I’ve seen several articles with chore timelines but what REALLY is appropriate? What can my small kids REALLY be learning by cleaning the house?
It starts out “teaching responsibility.” But, when does it cross the line to “being a maid?”
Am I asking too much of my kids to help around the house? If you ask my 4 & 7 year old, any chore they do is “too much.” In fact, my daughter will grudgingly pick up one sock and then turn to look at me and say, “why do I have to do all the work?”
If you ask me, I think “kids today” (say that in an old grandma/grandpa voice for the full effect) are too coddled. Going back even to my generation, I think we could’ve and should’ve done more to help around the house.
I am reminded of a boyfriend I had many, many, many years ago. We had joined his family for a nice dinner and his mom reached over to his plate and cut up his steak for him. To this day, I pray that the look of horror didn’t show up on my face! But, really!?!?!? I still love and respect that family but, I DO NOT want my kids to be that dependent on me when they are in college! Can doing chores prevent this?
I think having kids do chores, not only is helpful, but teaches our kids many valuable lessons.
For starters, helping with chores around the house teaches our kids team work. We must work together as a family/team to make our house a home and to make it a place we all want to come to. It takes all of us to get that accomplished.
You may be wondering how chores can teach consequences??? Well, when my kids make a decision to put dirty clothes on the floor rather than into their dirty clothes hamper, they are learning the consequence is that it makes their room messy and THEY will have to pick it up themselves. If they don’t want a big chore of cleaning their room later, they will make the better choice of putting the dirty clothes in their hamper instead. (trust me-we are still working on this one! Even my husband hasn’t conquered this epiphany!)
If you decide to pay your kids for the chores they do, they will also have the opportunity to learn the value of money. I am a thrift store lover and it had become too easy for me to just “buy the toy because it’s only a couple bucks.” I quickly realized that this was not teaching them to be a smart shopper. They are now both responsible for buying their own toys (except for gifts obviously). They earn money for certain chores they do and that money gets put in a mason jar above the fridge to be saved for the next trip to the thrift store. They love to see their money pile grow and have become more selective on which toys they “need!”
Responsibility is something that can’t be taught too soon. I think, having certain tasks each person in the family is responsible for shows our kids, no matter how small they are, THEY can accomplish things if they try and it gives them a feeling of pride when the job gets done! Getting a small reward (sticker, money, candy treat…) is a great way to reward responsible actions and teach them how it can feel good to be responsible.
So, to answer my question about what chores are appropriate for our kids…
It’s all up to what we want our kids to learn by doing chores. Our perspective should be on teaching our kids teamwork, consequences, finances and responsibility.
If we are having our kids do chores with the sole purpose of “having a clean house,” then I think we are missing the point of chores.
Can a toddler run the vacuum? Yes! Should they? That depends on what is being taught in that moment. Are we expecting them to suck up every crumb from snack time? Or, is this chore being used as a tool to teach him/her that they can do BIG things if they set their mind to it?
Are we talking to them as they do the chore and helping them see the positives of doing it? Or, are we too busy dictating to them that they are “doing it wrong” or “missed a spot again?”
Today, as we encourage our kids (at any age) to do chores, let us keep the goal of using it as a teaching moment at the front of our minds.
Whatever chore they may be asked to do (use your own judgement), let’s be patient and help them grow in that moment.
Let them gain confidence in these chores and knowledge that they CAN do it if they try!
Who knows…maybe they will surprise you and even cut their own steak some day!