An area of debate that is constantly raging between children and their parents is chores. Kids usually HATE being given chores as it sometimes reminds them of their lack of power and control, and solidifies the notion that it is their parents who are running the show. Chores are normally doled out by parents in an autocratic manner, and of course, children bristle as a result. Parents often take the point of view that chores are a necessary way of helping their kids to build character, while children invariably do not see the issue in the same way. As a psychologist, a relevant issue that comes up when I consult with parents is, “Which chores are appropriate for my kids, and how many should they have?” The answer is rooted in child development.
By the age of 3, kids begin to perform household chores. Naturally at this age, every aspect of the chore is supervised by their parents, but as early as age 3 kids begin to imitate their parents and “help” out with the household chores such as setting the table, or wiping down the counter. At this young age any chore should involve the mutual cooperation between adult and child, and as kids grow up parents should reduce their direct involvement in the chore’s completion. As kids grow up though, and their lives begin to revolve less around their parents and more around peers, and they no longer wish to imitate their parent’s household work. This is where the friction begins.
Just because a child does not want to do a chore does not mean that the parent should acquiesce to their child’s wishes. In fact, chores are an important facet of growing up and they teach a child to be responsible, accountable while instilling a sense of independence. Chores are fine for kids to do as long as they are age appropriate. Below is a guideline of age appropriate chores for kids:
Age 3-5: Focus on immediate self-care and imitation: dressing self, pick up own toys, help clear table. All should involve parental supervision
Age 6-8: Establish routines for self-care and expand tasks to include family welfare such as feeding pets, putting clothes in hamper, emptying the trash.
Age 9-11: Increase self management and skill level of chores: simple food preparation, sorting laundry, simple yard work, washing car, washing dog
Age 12 and higher: Focus on skills for independent living and responsibility: doing laundry, preparing more elaborate meals, higher level household cleaning such as mopping floor, use of cleaning solvents.
As the child gets closer and closer to age 18, focus the chores more and more upon tasks that the child will have to be responsible for when they move out of their parents house. This will help the child manage his/her anxiety about independent living while instilling feelings of self satisfaction and accomplishment.