How do I make sure my children are ready to join the real world? This is one of the most important questions any parent can ask themselves. It is also something we worry about on a regular basis. Though there is not one right answer for every child, there are some things we can do to help them on their growth path. One thing that I’ve always believed in, as far as preparation for adulthood, is the implementation of chores. From a young age, children are capable of learning how to be responsible. The key is to give them the opportunity to do so. Here are some top important reasons to give your kids chores.
Give Your Kids Chores #1: Work Ethic
Developing a positive work ethic can start at a young age. Allowing toddlers to help with easy tasks like matching socks, feeding pets, and picking things up is a perfect way to start. They actually love the time with you and find it fun to explore new activities. I remember my mom taking me along to a laundromat when I was a young child. The machines fascinated me, especially when she let me help load them. Even if you have your own machines or have a service like J & G Laundromat, they can help you sort, load, or put away clothes. You might have to let go of any perfectionism about how your clothes are folded if you let them do their own.
When your kids help with chores, celebrate the effort instead of the result. Young children love to help out, and they form a positive emotional connection to the work itself. You know that satisfying feeling you get when your kitchen is sparkling clean? Kids get that, too, even if their version of “sparkling clean” is different.
Give Your Kids Chores #2: Determination
Determination helps us push through when things challenge us. Developing this character early on helps kids through tough classes, athletics, hobbies, and anything they do that requires consistency. They will be better equipped to handle failure and overcome obstacles. In the workforce, they will have the ambition to work hard for what they want.
Developing determination requires us to offer challenges for our kids to overcome. I know it’s hard to do, sometimes, because we want them to be successful. Too often we do things for them to make it easier when this can be more harmful than serving. Offering age-appropriate chores that do have some challenges can help them to safely explore their capabilities. As your kids get older, increase the difficulty of the tasks assigned. If they can’t figure out how to do something, don’t quickly offer the solution. Allow them time to figure it out for themselves or brainstorm with them.
Give Your Kids Chores #3: Independence
There are many ways to foster independence in your child, from letting them pick out their own clothes to getting and caring for a pet. Chores are a great way to help build independence, too. The key is choosing tasks that offer them the opportunity to make decisions. Start off slowly by having them take care of themselves in little ways, like packing their lunch for the next day. Give them chores that have natural consequences when they do not get done. Instead of punishing them for not following through, let them face those consequences. You might have to send your kid to school in a stinky shirt once or twice, but they will soon figure out that they have put their dirty clothes in the laundry.
Give Your Kids Chores #4: Responsibility
Young children learn responsibility when they understand that a particular job is theirs. They also understand that there are consequences for not doing that job, as we spoke of above. Of course, older children can be given higher levels of responsibility. Encourage older children to take on some of the family care duties, such as cooking dinner for the family or childcare. When you give them the responsibility to feed the whole family or watch a younger sibling, you are offering them a hands-on life lesson. Be sure you have some easy (but not too appetizing) frozen options on hand, just in case they drop the ball. You do not want to go hungry, but you want some consequences for irresponsible behavior.
Teenagers can be given more of a choice for how they contribute to the family. You might encourage them to cook or clean, but you could also let them contribute financially. Teens as young as fourteen are legally able to work in some places and can do things like paper routes, or some odd jobs for friends and neighbors. Just be clear about the impact their contribution has on the family. If they do not understand why they are doing something, they miss out on the lesson.
Give Your Kids Chores #5: Money Management
If an allowance is part of your family’s routine, consider switching up how you pay out. Treating an allowance like a paycheck, money paid out for the work completed, can give your child a lesson in money management. Consider paying your kid by the chore, rather than a set amount each week or month. Set the dollar amounts per chore in advance, and give your child the option to do them. They will quickly learn that more effort yields more pay. Increase the payout for less desirable chores, like scooping the cat’s litterbox or taking out the trash. They will learn that harder work pays more, and they can do less of it to gain the same rewards.
Job skills are life skills. Chores are opportunities for young children to learn how the world works. By giving them responsibilities in your home, you set them up for success in the future. That said, you know what is right for your kid and every family is different. There are benefits to every approach, so be flexible and willing to try different things. Some things will work, some won’t, and it will be a learning experience for the whole family. Just remember that the lessons you teach your children are invaluable and will set them up for life.