Don’t feel guilty! Chores are actually GOOD for children. There’s enormous value in having your children help around the house.
First, understand that it’s not about having a cleaner house. (That’s just a happy by-product.) Getting your children to do chores is about instilling a work ethic. It’s about teaching important life skills. It’s about having your children understand that everyone has to do their part. It’s about learning that in life you frequently have to do stuff you don’t want to — and you need to do it with a good attitude. It’s all about building character.
Reason #1: Learning a Strong Work Ethic
If you want your children to be responsible and successful in life, teach them to work. While there are many other factors that contribute to success, hard work is at the top of the list. Read almost any biography of a successful person, and you’ll find the common denominator among them all is hard work. And most of them started working at a very early age. Of course, do everything in moderation. While children need to be taught a strong work ethic, they also need time to play and be kids. But there’s plenty of time in the day to do both.
Reason #2: Learning to Help Others
One of the most important lessons I wanted to teach my boys was that helping others is the kind thing to do. It is NOT NICE to make someone else do all the work. It’s rude and selfish. It’s rude to expect your mother and/or father to do all the work. It’s rude to make future roommates, coworkers, and spouses do all the work.
Our children need to learn that everyone has to do their part. Otherwise, they grow up spoiled with a sense of entitlement. We want our children to grow up to be productive, not a burden to society or the family.
My mother constantly reminded me, “Many hands make light work.” By having everyone contribute to the household chores, the workload will be done faster and moms and dads will have more time to play and interact with their kids. An added bonus to having your kids help out is your children will have a better appreciation of all the work you do around the house.
That attitude of helping others has continued as my sons have grown. Every summer, Hunter takes a week’s vacation to be a counselor at a Foster Kids Camp. Skyler has been a Big Brother to a fatherless boy for the past three years. They both frequently volunteer to do community service like paint and repair inner city schools, raise money for the Children’s Hospital, etc. When you teach your kids to quit focusing on themselves and instead think how they can help others, it’s an attitude that hopefully will carry on for a lifetime.
Reason #3: Learning Life Lessons
One of the best life lessons I ever taught my sons was that quite often in life you just have to do things you don’t want to do. This is a must-learn life skill in order to be prepared for the real world.
As an adult, the reality of your day is constantly doing things you’d rather not do. You have to get up early, go to work, pay the bills, feed your kids, mow the lawn, etc. Most of us would much rather lie on the couch and watch TV. But as responsible adults, we just can’t do that. We need to teach our kids that it doesn’t matter if they feel like helping or not. It’s the right thing to do. If you don’t teach them they have to do things they don’t want to do, what happens when they go to school and have a boring or difficult assignment? What happens when they get a job and they don’t want to get up and go? It’s not a fun lesson to learn, but not learning it will make for a very depressing adulthood.
Reason #4: Learning Life Skills
You wouldn’t think it would take much skill to load a dishwasher or sort the laundry, but have you ever watched anyone who’s never done it? (I’m thinking of my husband here. How could a man so smart not know how to load a dishwasher?) My sons were amazed at the number of girls in college who didn’t know how to do laundry. These girls would literally take their laundry home and have their moms do it.
Knowing how to clean the bathroom and mop the floors is a knowledge that is not instinctive. Domestic skills must be taught and practiced. So think about all the skills needed to run a household, and then make sure your children have had enough experience and practice that they could do them on their own.
Reason #5: Learning to Be Orderly
Let’s face it. Most people would like to live in a clean, orderly home. An organized, uncluttered house brings peace and tranquility to a home. A dirty, disorganized house creates stress.
Even though some people claim that a clean home is unimportant, I think deep down they would love it. When I met my husband, he had been living on his own for 20 years. His house was disgusting, and he seemingly didn’t care. He constantly commented how living in a clean house didn’t matter to him. However, once we got married, he suddenly realized that he really liked living in a clean house!
While sadly it was too late to do much about him, I was determined that I didn’t want my sons to grow up like him in the area of cleanliness. I wanted to get them into a habit of daily and weekly cleaning. I wanted them to know that it’s not okay to watch football all weekend. There were household duties that needed to be done. I wanted them to be in the habit that on the weekends you do your work before you play. I wanted them to be in the habit that you clean up after you eat. When you’re in the routine and habit of cleaning up, it’s just becomes a part of life.
So the next time you feel guilty when you ask for help, don’t. You’re building character!
Learn more about getting your children to help around the house with my book How to Get Your Children to Clean Their Rooms Using Rubric Rules: A Teacher’s Strategy.