Household chores help children learn responsibility and develop good work ethic. Studies have even suggested that chores are correlated with better outcomes in school and future employment. But the subject of chores can get downright emotional. For instance, parents who ask too much of kids may become frustrated by unfinished work. On the other hand, some parents worry that chores could be an undue burden on their precious angels.
But between too many and too few chores, there is a goldilocks zone. In order to get there, parents need to find their way through these common myths that may be holding the whole family back from the benefit of chores:
Myth #1: Little Kids Can’t Do Chores
Children as young as 3-years-old can start doing chores, which will likely come a shock to parents who believe their preschoolers are only adept at making messes. But it’s absolutely true, as long as the chores are age-appropriate. A 3-year-old isn’t going to have what it takes to mow the lawn, but he or she can pick up sticks before you start mowing. They can also run a damp cloth along a shelf or pick up their toys and clothes. In starting early, children begin to see helping around the house as a normal part of being a family member.
Myth #2: Kids Should Be Paid For Chores
Research shows that children who are not paid for chores benefit more from the chores they do. That’s because children who do chores without pay understand the reward is the feeling of contributing to the good of the family. Incentivizing chores with money sends the message that every good deed should have a price.
That’s not to say that children shouldn’t have an allowance. But allowance should not be tied directly to household chores. Doing work for people you love, to contribute to a household you benefit from, should be enough motivation to get things done. And if a kid is started early enough, it will be.
Myth #3: Kids Should be Forced to Do Chores
Forcing kids to do anything is generally not the best way to go about parenting. Forcing means conflict. Conflict often leads to resentment. And resentment is the launching pad for disrespect and disruptive behavioral issues.
But that doesn’t mean that parents with reticent kids should give up on chores. It may just require a little creativity. A parent might frame the chore as a game, or an opportunity to learn a new skill. Parents may even ask their kid to try out a variety of tasks, or smaller parts of larger tasks, until they find something they enjoy.
Myth #4: Chores Should Not Be Fun
There’s no rule that says chores need to feel like chores. Try adding songs, music, or dance breaks to the task at hand. Turn the chore into a game, especially if your children have a competitive edge. The bottom line is that kids need to know it’s quite okay to whistle, laugh, or otherwise make happy noises while they work.
Myth #5: Children Should Do Chores Without Help
Children learn best by example, which means you may need to get your hands dirty. Parents should work alongside their younger children at first, to show them the proper technique. As the kid gets older, parents can step away or kids can be sent off to do a well-rehearsed chore on their own. But even then, there tends to be more motivation and a sense of teamwork when the entire family is involved. This might mean that everybody does their chores at the same time, pitching in as a unit to make their household a cleaner, better looking place.
Myth #6: Parents Should Demand Perfection
The quality of a child’s work should be judged based on his or her age and ability. If you’re asking your four-year-old to dust the shelves, there will be dust left behind. If you’re asking a second grader to fold the laundry, do not expect retail-level creases. You certainly aren’t assigning chores because you can’t do these things yourself—you’re doing it to teach your children work ethic. So does it really matter what the clothes look like going into the drawer? Remember to manage your expectations, and focus on why you handed out chores in the first place.