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Children doing chores can lead to future successes

Superintendent looks back on how her chores helped foster sense of responsiblity

Published: April 22, 2015   
Vernell Bowen

The word “chore” can create all types of emotional connotations for adults and children. I can remember as a child my mother saying, “When your chores are completed you may ...” This meant I could choose my favorite pastimes.

Looking back on the chores assigned in my family of four siblings, such as picking up clothes, cleaning our rooms, feeding the animals on the farm, working in the garden and washing dishes, these tasks helped us to develop confidence in our ability to complete tasks. It helped me understand there are a lot of things you have to do that you might not want to do but that has to be done. This helps to develop the self-discipline that prepares us for the life skills we need to have success in the adult workforce. Self-discipline to complete chores that may be boring or not what you feel like doing transfers into having greater success with school work and even relationships.

There is disagreement on whether or not an allowance should be tied to completing chores. I don’t recall being compensated with pocket money (allowance) for completing my chores. It was more or less a delayed compensation of getting to do what I wanted to do at a later time. In today’s society where many expect immediate gratification, it is better not to tie a monetary reward to chores. Completing chores is more about contributing to something bigger, such as being a part of the family unit and helping the household to run smoothly. If there are siblings, it helps them to work together, to learn to compromise and teaches them to be more flexible. It is really forming community.

It is recommended that children receive an allowance, but this should not be tied to chores. Giving allowances is a good teaching tool for developing the skill of saving or what it takes to purchase items they really want. It is a way of teaching children financial management. We have to do a lot of things in life where we do not receive monetary rewards.

Assigning chores and following through is probably the most difficult for parents. Children will resist. Therefore, many parents find it easier to complete the tasks themselves or pay to have it done. Parents have to remember that young children and teens lack judgment in their ability to know how much work is involved in running a household. They are impulsive — wanting what they want when they want it. They are self-absorbed and mainly concerned about their own needs. It is helpful to hold a family meeting and to develop a list of chores that needs to be done on a weekly basis, assign specific chores, and give deadlines on completing the chores. All the school and afterschool activities need to be taken into account when developing timelines.

Here are some questions that may help develop a plan for assigning chores:

  • What chores do you want completed?
  • Are the chores already selected that best fit each of your children?
  • Are there life skills a particular child needs to learn?
  • Are you asking your children for input?

Research indicates that children who have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, are better able to deal with frustration and delayed gratification — all of which contribute to greater success in school. According to research by Mary Rossman, involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life.

“The best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were 3 or 4.”

As an adult, I am very appreciative of the chores assigned by my mom when I was young. I am confident that I can complete tasks whether they are difficult or ones I really don’t want to do, but know it is my responsibility. This makes life easier for my family and my co-workers. Parents, if you have not already assigned chores to your children, remember this is a great way to help develop a sense of self reliance and building community.

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