3 Reasons Chores Are A Gift to Your Child (and you!)

by added on 13 October 2018, Comments Off on 3 Reasons Chores Are A Gift to Your Child (and you!) , posted in Blog
By Maggie Homer, Parent Educator

After I graduated from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!) I uprooted my life and moved to the Heartland: Omaha, Nebraska. My future husband was in Medical School and so I thought I’d take a little adventure to join him.

I came to find that Omaha is home to some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. Nebraskans are a fun, hard working, and loving group of people (and boy do they love their football).

Omaha is a fairly large city, but you go a couple miles outside city limits and you’ll find yourself deep in cornfields, soybean fields, and flat farmland. Many friends I met were raised on a farm.

There is a farming culture in Nebraska that breeds incredibly dependable, confident, and trustworthy people. If you didn’t grow up on a farm, someone in your family did.

So, what is it about a farming community that raises quality people? The need for every person to be an active contributor, working to provide for the family in whatever way they can.

In a word: chores.

3 reasons chores are a gift to your child (and you!)

1. Chores Teach Respect
 Let me paint a picture for you.

You’re at the park and you see a child sitting in the shade of a picnic shelter at a table with a scowl on his face. His mother is in a panic searching for his apple juice in the diaper bag. She finally gets it open and gives it to him. He yells, hits it out of her hand, and says he wanted the grape juice instead. The mom apologizes, picks up the spilled juice and frantically looks in her bag for a grape juice (please, please let there be a grape juice in here!).

Meanwhile the child is dumping his Goldfish crackers on the ground. The mom finds the grape juice (thank goodness!), gives it to him, and proceeds to pick up the fishy crackers that her son spilled.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the point (and can I mention that I have totally been this mom before!).

This mom is a servant to her child. Her child will most likely continue to treat his mom this way for the rest of his life. Chances are she will always fill the servant role and will not command much respect from her child.

My guess is when he’s single and 25 she will be picking up his laundry and ironing his clothes. She will schedule all his doctor appointments and buy all his clothes until he marries a partner who he will expect to also be his servant.

“If parents act like servants, their children will treat them like servants.”

-Elizabeth O’Shea (parenting coach)

Just think about that for a sec.

The Facts
 Chores help teach respect because your child learns through experience how much work, energy, and effort goes into keeping the house running smoothly. Your child can respect the work you are doing only when she has done it herself. It’s a little something called empathy.

A study from the University of Mississippi used data collected over 25 years to see if starting chores with children at age 3 or 4 had an impact on the children’s future success.

The result: “Chores instilled in children the importance of contributing to their families and gave them a sense of empathy as adults” (Par. 2).

The study also showed that those who had done chores were:

·         More likely to be well-adjusted

·         More likely to have better relationships with family and friends

·         More successful in their careers

With young children, start simple. Have your child help you unload the dishwasher or put the clothes in the washing machine. Even more simply, when they’re capable of a skill, expect them to perform that skill.

For example, we teach our daughter that if she spills something, that’s okay, but she has to clean it up. Sometimes she spills like massive amounts of cereal all over the floor. Would it be easier if I swept it up all by myself…absolutely! By holding her accountable to picking up her messes, then she has respect for our home and the work it takes to clean.

The point is to empower your child to feel like a contributor in their household. In turn, she will feel respected because you trust her to sweep the floor, dust the shelves, and care for the home.

2. Chores Teach Ownership and Pride
My friend Sydney was born and raised in Liberty, Nebraska. Population: 76. Her family farms corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay. They raise sheep and cows.

She is now an Internal Medicine resident at the University of North Carolina, and one of THE most wonderful, hard working, caring humans I have met. When I asked her what value she found from growing up on a farm with chores, this is the response I got:

“It gives you responsibility, which in turn gives you a sense of ownership and pride in your work. For example, after spending months raising a bottle lamb you feel proud to see it grow up, knowing you contributed. Then you get to watch its offspring grow up and the cycle continues.”

I mean, I’ve never raised a bottle lamb, but I have to imagine the satisfaction will be one-hundred fold when we raise up healthy, happy children, who go on to be a capable and loving parents to our future grandchildren.

The Facts

In a survey conducted by Braun Research in 2014, it found 82% of grown ups had regular chores growing up, yet only 28% required their children to do them. Whoa. That’s a 54% decrease in one generation…

The reasons for this staggering change:

·        Increased extracurricular activities

·        Parent reluctance to add more responsibility

As parents, sometimes we think chores are adding burden to our children’s lives, when it’s the polar opposite. You are giving your child a gift by holding them accountable to chores and believing they are capable of contributing.

In Cecile’s (and her cousin Linda’s) book Mentor Manager, Mentor Parent she paints a striking picture of what it looks like to be a martyr parent:

“The martyr has difficulty holding her child accountable for his behavior. If the child misbehaves, he is too tired, too sick, too hungry, or too young. If others try to hold him accountable, she makes excuses, blames the school, or tries to fix the situation. Because the martyr protects her child from life’s difficulties, he learns to avoid activities that require effort” (pg. 26).

Sydney happily reminisces about waking up early to feed the lambs and calves before school. Chores helped bond her siblings because they were in it together.  She’s not traumatized. She’s not bitter. She’s successful, well adjusted, and capable.

Isn’t that what we all want for our children?

3. You’re a parent, not a martyr
 This is where it gets deep.

I was taught growing up that becoming a parent is the greatest joy of all time (and it is!), but that phrase is also a little misleading. It’s a little too Hallmark for me. Being a parent is a joy, but it’s also a complete disaster!

I was taught growing up that parents (specifically mothers) sacrifice everything for their children. I was taught that the children come first (even before the spouse). I was taught that my career should be put on hold, that raising babies was the most important thing I could do.  These maybe weren’t said explicitly in our home, but the message was definitely sent loud and clear.

Do I disagree with these statements? Not entirely. Do I believe these statements set me up to be a healthy parent…absolutely not.

I went into parenting with the servant mentality. I believed that my job as a stay-at-home mom was to be everything for everyone else, all the time. And I know, with glaring confidence, that this is not a healthy way to live.

There were times I didn’t shower for a week. I missed meals. I didn’t exercise. I had no hobbies. And I did nothing to change it; I chalked it up as being part of motherhood.

Please read I’m a Mom, not a Martyr. I could never articulate this idea as well as she does. Just to give you a taste, she states:

“Mothers need to be reminded that they can’t take care of anyone unless they take care of themselves”.

I’ve heard this idea referred to as “healthy selfishness” and I try to practice that everyday. If you are feeling like your tank is empty more often then not, please take this Self-Care Quiz to see some potential areas in your life that you are neglecting.

The Facts
 Instead of doing it all for our children and nothing for ourselves, we must teach our children chores with consistency and patience.

Rebecca Simon, family life associate from the University of Arkansas, states that demonstrating chores is essential. It’s not enough to simply say, “dust the shelves” but we must teach them the skill through 3 steps:


1.     Teach to the child’s skill level: What is my child capable of? What is my child interested in?

2.     Talk about your expectations as you show the steps: When to do the chore and how to do it. Involving all 5 senses helps the child remember more readily!

3.     Two-way participation keeps the learner involved: You work together to accomplish the task. Dad clears the shelf, the child dusts it.

(Mentor Manager, Mentor Parent. Pg. 76)

Provide your child with constructive feedback after he performs the chore. Instead of doing it over the way you want it done (which undermines your child and the help they offered you), continue to teach how you would like the task performed next time.

I mean…I’m guilty of doing this with my own husband! I’ll ask him to clean the bathrooms and then get all huffy because he just cleaned the toilets. There’s a floor, sink, and bathtub in there too, honey…

When I finally taught him what it meant to “clean the bathroom” he absolutely crushes it and it helps me out so much.

When our children help with chores it will relieve your never-ending to do list. If your children can’t contribute much now, just know that you are setting yourself up for future success by instilling the values. Then, when they’re capable, they’ll be helping you with bigger tasks like vacuuming, dishes, laundry, etc.

So let’s reframe what it means to be a parent. Being a parent means being a leader, teaching your child life skills that will help them as they grow and become independent of you. Being a parent means showing your children how wonderful it is to have children, so they’ll want to have their own someday.

“Ma, the meatloaf!”

I do not want a grown Will Ferrell from Wedding Crashers sitting on my couch when I am retired. I want my children to grow to be self-reliant, independent, hard working contributors to society.

Not only are we helping ourselves out by delegating chores to our children, but also we are teaching them to develop life skills necessary to transition healthily and happily to the adult world.

Responsibility is not something we should shy away from; it’s something we should sprinkle around like glitter.

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