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Chores: 4 Tips for a Family Investment

July 23, 2014

By Beth Wilson

Chores: 4 Tips for a Family Investment | A tween girl cleans the house windows.

Throughout my past two articles, 4 Tips on Assigning Age-Appropriate Chores and Paying Allowance for Chores, I shared my family’s experience with chores, from the types my kids performed to the incentives my husband and I provided. As a parent, it’s always nice to hear that you’re doing something right, and I found many parallels between my own experience and the research reported in Liz Wolf’s article, The Value of Chores for Children. To summarize, an associate professor performed an analysis of data collected between 1967 and 1993 on parenting styles and found that doing chores positively affects a child’s ability to become a well-adjusted adult in a significant way.

Not only do chores help children become well-adjusted adults, but doing them can help reduce overindulgence and increase family bonding experiences even into adulthood. Here are four tips on the best ways for your family to start doing chores and what my and other families have learned in the process.

Start early.
To develop the community mindset that we’re all in this together, start children on doing chores early, before the age of five. While none of my children were overly enthusiastic about doing housework, the two oldest, who were older when we started, were the least cooperative and struggled even into high school with poor attitudes.

Develop basic life skills to reduce stress and embarrassment.
I can still vividly recall my second child’s comment to me shortly after starting college, “Mom, you won’t believe how many kids don’t know how to do their own laundry!”

Don’t give allowance for doing household chores.
Receiving a few bucks’ cash for chores paled in comparison when my kids’ classmates received $20 allowances for doing nothing. “Daddy Bucks,” our privilege incentive, turned out to be the key motivator when the kids were younger.

Once school, sports, and real jobs limited their time, we closed their bedroom doors and leveraged privileges or the lack thereof as needed. Learning to manage money came later. One of my children told me, “I think I learned more about managing money when I was older by watching Mom plan monthly meals and groceries, and Dad balance his checkbook.” Remember that your weekly “adult” activities provide a great learning opportunity for your kids if you take time to teach them what you’re doing and why.

Help them succeed.
Having a child participate in chores is a predictor of success in later life. Yes, you read that right. In the parenting style study, the analyst draws this bold conclusion based on his review of the outcomes and all possible contributing factors. He found that adults who did chores when they were children were more likely to complete their educations, start on a career path, have valuable and strong family and friend relationships, and were less likely to use drugs.

My children are now adults ranging in age from 27 to 34 years old. They have all described our family as close. Two are married and each has a network of outstanding friends. All four of my kids have college degrees; one is a lawyer, two are working on graduate degrees, and all are gainfully employed in their career paths. Needless to say, my husband and I are very proud of the women and men they are.

Although there are a few things I would do differently, I firmly believe that the time spent implementing and maintaining a chore system was well worth the investment for my family. In the short term, my children were able to participate in a wide range of activities while growing up and tried new things. Our family was able to do things that we wouldn’t have otherwise had time for had the kids not helped out with chores. In the long term and most significantly, they were better prepared for success as adults.

This article is part three of a three-part series. Read the first in the series, 4 Tips on Assigning Age-Appropriate Chores, and the second, Paying Allowance for Chores.


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