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5 Great Reasons to Incorporate Chores into Your Family’s Life

Spring is here! What’s on my mind? Spring cleaning, of course. Every year when the leaves begin to show their shimmering green and the flowers are in bloom, I clean out closets, wash the baseboards and do a deep cleaning of the whole house. We all know this can be a big job. In the course of a year, if we keep up a weekly housekeeping routine, spring cleaning isn’t quite so ominous. When we do chores, also known as “domestic arts,” this activity usually includes the whole family – at least, it is most productive and beneficial when all participate. You may wonder when children are old enough to pitch in. And do they need to? When we clean up after and care for our children, we show them how much we love and support them, right? Not really. More likely, we are teaching them to expect that others will do for them. I can hear my own thoughts from when my children were younger, “It’s just easier for me to do it. It will get done well, and I won’t have to feel like a nag.” These short-sighted thoughts create children who won’t learn to do for themselves and others. Thankfully I listened to my intuition, didn’t become a slave to my children’s needs, and they grew up to be responsible, thoughtful adults!

Here are 5 great reasons to incorporate chores into your family’s life:

1. Work Ethics – Regular chores teach responsibility, service, and independence, which helps build a confident, highly-capable adult. This is what we want, isn’t it? However, it is surprising how many children grow up, head out into the world, and don’t know how to do a load of laundry. A recent (and shocking) example I heard was of a college student who didn’t know how to change a lightbulb!

2. Creating Closer Families and New Skills – Beginning as young as 12 months, little children love to help! Start by teaching independence, such as dressing/undressing, and adding simple tasks, such as having them help put their toys away. As they grow, young children can unload the dishwasher, use a small broom and dustpan, put away their laundry, and set/clear the table. Children thrive being with others, and helping allows them to be close and learn something new. Children imitate, and they must do things over and over to master a new skill. As long as this is done with joy and some fun, they will continue to help. By ages 2-3, children can perform tasks independently with a parent in close proximity.

3. Children Can Do It – Do not underestimate what your child can do. Work with your child when preparing meals and cleaning. Be present – it is a gift to your child! Have some fun by singing, telling jokes, or listening to music. And remind your children that when the chores are done, they can ____ (play with their friends, go to the park, etc.). There can be natural consequences to not finishing, such as being unable to hang out with friends or spending time on computers/phones until the work is complete. We are part of a family, and we all pull our weight in caring for our home and belongings.

4. Rhythm Brings Joy – It helps to have a rhythm (see blog titled “The Importance of Rhythm for Young Children and Families”). This means having chores done after dinner each night, for example. This is often a time that everyone can pitch in, working together cheerfully as a team. Emphasis on “cheerfully” because when we can find our happy place inside, children feel that and can reach down to find their cheer as well. Some may think, “We have regular chores, but I still have to nag!” Be sure to have your children do their chores at the same time of day and/or on the same day each week. In the words of Barbara Klocek, “Establishing rhythm in activities is an essential tool for the parent. Doing the same thing at the same time each day or week soon becomes an intrinsic part of our life. We do not need to summon the energy needed to initiate it each time. In the realm of chores, rhythm is a magical and effective tool. If one can establish a specific, consistent pattern for doing chores, the children’s resistance and the parents’ need to nag will largely disappear.”

5. Older Children Can Handle More Chores – Add morning and weekend chores as your children get older. Morning chores may include making the bed, packing a lunch, and/or feeding a pet. If you have two or more children, it is best to rotate chores so nobody feels they have more to do than the others. Try a Saturday morning routine of 30-40 minutes of cleaning where everyone in the house pitches in! Chores can include vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, etc. Remember, keep smiling (even through the complaining!), knowing you are creating healthy habits that will serve your children for a lifetime.

Would you like to read more about the importance of teaching chores? Here are some great links:

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