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Children & chores

March 1, 2017

Why have children do chores?

Helping around the house provides children an opportunity to master skills they will need all their lives. They will learn skills such as setting a table, organizing a room, and preparing meals. All the basic skills of daily living can be learned by helping out at home.

Chores give children something productive to do. We have all heard children say, “What can I do? I’m bored.” Sometimes play is not satisfying.

If a child is praised for a job well done, that child will become more self-confident than the child who is not given responsibilities. Also, letting children know how useful their jobs are to the family will give them a feeling of importance and belonging.

What jobs should children do?

Children of all ages, even preschoolers, should be encouraged to share the household duties. However, they should not be given tasks that are too difficult for their age. For example, it may be too much to expect a preschooler to clean their room on their own. However, they will be able to do the task with help from a parent.

Preschoolers prefer jobs that do not take too long to do, can be done in the view of an adult, and are obviously useful. Some good tasks are setting the table, cleaning a pet’s food dish or putting their own dirty clothes in the laundry. School age children should be expected to clean up after themselves and take responsibility for their schoolwork.

A typical daily job list may include the following jobs:

  • Clean room - Make my bed, hang up my clothes, put away all personal belongings
  • Self-care - Brush my teeth, take my bath (hang up my towel), put all dirty clothes in the laundry, lay out school clothes
  • School - Complete homework, work hard and take pride in my lessons, remember notes from school, overdue library books, and lunch money

In addition, each child may have a special job each day (e.g., take out the garbage) or a special weekly job (e.g., vacuum a room). The children may want to have a list of special jobs they can choose. The whole family could create the list.

The family creates a job list, then what?

Give praise for a job well done. Tell your child how useful and important they are to the family. Let them overhear you tell a friend how your child’s help with the dishes every night really makes a difference.

Give decision-making power with the job. A child’s job is more joyfully done if the task can be done the way the child wants to do it. If a child’s job is to set the table, then let the child decide where family members should sit and which dishes to use. If the job is to clean the bathroom sink, then let the child decide how to arrange items around the sink.

Don’t expect perfection. It is difficult to give praise and decision-making power if a parent expects perfection. Children will not have a sense of pride in their work if a parent does the child’s job over again. If a job requires perfection, then it should not be given to the child.

Avoid nagging. Children close their ears to constant reminders, “Clean off the table... Now carry out the garbage... Do your homework... Haven’t you cleaned the table yet?… Do it now!”. Children need to learn to do their jobs without reminders. For school children, try putting the job list on the fridge for them to read. Encourage them to put a check mark beside each job as it is completed. This may remind them what needs to be done.

How can I get my children to do their chores?

There must be consequences for jobs left undone. The family as a whole may decide what the consequences will be. The important thing is that everyone knows the consequences ahead of time. The consequences should be as natural as possible. 

There will be no need for angry words, just quiet action.

Having completed a job is rewarding in itself. For example, a clean room is more enjoyable than a messy one. However, some children may work better if they are given additional rewards.

Give a reward to the child if all the jobs on their list are done. The reward may be a treat or a privilege. The privilege may be as simple as getting to play their favourite game with a parent or being allowed to choose the dinner menu. Whatever is important to the child will be a good reward.