Chores are an unfortunate reality for everyone – especially for those of us that live in a house with kids. If you’re a parent, it’s important to remember that cleaning and maintaining your home should not be your duty alone. In fact, studies show that teaching children the importance of chores is vital to their development.
Research from the University of Minnesota found that chores help children build a lasting sense of responsibility, mastery, and self-reliance. The study also found that adults who began chores at ages 3 or 4 were more likely to be self-sufficient, have strong relationships with friends and family, and achieve early academic or career success than those who didn’t start chores until their teenage years.
Of course, knowing that kids should do chores, and actually making them follow through, are quite different things. Children are notorious for very bluntly voicing their objection to anything and everything that they don’t feel like doing. It would almost be admirable if it weren’t for all the screaming and crying.
Here are some tips for making average household chores more bearable for kids:
Make it a Competition or Sport
Kids are naturally competitive, so if you have more than one child, adding an element of competition to a chore is a sure-fire way to get them excited about completing the task. This can sometimes be harder to pull off than just asking, “who can finish first?”, though. The more enthusiasm you can contribute to the task, the more your kids will embrace it. Avoid rewards as well, at least in the form of money – some psychologists have suggested that money can minimize a child’s desire to pitch in, turning a good deed in to a transaction.
Watch Your Language
While you may think using slightly different words or phrasing couldn’t possibly have an impact, you may be surprised by the results. For example, studies have shown that thanking a child for being a “helper” rather than just “helping”, can significantly increase their motivation. Referring to the chores as “ours” rather than “yours” also reiterates that doing chores is a way of helping one another, rather than a mandatory duty.
We all know how powerful the imagination of a child is, so it’s no surprise that you can use it to your advantage when trying to complete some jobs around the house. Providing a story or make-believe scenario as the context for completing a job is a great way to engage younger children. Instead of washing up dishes, maybe you are the captain of a sinking ship, cleaning and offloading heavy cargo; or instead of cleaning a cluttered bedroom, you are removing land mines from a dangerous battlefield. Cater to the interests of your child/children, and it’s hard to go wrong.
Behavioral Control Not Emotional Control
Regardless of how fun you can make your household chores, you’re still going to hear some complaints. But that’s okay – kids are entitled to complain. Trying to coerce your child in to enjoying a chore, using guilt, or any other emotional tactic can have an extremely detrimental impact on their mental health.
Instead, as a parent it’s your job to calmly explain that if they’re living in a house, they have to contribute to the everyday maintenance requirements. This parental advice will help them for many years to come, in particular when they move out and have their own home to look after.
While a recent study showed that over 80% of adults participated in regular chores as a child, only 28% of them reported asking their own children to complete chores. This is one of the few generational differences in parenting that is predicted to have a negative impact on the development of children in the modern era.
By requiring your kids to help around the house, you can have a very positive impact on their future development. By making chores bearable, you make life easier for everyone now.