Never in all my years would I have dreamed a simple post on children’s chores would stir up so much controversy. But here we are, with highly opinionated readers weighing in on both sides of the issue.
Many folks know instinctively that doing chores is good for children. Parents do their children no favors by attending to all the chores themselves while the kids play. Chores teach life skills, build confidence, contribute to family living, and prepare kids for eventual independence.
Plus, when a child gains competence and experience in one area, it often improves his performance and willingness to try in other areas. These are all good things, and several readers noted even more positive effects of incorporating kids’ help with household duties, as detailed below.
Benefits of assigning age-appropriate chores to children:
- Chores “give children a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership in the world.”
- Chores “teach responsibility and independence.”
- Chores “enable kids to meet the challenges they’ll face through life.”
- Chores help “develop self-esteem and prepare children for the future. It takes a lot of training to become a competent adult. When are they supposed to learn this?”
- Chores “teach teamwork.”
- Chores teach children “how to manage their time and be accountable for themselves.”
- Chores give children “the joy of doing a good job and of helping others. Children who know they are helpful to those they love are ones who understand that they can make the world a better place.”
- Chores combat “laziness, self-centeredness,” and “feelings of entitlement.”
- Chores “turn children into good, productive, hard-working citizens.”
- Chores make kids “feel important in the family structure.”
- Chores give kids an opportunity to “learn through participation. Children gain confidence by mastering new skills, especially skills they perceive as ‘grown-up.’”
- Chores give children “hands-on job training for life!”
- Chores serve to “instill a strong work ethic. Children are more capable than a lot of people think.”
- Chores show children “they can be competent and can do tasks well. We should teach them that while they’re young — they won’t magically learn it when they grow up.”
Several readers noted that children can often do far more than adults give them credit for. Many youngsters are eager and willing to take on real responsibilities and derive a lot of pride and satisfaction from rising to a challenge. We handicap our children when we don’t take time to teach them the life skills they’ll need to succeed as adults.
Those with an opposing viewpoint weigh in:
I suspect some of these objections may have come from kids rather than adults — maybe even kids who didn’t like the fact their parents had printed off my list and were now requiring them to pitch in. 😉
A boy named Alexander got right to the point: “This is bull crap.”
He may be right, but as every good gardener knows, cow manure is just the thing for helping young plants grow big and strong. And having regular chores does the same thing for children.
A few readers insisted I’m robbing my kids of their childhood (by asking them to make their bed or set the table each day). Others left comments like:
- “Slavery was abolished long time ago!”
- “This list is an invasion of a child’s life. [Chores] are the parents responsibility. If you don’t [want to clean up the messes], you should not have had so many children.”
- “I love people who have children just so they can make them do chores. I’m so glad I only had to take care of my own [stuff] as a child and not clean up after lazy parents who CHOSE to have children.”
- “Chores are too much. Let kids be kids.”
- “This list is a bit overboard. Try birth control.”
- “Kids who are required to do chores are likely to become OCD about being clean all the time.”
- “If we require our children to do all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and yard work by the time they’re 12, what exactly do they need us for?”
- “I do not agree with this list at all. My children are my reaponsibility [sic], I am their mom and therefor [sic] it is my job to care for them.”
- “Making your children into your personal slaves does not make them better people or more productive humans.”
But of all the criticisms and controversy over children’s chores this post received, the most bizarre (and our personal favorite) came from a guy named Ryan:
I can’t even begin to explain how I disagree… This is not age appropriate. What is it, Shrute Farms? That’s crazy talk like you would find while watching The Office.
Well, folks have called us crazy and made unfavorable comparisons before, but Ryan was the first to ever put us in a category with Dwight Schrute. That made us laugh out loud! I can only imagine how Dwight might have responded:
Then again, maybe Ryan wasn’t so far off in his estimation of our family after all. We don’t own a beet farm, but we do love beets!
Just last week, when the garbage disposal under my kitchen sink sprang a leak, one of our very capable, chore-loving sons offered to install a new one for me. Our 7-year-old tagged along with her older brother to the hardware store when he went to buy the necessary supplies, and she came back home with some supplies of her own:
Beet seeds! She can hardly wait to plant them this spring, and the rest of us can hardly wait to eat the fruit of her labors!
Oh, and my new garbage disposal? It works like a charm. My son did a much cleaner, neater, more conscientious job with his installation than the “professionals” had done on the unit he was replacing. That’s precisely the kind of confidence and initiative having regular chores from a young age inspires. You can call it slavery if you want. I call it empowerment.
As one of my readers put it so eloquently, parents need to consider what they’re trying to do — “raise considerate, functioning, independent adults or whining, oversized, bottle-fed babies” — then adjust their approach to accomplish the goal!
So now I’d love for you to weigh in? Do you think a parent who requires her children to do chores is robbing them of their childhood? Or are you as baffled by this controversy over children’s chores as I am?