You may have heard the benefits of chores, but here’s one compelling reason kids should have chores that is often overlooked.
There was always an excuse that held me back from having my kids load the dishwasher after meals.
I worried that the dishes might break and we’d have to fish broken glass shards out of the tiniest nooks. They might not rinse the dishes well enough in the sink, and end up clogging the dishwasher pipes. I even blamed how roughly they turned the faucet on and off, convinced they’d break it given enough time.
It wasn’t just the dishes, either.
I insisted on brushing their teeth, afraid that if I didn’t, they’d have cavities (never mind that they have yet to have one). And I made their beds each morning because I figured the large blankets would be too hard for them to handle on their own.
Given all this, I’ve actually made major strides when it comes to giving my kids daily chores and responsibilities. I knew that chores made them feel included in the family, offered a sense of accomplishment, and provided the routines they need to thrive.
And of course, what I had thought was then the most important reason to give kids chores: Because we’re raising future adults.
After all, no one wants their kids to be pampered for 18 years, only to enter adulthood not knowing how to do laundry or make toast. I wanted my kids to be self-sufficient, and I knew that starting sooner than later was the way to go.
The real reason kids should have chores
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Even with those benefits, I still found myself climbing bunk beds and loading the dishwasher. The excuses kept me from going “all in” on chores, assuming we’d tackle the issue down the line.
Except that all changed after reading the book, How to Be a Happier Parent by KJ Dell’Antonia.
You see, aspirational as the benefits of giving kids chores may have been, I was still driven by efficiency and accuracy. It’s hard to let your kids water the plants if you’re not sure they’ll remember or do it right (especially when you can do the chore 10 times faster).
But there was one reason that compelled me to see giving kids chores in a completely different way. And it’s this:
We give kids chores so we can do the things they can’t do.
By giving kids chores, we have more time to do the things that they can’t do yet. Dell’Antonia quotes pediatrician Dr. Deborah Gilboa who says she and her partner are freed up to do…
“…the things the kids can’t. They can’t pay the bills. They can’t mediate sibling disputes. The only way we have the time and energy to do those things is if we delegate some of the rest.”
Even simpler than paying the bills and mediating fights are the day-to-day tasks that my kids can’t do yet. They can wipe the dining table, put their clothes away, or clean the toilets, giving me time to buy groceries and cook dinner.
Not giving chores leads to straggled, unhappy parents
Because the only alternative is that we do everything—both the things the kids can and can’t do. We think we’re helping them by doing chores so they can do homework or attend soccer practice, but chores take priority even over those tasks.
And assuming all the tasks ourselves is inefficient. Imagine the boss of a company doing everything her employees can easily do, neglecting the high-level tasks reserved only for her. It sure isn’t going to make for a happy boss or a thriving business.
Yet here we are, overwhelmed parents trying to do it all instead of delegating teachable tasks to our kids.
And yes, there are costs or risks to giving them chores. We might have to accept a shoddily-made bed for several months while ignoring the temptation to redo those sheets. A bowl might break in the sink, and—let’s hope not—a cavity might form on their teeth.
But not only should we expect these mistakes to happen, we should welcome them as the necessary steps for them to learn. After all, they don’t master folding laundry by watching us fold or listening to instructions. They need to get in there and do it.
This “a-ha moment” has completely converted me into a chores-giver. Delegating tasks so I can focus on what my kids can’t do has gotten me to challenge and disprove long-held beliefs about their abilities.
So much so that now, before I start on any chore, I ask myself if they can do it themselves. This explains the trash bag still sitting by the front door waiting to be tossed, and the pile of clean clothes that hasn’t been put away.
From clearing the table to wiping the mirrors, if it’s something they can do, it’s theirs to do. And yes, that includes putting their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
Get more tips:
- What to Do when Your Kids Refuse to Do Chores
- 7 Surprising Benefits of Chores and Responsibilities
- 6 Useful Back to School Tips for Parents
- 4 Benefits of Teaching Kids Responsibility
- How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up After Themselves
Free printables: Struggling with getting your kids to do their chores? Want to develop good habits from the start? Join my newsletter and grab these Printable Chore List templates to help you and your kids organize chores! Get it below—at no cost to you: