Chores and Today’s Child

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Now that’s what I like to see.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I have embarked on a mission to engage my children in domestic housework. I’m not hiring them out or anything. I just want them to participate in the routine maintenance of the household of which they are a part. This is because invariably they will have to start pulling their own weight within the home, so why not sooner rather than later? And in my opinion we should do whatever it takes to get them to do their chores. Need to buy a new steam cleaner from somewhere like just to get them interested in vacuuming? Do it.

As toddlers they really weren’t good for much, but I did always have them clean up their own toys. (Okay, help me while I cleaned up all their toys.) As they grew older, getting them to do more than that required a Herculean effort, and I often lacked the strength.

Then last week my new best friend and favorite commenter, jennymilch, wrote in on my playdate post with chore statistics. If you missed it, she said years ago a study stated childhood chores were the number ONE predictor of adult happiness. I have no idea if that’s true or not, and I’m sure there’s another study claiming childhood chores are the number one predictor of adult misery, but I’m going with the former. It helps me out. I can get some relief with housework and believe I’m doing my kids some good.

Even if I’m not doing them any good, I’m still a big believer in child labor. My kids are the primary reason my house is a wreck in the first place. They should have a hand in cleaning it up.

But it has been difficult process.

Before I became a parent, a good friend mentioned she made her three-year-old make his own bed every day. I though she was a little extreme. Kids at that age can’t even walk straight yet. Of course, she explained, she had to make the bed over again because the kid’s bed-making skills were substandard. I thought, What’s the point?

The point is, I later learned, she was setting a standard. She wasn’t the maid, she wasn’t the servant and she wasn’t responsible for every single domestic act in that house. The kids were members of the family, and as such they needed to contribute.

This lesson I learned the hard way. My kids, having not been raised with domestic responsibilities from birth, revolted when I tried to establish chores. Now with the minimal number of tasks I’ve attempted to institute, I get tears, hysterics, evasiveness, complaints, excuses, fits and appeals. Sometimes they just wear me down, and I don’t enforce the rules. I know, I know. I must be consistent, especially when I remember that at my daughter’s age I was cleaning the entire house and holding down a full-time job. My daughter can’t even manage to pick her clothes up off the floor.

I should have started earlier. Maybe at two.

What age is old enough?


When I went to search Flickr, the world’s largest collection of public photos, for “children doing chores” only six, six, pictures came up. Of those four had nothing to do with children doing chores, and one was a teenager doing chores, which to me doesn’t count. I then did a search of “children doing housework” and only one came up. It was a picture of a backscratcher.

The picture in the post is one of a child at school.

I will say, though, in my search I did find a kindred soul. The picture of the teenager engaged in chores included a comment by the parent, who wrote, “We usually don’t pay the kids to do chores around the house because we figure that is part of the privilege of living here.” The photo was captioned: “One of the Benefits of Having a Teenage Son.”

This post originally appeared on

(Photo: Flickr/Peachy Weasel)



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16 thoughts on “Chores and Today’s Child”

  1. My 6-year-old makes her bed, puts away her laundry (after I fold it), sets the table, clears her own plates after every meal and unloads the utensils from the dishwasher. She will thank me someday.

  2. I grew up doing chores. My husband grew up doing no chores. Naturally, he wanted our children to experience the joy of childhood unencumbered by chores. So now, my 13yo puts his dirty dishes next to his closed bedroom door as if there was room service on staff and won’t so much as hang his coat up. We’re screwed. I think it’s important to establish some type of household responsibility early on when they still think it’s fun to help and can be coerced by the earning of allowance money.

    1. Ut oh. You are screwed. I’ve finally gotten my kids accustomed to doing chores. I find if it becomes a routine like every Sat. morning after breakfast they have their chores to do, it’s not so much a battle. They do it w/o protest now b/c they are used to it. They don’t do all that much, but they have to clean their rooms and a few other things. I think everyone should contribute to the household. Plus they have to learn it now or else how will they know how to take care of themselves when they’re grown?

  3. I love this! My kids do chores. My five year old frequently makes his lunch, vacuums, and puts away his clothes. My three year old puts most of her clothes away, picks up toys, and feeds the dog.

    Sometimes it’s awesome and sometimes it sucks. But my job is to present my children to adult society with knowledge, skills, and abilities, not, as some would think, to cook and clean for them as long as they live here.

    Great post. This is a topic more parents need to think about!

    1. Wow! You’re ahead of the game. My kids do regular chores now, but it took several years of conditioning. You (and I) are so right. How in the hell are they going to be able to take care of themselves if they don’t know how to wash a dish or turn on a vacum now?

  4. sometimes I wonder. . . I grew up overseas and had a lot of domestic help. I remember washing the dishes once in awhile, but I don’t think I had regular chores. But my mom cleaned up and tidied up and set an example. Now, as an adult, I do have some help. And I also do a lot of straightening and cleaning. So even if my kids don’t have regular chores, I think they will still value and contribute to cleanliness. I hope. 🙂

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