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Parenting

Should You Be Making Your Child Do Chores?

Why chores matter and how to get your child to do them.

Key points

  • Research found that doing household chores was associated with improved social skills, academic abilities, and life satisfaction in kids.
  • Tips to encourage chores include giving kids choices and making chores part of a regular family routine.
  • Preschoolers can do chores like taking out the trash or setting the table, while older kids can make school lunches or clean windows.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics found that performing household chores was associated with improved social skills, academic abilities, and life satisfaction in young children.

This large study included 9,971 children entering kindergarten in 2010 to 2011. During the kindergarten year, parents reported how frequently their child completed household chores. In third grade, children reported on their social skills, academic interest and skills, and life satisfaction. Their academic skills in reading, math, and science were also assessed in third grade.

This study found that children who completed more chores in kindergarten reported enhanced social skills, academic abilities, and life satisfaction in third grade. Children who performed any type of chores in kindergarten were also more likely to have higher math scores in third grade. Although the authors attempted to control for sex, family income, and parent education, it is important to note that the researchers only found an association between household chores and these positive outcomes. Therefore, we do not know whether completing chores actually caused these differences or whether they are caused by another variable (such as family routines more generally).

This research suggests that chores may be beneficial for young children. So how do you encourage your children to do chores?

1. Model doing chores around the house yourself. Don’t save it for their naptime or after they go to bed. It is important for children to see the work that goes into maintaining a home.

2. Give children choices in their chores. For example, you could ask, “Would you rather feed the dog or take out the trash?” Or let them choose when to complete their chores.

3. Make a regular routine for your family. For example, every Sunday afternoon or every day between dinner and the bedtime routine is “chore time” for everyone in the family.

4. Be as clear as possible about the expectations and break the task into a step-by-step list or picture guide.

5. Praise and reward any attempts at completing the chore. Don’t criticize or try to control how they do it.

Chore ideas

Possible chores for toddlers include feeding pets, carrying plates to the sink, wiping up spills, and putting dirty clothes in the laundry hamper.

Possible chores for preschoolers include taking out the trash, setting the table, sorting laundry, making their bed, and bringing their backpack in and out of the car.

Possible chores for school-age children include watering plants, making school lunches, loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning windows and mirrors, and putting groceries away.

References

White, E. M., DeBoer, M. D., & Scharf, R. J. (2019). Associations between household chores and childhood self-competency. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 40(3), 176-182.

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