The payoff of chores

This young man is learning his contribution to the household counts. He is developing self esteem because he can feel good about himself helping his family. He is learning self discipline and how to wash dishes. Childhood chores teach individual skills and benefit the family. They are part of a positive parenting plan.

What he's learning from washing dishes will last a lifetime. Credit: Manchester Evening News, UK

Childhood chores are making a renaissance. We started the century using children as vital contributors to farms, factories and cottage industries. We finished the century treating children like consumer and performers.

The boy at left doing dishes is learning more than just how to do dishes. Life-lessons are being absorbed, such as: his contribution is important; his family depends upon him; he needs to show up whether he feels like it or not [AKA self-discipline]; he’s small and mighty — what else is he capable of doing?

Many children live an entitled life of activity-mania  their main role is to  perform and make their parents proud.

Personally, doing dishes is a lot more beneficial than earning trophies for participation on travel soccer. A few activities are acceptable, but many families are constantly on the go, with no time for chores or the other traditional family centering habit of family dinner.

A survey of 564 people from ages 11-90 I took showed that a remarkable 87 percent had or have childhood chores. They reported that family dinner and family chores often go together. I would add a third leg to that chair: family meetings.

Democratic family meetings are useful to make decisions, divide up the housework, plan the week’s schedule, compliment each other, enjoy a healthy snack and have some simple fun together at the end. Family meetings offer children a voice and a choice. Family dinner is the glue that holds a family together. And chores are an integral part to both because children can be involved in the preparation and clean up of family dinners.

The Boston Globe West published a story on chores and cited many children today who do laundry, help care for siblings and mow the lawn and more — without getting paid by the chore. The story cited the research of Wellesley College Professor Markella Rutherford who researched chores. Rutherford found that in the last 15 years chores have made a comeback. Hurray!

The article cited my upcoming book, “Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people.” It’s being edited and will be out soon. It offers many ideas on how to have a more harmonious home and get children involved in doing their parts.

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Explore posts in the same categories: chores, Encouragement, How chores empower children, positive parenting

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