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By Keisha Jackson, MSW – March 3, 2020 –

Chores. They can be defined as simple everyday tasks that few of us enjoy but all of us need to complete to keep a household running smoothly.  

It’s a given that adults in the household should do their part and lead by example.  However, when it comes to children and teens being assigned household chores, that’s when much debate comes into play.

Assigning your children chores can definitely take some stress off as a parent; however, it also can help build life skills and teach responsibility. Completing chores also helps kids feel as if they are part of the family team. Assigning younger children chores demonstrates that you trust them to complete a task.

Here are some age-based suggestions for chore assignments:

Preschoolers – Preschoolers can be given simple everyday chores, including picking up after themselves, placing their plate by the kitchen sink when finished with meals, and picking up their room when it becomes messy. Younger children respond well to rewards, so if your child struggles with picking up after themselves, encourage them with a reward system. Sticker charts, special dates to get ice cream or a trip to the park are just a few examples of rewards for kids this age. 

Elementary-age children – Once children begin to attend school their responsibilities increase, and they should take on more at home as well. Chores should also include picking up after themselves at this age. As your child grows older, gradually add more responsibility to their chore list.  As chores become more challenging or complex, give them your expectations. Teach them how to put away their clothes and where the dishes go after they are clean. Give them step-by-step instructions and encourage them along the way. Never expect perfection, especially for a new chore.

Teens – Your teen’s chores should help prepare them for the real world. Have them help you prepare dinner, do their laundry, and mow the grass. These life skills are important for your child to develop early in their teenage years so they can live independently when the time comes. Encourage your teen by giving them age-appropriate rewards. This could include giving them time to spend with their friends or giving them money for chores completed.

Assigning your children chores is important for teaching life skills and responsibility, and it can definitely help prepare them for the real world. If everyone pitches in the household runs more smoothly and kids feel they are part of the family team. Start laying out expectations when they are very young and gradually increase responsibility and rewards as they grow older. Chores are an essential part of daily living.

By Amy Steele, LCSW, LAC, RPT, February 12, 2019 –

Independence and self-reliance are valuable skills to equip children with as they grow. We want them to be able to take care of themselves and not have to rely on others meet their needs. 

To nurture and develop those skills we have to start early in childhood.  Starting as young as age 1 or 2, begin to give children small, simple tasks and encourage them in their efforts.  This takes consistency and day-to-day nurturing. It is not always easy and can sometimes be time consuming. 

Most parents can recall a time when doing something for their child was easier, quicker, or more peaceful than having the child do it.  Yet, each time we choose to do something for our child that they are capable of doing for themselves, we are taking away the chance for them to build confidence in their ability and learn important life skills on their way to independence and self-reliance.

Here are some tips for fostering independence in your child:

  • Consider opportunities. Identify tasks that are age-appropriate and safe (be sure to provide proper supervision when needed). Making a list of tasks can be helpful for you and your child.
  • Pre-plan to allow for extra time and the probability that there will be mistakes.  It’s easier for us to be calm and patient with the effort when we are not pressed for time.
  • Prioritize and go slow.  Pick one task at a time so your child isn’t overwhelmed.
  • Work together. Initially it may be good to share the task, especially if your child is resistant to the idea.
  • Give choices. Making choices is part of being independent. Allowing them to pick between two simple choices acceptable to you gives them pride and practice. (i.e. “Do you want to put the spoons or the forks out as we set the table?”)
  • Perfection is not the goal. Accept that it won’t be done as well as you could do it. If messes are made use it as another learning experience. Show your child how to clean it up with patience and understanding, assuring them that it happens to everyone.
  • Encourage problem solving. When questions come up, encourage them to come up with solutions to minor issues, even if they need to think about it a little, instead of rushing in and taking care of it for them.

Some appropriate tasks for children ages 2-3 include picking up toys and books, putting dirty laundry in the designated spot, throwing away trash, partially (working up to fully) dressing themselves, removing shoes and putting them away, and dusting with a sock on their hand. Kids ages 4-5 can make their bed, clean out things under their bed, feed pets, water plants, clear dishes from the table and wipe up their area.

At age 6-7 kids can sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, gather trash from different rooms, fold clothes and towels and match socks.  By 8-9 years of age kids can walk the dog, bring empty garbage cans up from the curb, sweep the porch, put groceries away, and tackle simple cooking and baking with parental supervision. 

Encouraging independence at a young age, not doing for your child what they can do for themselves, will build confidence and self-reliance that they can build on as they grow.

Child eating sandwich

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, Courier & Press, May 24, 2016 –

As a social worker in area schools, I frequently hear comments that our children are not being taught to be self-sufficient. Many preteen students I work with are not able to make their own lunch, do laundry, get up on their own for school, etc.

Listed below are 10 things children 11-14 should be expected to do, according to Elisabeth Stitt’s newsletter, “Joyful Parenting Coach.”

1. Get out of bed and get washed and dressed. If you still wake your 11-14 year old up for school, stop. They should be able to set their alarm, pick out school clothes and have good routines for washing and brushing their teeth. Your job as a parent is to support the school’s dress code and introduce them to good hygiene.

2. Make a simple breakfast. This can include fruit, cereal, toast, frozen waffles, etc. When they are 8-9, have your child work beside you and model making a simple breakfast.

3. Make their home and school lunches. If they prepare their own lunch, they may even be more likely to eat it.

4. Have everything they need when dropped off at school. Stop checking to see if they have everything in their backpack, and do not run back home to get a forgotten assignment. They are old enough to keep track of their belongings, including what homework needs to be completed and returned to school.

5. Do most of their own homework. Help your child set up a routine for doing their work. When they ask for help, encourage them and ask supportive questions. Give your child a chance to problem-solve on their own before assisting them.

6. Do chores such as light cooking and cleaning. Get your child involved in daily tasks, and they will have the pride of knowing they contributed positively to the family.

7. Choose their extracurricular activities. Parents often encourage children to try new things and participate in activities that will look good on a college application. Allow your child to participate in something they enjoy, and then encourage them to follow through and finish any activity they start.

8. Talk to their teacher to get clarification on work, ask for help or question grades received. Encourage your child to make the first effort to talk with their teacher before you make contact. This will build their communication skills and help when they move on to high school and college.

9. Understand basic money concepts. Children should be able to understand the concepts of saving, spending and keeping track of money. For more information you can visit daveramsey.com for tips.

10. Know basic directions to school, church, the store, etc. Children are often glued to their electronic devices in the back seat of the car and not paying attention to their surroundings. Being familiar with places they visit often will help teens learning to drive.

Setting expectations and teaching your child these lessons in middle school will give them more time to master them before high school. They will be armed with self-sufficiency and self-efficacy and ready to participate in the workforce and move onto college.

To set your kids free, assist them in being more self-sufficient. You will be glad you did.