Summer has arrived and your children are home with nothing to do. As a favor to your kids, enlist their help with household chores—they will benefit greatly. Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance with many benefits academically, emotionally and professionally.
Starting kids young is key as it is exactly the time to foster a child’s natural helpfulness. Research shows that children who participated in household tasks at an early age were more likely to succeed in adulthood (education completion, meeting career goals, maintaining good relationships).
Helping with chores engages children in activities that promote movement-cued development. This includes large motor activities like digging in the garden, carrying a water can and putting away groceries. It also includes fine motor skills such as using a screwdriver or food preparation for a meal. These movement-based tasks are closely linked to the brain development necessary for reading and writing.
The slower pace of yard and household tasks can be an important antidote to screen time. Slowing down can make working together enjoyable. Hands-on experience in all tasks promotes learning, builds character and helps to form the basis of our future selves. As our children grow, doing tasks together can continue to strengthen our relationships. Moments of meaningful interaction happen easily when washing dishes, folding laundry, fixing the car, or walking the dog together. Growing up with hands-on lessons in taking initiative, practicing cooperation, and working towards a goal help to shape character.
We model delayed gratification each time we choose to work for a later or larger goal. This includes saving, making do, and making it ourselves. This may go against the grain when popular culture insists on “have it now,” but our children become familiar with the pleasures of anticipation and begin to internalize the ability to delay gratification. Multiple studies show that children who were able to defer gratification grew into teens and young adults who were more socially competent, better able to deal with frustration, more dependable, reached high educational attainments, and were effectively able to make and reach long-term goals.
Chores Build Skills
Regular chores allow children to see for themselves how the world works. They grasp science and math as seeds become vegetables, as boards are made into bookshelves, as flour and yeast turn into bread. More importantly, as children become proficient at jobs necessary to sustain their families, they also see themselves as capable. While they are making contributions to running the household, they are actively learning how to cook, launder, clean, make repairs, maintain a vehicle, budget expenses, and other tasks that are essential for an independent life once they are adults.
Teaching Children Life Skills
Determining the right amount of responsibility is a balancing act. Kids work very hard. Between schoolwork, learning to deal with social situations, and, for many kids, their many extracurricular involvements, kids have very little “down” time. They need a chance to play, relax, daydream, nap. At the same time, teaching children life skills has a number of benefits:
- A person who enters college, or an independent living situation, with life skills will have a far easier time living with roommates.
- Family responsibilities teach basic discipline.
- The skills learned from having family responsibilities include time management, prioritizing tasks, and general organizational abilities.
- With family participation, the parents don't have to slave their life away serving the royal offspring.
- Most importantly, the child understands that he is part of a community (your family) and that as a member of the community, he needs to share responsibilities to keep the community going.