When raising children the topic of children and chores will inevitably come up. Parents often disagree on whether or not it is a good idea to expect their children to be responsible for specific chores.

Some parents believe that children should be allowed to play, spending their time being creative and enjoying their time during childhood without the responsibility of chores. The feeling is that they will have plenty of time later in life when they become adults for working and taking care of their own homes. Others feel that giving their children chores is what will prepare them for when they become adults with their own homes. And even then many have questions

  • Should I assign my children household chores?

  • If so, at what age do I begin?

  • What chores are appropriate for children?

  • Are there any that should never be given to children?

  • Do I pay my children for doing chores?

As with most things in life, balance is the key. Too much of anything, one way or the other is usually not a beneficial situation in the long run.

In reference to children and chores, both sides have valid points.

While it is true children need time for creative play as well as structured play for a whole host of reasons, childhood is also an important time to learn and develop certain characteristics that will benefit them when they become adults.

The first thing to look at is your goal in your specific situation. Sometimes large families have so much to do that everyone needs to pitch in to ensure the home runs efficiently. Perhaps both parents need to work outside the home giving them very little time to do all that is needed around the house. Then there are families that are financially able to have housekeepers to come regularly to do cleaning and laundry as well as yardmen to tend to the mowing and gardening. In these cases assigning chores would be for character building and life lessens rather than out of necessity.

Research has shown that children who grow up without being responsible for certain duties are more inclined to reach adulthood with an “entitlement” mentality. On the other hand, it has also shown that children who were expected to perform duties that could be viewed as a parent’s responsibility become resentful and once on their own rebel by not taking care of their own environment in a mature manner.

Finding a balance that allows children to have sufficient play time as well as perform certain household tasks will help your child become a well-rounded responsible adult.

I was raised in a family with five children. We were financially upper middle class and so if my parents had wanted to hire help they would have been able to. However, we were raised with the understanding that our home was just that…OUR home and because it was perceived as such we were encouraged to take pride in its condition.

My parents provided us with a beautiful home where we were fortunate to have some things that others did not have. My father was a builder and so our entire basement was transformed into a combination play area for the younger children on one side and a lounge area on the other side for us as teens when we got older. We had a pool in the backyard, which was not common in those days, and had a large paved driveway for basketball and riding bicycles.

We were raised with an enormous sense of gratitude for what we had. The care of our home was presented to us as a responsibility to the family to do our part. From as far back as I can remember I always had something I was responsible for. The first “chore” I remember having was to check every day that the family dog had water in his water bowl. I remember my mother offering me a glass of fruit punch mid-morning while I was “hard” at play and loving the fact that I would then get to fill “Tuffy’s” bowl with fresh water.

Chores in our home graduated with our age. Mother did the most of the cooking, and I, being the oldest would supervise my younger sisters setting the table. Mother and Father did the nightly clean up after dinner and I was in charge of my sisters in the play room until my parents were finished. When my brothers were born and old enough to help out the chores graduated. I took over washing the dishes while my younger sisters dried them and put them away. My brothers were then in charge of setting the table under my Father's supervision.

We approached what needed to be done as being a part of our family and taking care of what needed to be done was just something we all participated in.

This worked on house-cleaning day and yard maintenance day much the same way.

At about the age of 12 or so when the subject of allowance came up we were given options of “extra” things we could do that would warrant financial compensation.

The first thing I remember taking on was helping my mother with the ironing 2 afternoons a week for an hour each day. I was paid a dollar per week. My sister was given the chore of putting the younger children’s laundry away for which she was also paid a dollar per week.

For the most part, my parents chose to present household chores as a necessary part of having a home to be shared by all members of the family…and these were done without monetary reward. In doing so, we learned a sense of responsibility to care for what we were blessed with.

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