A collective groan arises at the mere mention of the word…chores. Why do we, as parents, encourage (or even pull out our hair the umpteenth time we remind) our children to engage in chores? Of course, we want them to learn the skills necessary for running a household and increasing their sense of competency and independence at the same time. We also want them to learn the responsibility of being an active part of a home. We also want to give them the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the home, increasing their sense of worth and value.
But there is another reason children and parents benefit from chores. A survey of 2,000 people in the Americas revealed that children who participated in chores also had a stronger relationship with their parents as adults. Specifically, one in four said chores helped them bond with their parents. Sixty percent of people found comfort in completing household tasks the way they learned from their parents.
In other words, parents encourage children to complete chores with the future in mind—a future in which their adult children have a more positive relationship with them and one in which their adult children find comfort in household routines. But I don’t believe that simply making children do work for us around the house will have this positive future effect. No. There are at least two caveats to these important goals.
- Do chores with your children. Make the completion of household tasks a family matter. Set the table together. Take out the garbage together. Clean the house together. Do yardwork together. You may have some tasks you do alone. Your children may also have some tasks they do alone (like making their bed or keeping their room clean). However, doing tasks with your children gives you the opportunity to teach them how to do the task. Even better, it provides the opportunity for you to converse with your child. In the conversation you can learn about them, and they can learn about you. In addition, you and your children will have the pleasure of looking at a task completed together after sharing time doing the task. In other words, doing household tasks together nurtures a relationship that will last a lifetime.
- Make sure the household tasks your child completes are meaningful. Children, especially as they move into their teen years, need to know the work they do has purpose and meaning. They don’t want to do a meaningless job (like folding underwear or ironing sheets) simply to do a job. They want a job with purpose and meaning. Give them meaningful tasks that serve a purpose in your home and explain the significance of the task while you do it together.
As you complete meaningful household chores with your children, you’ll develop a positive relationship that will last a lifetime. That, I believe, may be the most important household task for any family to complete.