If you want your kids to be kind, studious and compassionate people who are good to their peers, you should model great social behavior, you should set aside plenty of time for studies and support them as needed, and you should pay close attention to their sense of contentment.
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Also, you need to have your children do plenty of chores. That’s the conclusion of a survey of nearly 10,000 children in their early elementary school years: the kids who were held responsible for doing a number of chores at home while at kindergarten age were more socially well-developed, were better students, and were overall more satisfied with life by the time they reached third grade.
How can such a direct correlation be the case? Another way to think of it is… how can it not?
Chores Teach Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Can Instil Pride
We all like being part of a team but, more to the point, we like feeling like a valued member of that team, and the way to be and feel valued is to genuinely offer some value to the group. For kids in their kindergarten and early elementary school years, the primary “team” is the home, and to be a contributing member of that team (AKA the family) requires some guidance from the parents (or primary caregivers).
While kids will feel satisfied by the proverbial “job well done” when they do chores, they’ll need to be guided as the chores are implemented.
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Once they are, though, household chores provide a means for kids to achieve something that youth rarely permits: self-sufficiency. Children who are tasked with household chores will grow to feel that they are instead trusted with these duties, not tasked at all, per say.
When a child is praised for a good test score or a fine performance in a school play, that can give them a momentary sense of pleasure. When he or she can tell they are genuinely appreciated for their regular contributions to the home, that can create a lasting sense of innate responsibility. It can help them begin to become the kind of person who takes care of needs in their own lives and who other people look to as someone they can count on and respect.
Why Parents Often Fail to Hold Kids Accountable for Chores
You know the old expression that goes along the lines of “if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself,” right? Well, when it comes to a child’s chores, that advice could hardly be less accurate. Yes, when you ask a kid to set the table before a meal or clear the dishes after dinner, the task will take longer. And yes, there may be more spills and messes and in the end more work made for the parents. The fact that kids take longer to do many things and do them less effectively is one reason parents may fail to hold a child accountable for chores. But how else will they learn?
The second reason parents may not implement responsibilities is because, frankly speaking, it can be tough to do so. Kids who have not previously had to do chores may push back against their new duties, showing defiance or throwing tantrums.
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Sticking with it takes dedication and sometimes a stern hand, but with a stern but caring approach, the new chore regimen will eventually take hold and will eventually be commonplace and perhaps even a source of pride as the child contributes to the home.
Third, some parents may not compel kids to do chores because they want their children to have the happiest, easiest, most care-free childhood they can, thinking how hard life can be in adulthood, so why put these burdens on them now? This is the exact wrong approach for caring, loving parents, even if they mean well, though, as it actually sets kids up for challenges and failure later in life.
Set Kids Up for Success With Manageable Chores
So you are sold on the benefits of having kids in their kindergarten and early elementary school years doing chores around the house? That’s good, but only as long as you commence the new routine properly. You do not have to – and should not – implement a grueling new chore routine overnight, suddenly asking your kid to take out the trash, water the pants, feed the fish, collect the laundry, and so forth.
Let’s use setting the table as our example, though this staggered approach can be used much more broadly. If your goal is for the child (or children) to set the entire table, start with just the napkins. Then, after a week of that (or whenever the child shows competency), add in the silverware placement. Soon, you can also have the kid putting out drinks and, soon after that, even bringing plates and bowls of food to the table. Slowly allowing the chore to expand helps ensure success and makes it seem like less of a burden and more of an everyday thing.
Also, note that you should never impart a chore to a kid that may be a matter of safety or genuine necessity for the home. Younger kids should not walk the dog alone, for example, or tend to any cooking task involving heat or sharp knives, or be solely responsible for feeding pets, or any other such task that, left undone or done improperly, could create a real problem for the household. The point is to teach responsibility and self-sufficiency, not to force responsibility on them that may backfire, causing shame or trauma if the tasks are unfulfilled.
Trust us – your kids will eventually be grateful you made them do a bit of work!
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