There is a video that is creating quite a buzz on Facebook recently. It is about the benefits to kids of doing household chores. The video contains pictures, information, and statistics about children in the United States doing chores. (See below for full video from attn: Video.)
The video cites research from a 2014 national study by Braun Research that found that 82 percent of 1,001 parents said they had chores as children but only 28 percent of them required their own children to do chores. The video also contains pictures of younger children doing chores, which apparently went viral because the idea of children doing chores was so controversial. People made comments like, “You don’t have kids to be your slave or to do the chores that you yourself don’t want to do.”
To this I say, “What?” “How can this be?” Doesn’t everyone agree that children should do chores?
A quick read through the comments on the video reveals that most people do agree that children should have chores. Interestingly, the same Braun study found that 75 percent of parents who participated in the study also agreed that regular chores make children “more responsible” and 63 percent responded that chores teach kids “important life lessons.”
So what gives? Why aren’t people actually having their kids do chores if they think that chores are so valuable?
It turns out that nowadays, children often have busy schedules full of sports practices and games, dance or music lessons, foreign language classes, academic enrichment, and afterschool activities. Many parents feel guilty asking kids to add another thing to their schedule that may take away from these valuable academic and extracurricular pursuits. They feel that these activities will add to a college application or help to bring their children success in the future whereas chores will not. Afterall, chores can’t go on your college application.
But does not being able to list chores as something you have accomplished or participated in make them less valuable?
To get some insight, I asked child psychologist, Dr. Genevieve Nehrt. Dr. Nehrt explains, “Age appropriate chores are an important part in the development of young children.They allow our kids to learn responsibility for themselves as individuals. It is also a way to help kids know that they are part of a family in which everyone helps out. Chores can also be a great way for kids to feel a sense of accomplishment and be a contributing member of the family.”
Research also highlights the value of chores for kids. One of the longest longitudinal studies of humans ever conducted, the Harvard Grant Study, found that professional success comes from having done chores as a child. The earlier a kid starts doing age-appropriate chores, the better. Sure, activities like dance and sports are great for exploring interests and helping your child to receive a more well-rounded education, but parents should not be so quick to discount the value of chores and shared responsibility in favor of these other activities. Absolving kids of all personal responsibility for household tasks will affect their future.
How will not doing chores affect my child’s future?
As a teacher, I can usually tell the students whose parents expect them to help out around the house. They clean up after themselves, offer to help, have an awareness of others, and pick up quickly on classroom routines. A classroom is a group in which students must figure out how to play their part. Kids who have never had to pitch in feel confused about how to keep up. It is like there is an unwritten set of expectations that they are missing. This carries over into college and the workforce.
We have done such a good job preparing our kids for college that more kids are going to college than ever before, but what about the world after college? What about when they have to be an adult capable of having relationships with others, getting a job, and functioning on their own separate from their parents? Many of our kids will face a job market where 4 out of 5 graduates will not have a job lined up. This is where life skills like work ethic and responsibility will make a difference.
A great employee shows initiative. They look to see how they can be helpful, solve their own problems, are innovative in finding solutions, anticipate what the boss might need next, and pitch in without being asked. They know how to work as a team. For many kids, the first place that they learn the foundation of how to contribute to a team is at home through chores.
The Harvard Grant Study also found that happiness in life stems from love and successful relationships. A key to successful healthy relationships, as an adult, is an understanding that everyone has to pitch in and do their part of the tasks that make a household run. Dr. Nehrt explains that, “In the long run, chores teach kids how to take care of themselves after they leave home. A lot of young adults feel they are missing basic “adulting” skills like cooking, cleaning, or other fundamentals to maintain a home.” And there is a lot of work to be done! The typical American spends 14 hours per week on household chores and only 4 hours doing recreational or relaxing activities. Won’t this be a depressing reality-check for kids who haven’t participated in chores until adulthood!
So how should you approach giving your kids chores if they have not had chores previously?
Dr. Nehrt says, “Starting with younger kids, give them age appropriate tasks that they can complete easily that increase in difficulty as they increase in age (e.g. don’t have your five year old cutting the grass), and do chores with your child and along side them to demonstrate that in a family, everyone contributes.”
What do you think about children and teenagers helping around the house? Do you require your children to do chores? I would love to hear from you below.
-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC