Are chores by family members a good thing? Oh, yeah. They are not only a good thing, they are essential to family functioning and provide a sense of pride, responsibility, and accountability for all.
Ella is 18 months old. Older sister Jade is 5 and oldest brother Nate is 8. Some parents would give Ella a pass at her age regarding pitching in with chore completion. Not me. When children developmentally gain eye/hand coordination, depth perception, and gross motor control, they have the necessary skills to begin pitching in.
At first, of course, mom or dad need to help Ella put her stuffed animals in the toy box. Show her how, ask her to show you how. If she hesitates, make it a challenge with good ol’ reverse psychology, “I betcha can’t put that teddy in the toy box.” Then move to you put one away and then she puts one away. Then move to a challenging time frame. “I bet you can’t get all of these toys off your floor and in your toy box by the time I count ten.” Of course, heap on praise with success.
Jade is old enough to add emptying all trashcans to her list of chores. Approach her from a “big girl” perspective and that trash duty is her part of keeping the house neat and clean as a family.
Nate has already learned to try putting his chores off. “I’ll do it in a while…Let me finish this first…Joey wants me to come over and play. Can I do my chores after I get back?” The appropriate, healthy parent answers are “now,” “no,” and “no.”
All kids are more likely to accept their chore responsibilities if everyone is doing their part at the same time. Make Saturday morning’s family chore time. Put other activities contingent on chore completion first. If kids speed through their chores, check their quality and add a pitching in component to chores so that, helping out with others after completing your own is part of the family task.
Some parents attach monetary value to chore completion as incentive. I discourage that tactic, as it promotes divisiveness and expediency, while detracting from pride, cohesion, and family values. However, if kids want to propose contracts for non-chore jobs, such as grass-cutting, babysitting and the like, then I’m all for such initiative.
Some parents don’t want the hassle of kid complaining, dragging their feet, starting fights or other distractions from the task at hand. There is always resistance to something new. Use your active listening tools, get permission to give them your rationale, and make chore assignments a part of an initial family meeting to set the process up. Get feedback and give kids chore options, depending on age. Doing chores is not an option, but what you do as your chores can be negotiated.
Are chores a part of healthy family life? Oh, yeah. They build character, responsibility, pride, and family togetherness. Go for it.