With so much going on in kids' lives these days, how many have time for chores like laundry?
Parents tend to give kids a pass these days, and when they do try to hand out some jobs, kids resist.
This is a change. The vast majority of Americans did chores growing up. Studies indicate that kids who do chores also do better socially and in school through their teen years—and become happier adults.
Don’t assume that pursuing demanding hobbies is more important for future success. Helpful people flourish, argues Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.
Kids like to help when they're young. “There are elegant studies showing that kids—even toddlers—are natural helpers. They don't need prompting to pitch in when they see that an adult needs help with something,” says developmental psychologist Richard Rende.
Are some children more helpful than others? Yes—a quarter to more than half of the giving impulse may be inherited. But that leaves plenty of room for parents to make a difference by encouraging their children to see themselves as "helpers."
Using the word “helper” proved key for younger children, in one recent study of 3 to 6 year olds. Asking them to “be a helper” worked better than inviting them to “help.” It's also important to note that the children weren’t praised as “good” helpers, notes study co-author Alison Master, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington: “There's a lot of research about how praising children for traits can have negative motivational consequences,” she says.
The consensus is also against getting angry, withdrawing love, or threats or punishment that could induce shame. You'll get better results as a parent if you express disappointment, some research shows, explaining how the action affects others and how the child can fix things.
Roberta Golinkoff, professor of child development at the University of Delaware, suggests making clean-up time fun or an opportunity to talk.
With kids past the toddler stage, consider turning chores into games: Set a timer to see who can pick up the most in a minute, or give your kids different tasks and have them compete to finish first. Put on music or pretend that toys are fighting back and have to be wrestled into their spots.
A version of this piece appeared on Your Care Everywhere.