I grew up in an 1880’s farmhouse on a dusty, gravel road in rural Iowa. My parents weren’t farmers, but chores were a major part of my life as a child. We had about 4 acres of grass that we mowed on our 14 acre property, and a few more acres at my grandparents’ house down the road. We had gardens, pets, and that big old farmhouse that all needed regular care. Daily chores included making beds, doing laundry, cooking, washing dishes by hand, house cleaning, and more. As a child, I definitely would not have said I was happy about doing chores. In fact, I am pretty sure my complaining was as annoying as that of any child! However, as an adult I am grateful to my parents and grandparents for making daily chores a part of my life.
I recently read a blog post, “The Research on What Creates Satisfied and Successful Kids,” on Tim Elmore’s website, www.growingleaders.com. The post speaks of some of the benefits of doing chores as a child. Elmore references one of the largest longitudinal studies ever, the Harvard Grant Study, which concluded there is a correlation between doing chores in childhood and becoming a successful adult. Elmore goes on to say that children today are so busy with activities that focus on them, that they often contribute little, if any, to the needs of their family.
Children learn much from doing household chores. They recognize their role as a contributing member of the family. Chores help them learn necessary life skills such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and organization. Children develop a greater respect for property when they help to care for it. They learn time management. They also practice obedience to their parents and following instructions.
Children benefit from seeing how their parents trust them with household work. Remember that “I do it myself” desire for independence that makes young child want to dress themselves or carry things that are bigger than they? Our older children feel a similar sense of accomplishment when they take on tasks such as cutting the grass or using the stove. The joy of helping may not be as evident with middle-schoolers, but the benefits still exist.
Finding appropriate chores and fitting them into busy schedules can seem like a chore in itself, but one worth the effort. Having a chart with the days of the week, including activities and chores for each day, helps cut down on “whose turn is it?” arguments. Taking out the garbage, getting the mail, loading or emptying the dishwasher, and making beds are all chores that can be done in a very short amount of time. Training your child in how to do each chore can take time, but helps children to understand our expectations for quality work.
At what age should chores begin? Even the youngest children can contribute to their family by doing some chores. Carrying your dirty dishes to the sink, putting away toys, and pulling up the covers of your bed are things even a very small child can do. By the time children are in elementary school, most are capable of doing much of their own laundry, cleaning their own bedroom, and cleaning up after meals. Focus on the Family has a great list of appropriate chores by age on their website.
Finally, giving our children chores provides them an opportunity to honor the Lord by honoring their parents. Just as they learn how to do chores by practicing them, they also practice obedience by carrying out tasks as they have been instructed. Philippians 2:14-15 tells us, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” What a good reminder to us all, and worth practicing daily!