Remember that scene from Mary Poppins where the toys go marching right into the toy chest and the clothes neatly fold themselves into the closet?
Why can’t real life be like that?
While we don’t have Mary Poppins’ super powers, some of us do have helpers in our families who can help with the house chores – our children.
But the question is: Should you get your children to help with the household chores?
According to child psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, “Parents feel very conflicted about getting their kids involved in housework”. There has been a considerable amount of debate of whether children should do household chores or not.
On the one hand, you’re teaching them valuable life skills and how to function in group settings. On the other hand, you’re taking them away from valuable sports/activity time and homework time that develops their creativity and reinforces what they learn in school, respectively.
So what’s a parent to do?
Let’s take a look at reasons why we should and why we shouldn’t get our kids to help with the house chores.
Reasons Children should do Household Chores
Creating Good Habits
Doing household chores help children learn a variety of valuable life skills such as being responsible and teaching them to be independent. When children know they are in charge of something and that people are relying on them, they are more likely to follow through. It also helps lay down a foundation of creating good habits, according to Kidz Edge Magazine.
To help your child develop these good habits, start off with one good habit that they can easily do, like making their bed every morning. Followed consistently for about 6 weeks the habit will be made, and you can decide if they’re ready for another one.
Developing an Appreciation
“Children learn the value of work and learn to love it or learn the importance of it by doing it over and over again,” says Mique of the popular mommy blog Thirty Handmade Days. When they start doing things and realize the amount of work involved, they start to have appreciation for it. When they dirty a dish, they start to realize that someone has to clean it. Or if for example, they clean a floor and someone walks over it with dirty shoes, it’s frustrating. Once they see that and realize it, they begin to form an appreciation.
Learning To Work With Others
Cleaning as a family helps children learn about family relationships and how their family functions. When children are given a role it makes them feel rooted and as a result they feel more secure. Well known child psychologist, Annye Rothenberg, believes that doing household chores at a young age “creates great value as a way to help children internalize the standard of working hard at a job, developing a work ethic. It also makes a child feel important and gives them a sense of confidence. “
Reasons Children should not do Household Chores
I’m sure all of you have heard “YOLO” (you only live once), well, some people also say “YOYO”.
No I’m not talking about that toy with a long string attached to it. The YOYO I’m referring to means, “You’re Only Young Once” (if you still have questions, ask your kids).
Nowadays, more and more parents are starting to believe that their children should not have to do household chores because they believe their child’s free time should be reserved for playtime.
With their children’s already busy schedule including school, sports, homework, and other extracurricular activities like piano or dance, many parents worry that adding household chores will just overload them.
They already don’t have much free time as it is, so is it right to take away that precious play time? Should we make them spend what little free time they have washing dishes or vacuuming floors?
Some parents feel that school work should be a priority and chores take time away from more important lessons.
Not Enough Sleep
Lisa Flam says that many parents worry if their children are getting enough sleep. Some parents are concerned about whether their children are overwhelmed with all the things they’re responsible for and whether or not they’re dealing with it in a healthy manner. This causes them to worry about adding housework to their children’s burden, already so heavy with school, sports and other activities.
Time to Discover Themselves
Some argue that if your children’s free time is spent cleaning the house, then that’s what they’ll become good at in life. This comes down to, do you want your children to become great housekeepers? If the children’s free time is spent cleaning, how will they develop any other qualities if they are not given the chance to explore? The argument here is that if their free time is spent cleaning, then they will have no time to develop any other interests and hobbies that they actually would like, instead would just be great cleaners.
Others argue that since kids spend so much time with school, schoolwork, and school related activities, it’s a good idea to let them do what they want in their free time to discover themselves which will help them in the future for making decisions as well.
According to a Public Health Report done in 2005, a child’s perception may not be the most reliable guide. They may not know if something is harmful for them or not and may fail to perceive harm when it is present.
For example, being around potentially dangerous items (such as knives and hot pans or toxic chemicals) or carrying heavy loads can harm a child, possibly very badly.
Causes More Work For the Parents
Having children do household chores may also be very time consuming for the parents. The parents have to show them what to do, how to do it, and watch them while they’re cleaning so they don’t hurt themselves. Coming up with a chore plan, scheduling time for chores, and checking what was done can all be very time consuming.
While I agree that kids should be kids, I think it’s important that children should learn some responsibility at a young age. I wouldn’t suggest working them hard for a lengthy time, but I would give them a couple things to do while making sure they still have free time for themselves.
Have them look after themselves at a young age and be consistent so that when they grow up these chores will already be good habits that they don’t have to re-learn.
Let them do things like pick up after themselves, put their toys back where they belong, make their beds, put their clothes away etc.
And to make it easier on you, try making chores fun for them. Children love to dress up and act so get a small apron, a small duster, and a mini vacuum, and let them “play” while they’re cleaning.
I feel that helping out around the house at a young age can have many benefits like the beginning of this blog suggests; such as learning to be responsible and independent. I’m a bit of a neat freak so to me, it’s just great hygiene!