages four or five, but you can even start the process around age three.
How to Start
- Look at the ages of your kids and the household work that needs to be done. Find some age appropriate pieces of the work and start dividing it up among the kids. The goal isn’t to overwhelm them, but to make them feel like they’re participating in the house in a meaningful way.
- Find a rewarding system and stick to it. If they’re three years old, a sticker chart with a prize from the dollar store at the end of the week is probably good enough. There was a period of time when my kids were wanting to earn money that I paid them for some chores and worked money lessons into the conversation. If they’re older, don’t give them money, just explain that this is part of living in the same house. We all pitch in to make it work well for everyone.
What it Looks Like
- Find a visual way to list the chores. This should be out in the open where everyone sees them all the time. A list on the fridge, on a piece of paper on the pantry door, whatever works for you. I put ours on a dry erase board so that I could easily change things up without re-writing the whole thing.
- Keep them accountable. Kids will try to get out of doing the work, even though it makes them feel good doing it. They’re kids, after all. You’ll need to frequently remind them of their responsibilities but not in a nagging way. Just a simple, “it’s almost bedtime, have you gotten your chores done, yet?” or “remember that before you head out to school, chores need to be done” usually take care of it.
- Celebrate their accomplishments. Praise the heck out of kids that do their chores well. Especially if this is a new thing in your house, you want to load up on the accolades. Kids want so badly to make their parents proud so if you’re showing them you’re proud of the work they’re doing, they’ll eat it up.
Why it’s Worth It
It may feel like all of this setup, monitoring, and rewarding isn’t worth it. After all, the house operates just fine with you doing all the work…most of the time, anyway…right? Imagine a world where the laundry gets put away and you didn’t do most of it. Imagine a world where the dog poop is always in the trash can and you didn’t have to touch it. Imagine what your day would look like if you didn’t have to do dishes anymore. Depending on how many kids you have, what chores you give out, and how old your kids are, that is all possible.
The end result isn’t just less work for you. It’s responsible, able, confident adults who know they matter to their family. And that’s worth all the stickers in the world. 🙂