“One earns paradise with one’s daily task.”
– St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Do your children do chores? Or have daily/weekly responsibilities around the house? If not, then maybe they should!
Coming from a family with 10 children, you can probably imagine that we spend a lot of time feeding, clothing and cleaning up after our children. But what you might not realize is that every single child in our home, basically from the time they could walk, had some responsibility.
This was out of necessity – with 12 people in our home, we all needed to pitch in to make things work! – but also done with the goal of forming our children in mind.
This can be a sensitive topic. “Isn’t that child labor?!” or “Kids should be kids and not be required to do chores!” and “That’s child abuse!” are common negative responses when it comes to the topic of chores.
But when you truly understand that the home is the training ground for life and that children find satisfaction and dignity in their work, that perspective changes.
You might be thinking: but it’s so much easier to just do the chores myself.
That’s definitely true. But your lot in life is not to simply pick up after and feed your kids. Service is 100% a part of family life, but it’s meant for everyone. Part of your job as a parent is to form your children and prepare them for life as an adult. That includes being able to take care of themselves and serve those around them.
On the basic level, the purpose of chores is to assist in taking care of the family home.
But on a deeper level, chores provide an opportunity for children to develop a sense of pride in their work and purpose from a young age. In our experience, young children really enjoy being able to contribute and do something meaningful for the environment around them.
As children grow, responsibilities around the home allow them to hone their ability to focus on tasks, build confidence and create a sense of belonging to a unit that relies on each member for wellness. The ability to empathize with others and anticipate needs also grows as children take on responsibilities in your home!
All in all, giving children age-appropriate tasks (and helping them to succeed at them) not only forms your child but allows your family to form lasting bonds.
As you consider your children’s formation, of course, you’ll want to see them growing in confidence, focus, work ethic and pride in a job well done.
But giving them something that they’re not ready for or they really dread doing is a recipe for struggle. So how do you decide what task is good for what age?
First: Observe. Can your 18mo carry an empty plate? Could your 7yo help their 2yo sibling to get dressed in the morning? Does your teenager actually have the time to make dinner once a week around practice and homework?
Second: Model. If you see a task that you think your child might be ready for, show them how to do it. Invest your time in teaching them to do something. Yes, it will take more time than doing it yourself but remember, this is about forming your child. The investment is worth it.
Third: Practice. And don’t expect perfection right away. It can be hard to remember that your children are learning something for the very first time and that it takes a lot of repetition for them to be able to complete a task well. That’s okay. Give them the time and space to learn.
Fourth: Plan Ahead! Springing tasks on them may not go well, but giving warnings and setting expectations early will make things run much more smoothly.
For example, asking your teen right after they get home from school and their sports practice to make dinner or clean up their room is probably not the best plan. They’re tired and need to decompress. Instead, you could set the expectation that each teen makes dinner on a specific day of the week and rooms get cleaned sometime on Saturdays.
As you’re thinking about what your children could be tasked with, be sure to keep in mind their age and maturity. Your 4yo might be able to help her 2yo brother get dressed in the morning but not every 4yo could. Remember: you know your child best. Challenge them but also be realistic in what they can do for who they are right now.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Toddler Chores(18mo – 3yo): removing dishes from the table after meals, wiping spills, picking up toys, setting the table, getting dressed, washing hands, water plants, place dirty laundry in baskets (all with or without assistance depending on the child)
Preschool Chores (4-5yo): empty dishwasher, pick up room, fold and/or put away clothes, feed pets, chop vegetables/fruits, assist with simple meal prep, sweep floors
Early Childhood (6-8yo): assist younger siblings with daily tasks like dressing or brushing teeth, gardening, cleaning tasks (wiping mirrors, sinks, toilets, etc.)
Elementary (9-12yo): making simple meals alone, walking the dog, cleaning the kitchen after meals, vacuuming
Teenage years: mowing the lawn, minding younger siblings, washing the car, running short errands
Remember! It’s taken us a while, with lots of trial and error, to find something that works for us (and even then, we still make adjustments as our needs change!). So don’t be afraid to be creative and keep trying new things until you find a routine that works for you and your family!
If you want to hear more of our take on chores and your kids, check out our latest podcast right here.