Full transparency here: My youngest daughter’s help drags out the process of unloading the dishwasher.
Not only is she slower than me, she is a reluctant participant. It takes longer for me to encourage her to start the task than it would for me to just do it myself.
When children resist, it’s tempting to do the work ourselves. But having a child who takes out the trash or puts away laundry is more than just a convenience for parents. Teaching your children to do chores and encouraging them to complete them is time well spent.
Here are just some of the benefits children gain when they finally buckle down and get to work:
Knowing that a job needs to be done before watching TV or having a treat may help children learn delayed gratification, a form of self-control.
A 2011 study from the University of Chicago demonstrated myriad benefits to increased self-control. In fact, children with poor self-control were found to make more mistakes as adolescents. The children with poor self-control were also more likely to struggle financially in adulthood.
Being responsible around the house helps children learn the consequences of their actions. Did your daughter forget to clear her place after dinner? Her favorite plate might not be clean for the following day. If, however, she remembered to put her clothes into the laundry instead of leaving them on the floor, she may find her T-ball uniform ready for the next game!
Problem Solving Skills
Whether they’re trying to figure out the fastest way to clean their rooms, the best way to fold the bathroom towels so they’ll fit in the cabinet, or how many dishes they can clear from the table per trip, children who do chores are constantly problem solving. These concrete situations can naturally help children build their problem solving skills.
Stories of kids going off to college unable to do their own laundry or make a meal independently abound. College is already a time of intense adjustment and change—why force them to learn a whole new set of skills they could have been introduced to early on?
There are many parts of their lives they’ll have to manage for the first time, so giving them chores early in life means they’ll be more prepared for operating on their own.
Whether it’s a smaller child sorting socks or an older child trying to handle both broom and dustpan, chores can help children practice their motor skills.
Large motor skills might be engaged while taking the garbage can to the curb or loading the washing machine.
Activities such as dusting may encourage children to cross the midline. (Crossing the midline is an important developmental skill that involves crossing arms or legs to the other side of the body and still operating them effectively.)
Children who do chores better understand how their part helps the entire family. They get to see first-hand how their actions make life easier or more difficult for people they care about and vise versa.
Between school, extracurricular activities, and homework, chores tend to take the back burner. Having the responsibility for chores can help teach children time management as they strike the balance between work and play.
Believe it or not, children who have chores have been found to be more satisfied with life. According to a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in April 2019, children who had done chores in kindergarten reported greater life satisfaction by third grade.
There’s some evidence to suggest that doing household chores builds empathy as it allows children to internalize helping and connecting with their family.
Children may resist doing chores quite vehemently, but when push comes to shove, completing a chore gives them a source of pride. This may be particularly important when schoolwork or sports causes their self-esteem to suffer.
Whether or not you need the household help, giving kids chores to complete is well worth whatever effort you can manage. They are particularly beneficial in the early years as children’s self-esteem and values are being formed.
Making the investment when they are young not only provides benefits to your children, but also eventually means that you will have extra help around the house as they grow older.
Image courtesy of iStock.