Children & Chores

Helping around the house allows children to practice skills they will need all their lives, such as setting the table, organizing a room, and preparing meals.  Chores also 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 pre-schoolers, 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 pre-schooler to clean their room on their own, but they will be able to do it with help from a parent.

Pre-schoolers prefer jobs that do not take too long to do, can be done in the view of an adult, and are obviously useful. Some suitable 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 could include:

  • Clean my 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 for the next day
  • School: complete homework, work hard and take pride in my lessons, remember notes and library books

In addition, each child may have a special job, such as taking out the garbage or vacuuming a room.  The whole family could create a list of special jobs to choose from.

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. Your child will enjoy the task more if they can do it the way they want to do it. If their job is to set the table, then let them decide where family members should sit and which dishes to use. If the chore is to clean the bathroom sink, then let them decide how to arrange items around it.

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. Children need to learn to do their jobs without reminders. For school-aged 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, and the family as a whole can decide what the consequences will be. The important thing is that everyone knows them ahead of time. The consequences should be as natural as possible, such as your child’s favourite shirt is dirty because they didn’t put it in the laundry.  

There is 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.  You can give a reward to the child if all the jobs on their list are done.  The reward could be as simple as getting to play their favourite game with a parent or being allowed to choose the dinner menu.