Should children do chores?

As our family has grown, so my parenting style has changed.  Not least, my opinion on children and chores.

When my oldest two were very young and they were my only children, I believed in letting children be children.  My theory was that they would work enough when they grew older and childhood was for playing.  This resulted in me trying to clear up the trail of devastation they’d leave in their wake – often not successfully as they were quicker at making the mess than I was at tidying it.

As the family grew, I realised that I couldn’t continue that way of thinking any more.  Not only was it impractical to have three, four or five children creating a huge mess that I was expected to clear up, but it wasn’t doing them any favours in preparing them for adulthood.

I realised that there wasn’t going to be any kind of a lightbulb moment when a child hit the age of eighteen, whereby they would suddenly know how to cook a meal or make a bed or clean a toilet.  I was not preparing them for the future and I was not encouraging them to develop any kind of work ethic or sense of responsibility.



It wasn’t long before I worked out that even the youngest toddler could learn to put toys away into a box, or to put a book back on a shelf.  Any child can do an age appropriate chore and so that’s what I set about teaching them.

The results aren’t always going to be great.  Sometimes they’ll do something a little less than perfect because they’re kids and they are learning.  Other times they’re doing to do something less than perfect because they want to see if they can get away with it.  But they can be taught so many skills from early on in life.

Wiping cupboard doors and appliances, cleaning the dining chairs and table and buffing the windows are all things even the smallest ones can do.  Even learning to separate the colours from the whites for the laundry, and learning to operate the washing machine and dryer are skills that can be developed (though they also need to realise that those jobs must be done only when they are being supervised by mum or dad).

What are your thoughts on the subject of children and chores?  Do you believe that teaching them to work is equipping them for adult life or do you think, as I once did, that children should be children and that there will be enough time for them to work when they’re grown?


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23 thoughts on “Should children do chores?

  1. Kids and chores. I dont see any harm in giving them little jobs to do. When I was 16 my gran was ill in hospital, my mum was up there every day I cooked and cleaned the house for my brother and sister we all helped out. Ive tried to get my children to do things around the house. My 16 yr old knows how to wash her clothes cook simple things to eat. My 10 yr old is willing to was up ok not very good at it but she tries (she has learning difficulties), but my 13yr old and 9 yr old will both try and get out of doing anything and throw a fit if I ask them but I can manage to get my 9 yr old to do some things but the 13 yr old only if he wants something he will do chores. I feel that kids today grow up and dont know how to cook or cope with the basic things like how to use a washing. I feel chores dont hurt anybody how else will kids learn to do things, the only other thing I say is that I have tried to give my children chores suited for their age and when my 8 9th old is old enough I will teach him to do chores firstly it will be to put his toys away.

  2. I would love for my eldest 2 to help out with tidying their toys up. Like you, nine make more mess quicker than I can tidy it away. This in turn can also cause rows between my husband & I when he returns home & the house is still a mess!

    I’ve tried all sorts of bribes/games to try & encourage them but fear it’s too late for them!! However, our 14mth old will put her toys back in her box when asked!

    I think children doing chores is a good thing. It sets them up for having to work as an adult and for when they fly the nest! X

  3. I have seven children and all of them except the baby have to do chores. Stuff like washing up, hoovering, walking the dog, cleaning the bathroom. They are well aware that the house will fail to function if they don’t pull their weight and more than that, they appreciate that I as a person need to be able to achieve more in a day than just cooking and cleaning.

  4. I agree that kids need chores. It teaches them a lot about how to take care of themselves and take repsonsibility. I will admit though that sometimes getting them to do their chores is more work than doing it myself!

  5. Chores. It is a beautiful gift for them believe it or not. It teaches them to be less selfish in this day and age. Children of societies long before our own had children do chores. The house would fall apart if not everyone pulled their share.

  6. We are a huge fan of each child having chores! The house couldn’t run without them doing something…especially since I’m so sick…

  7. Hi!

    Our children don’t have “chores.”
    They are expected to pitch in though – simply because WE all are part of the family and WE all work and participate in the daily life of the family 😉

    But there aren’t any bribes or punishments associated with anything. When I need help with something. I simply ask a child “will you please…x or y?”

    Sometimes that can be carrying up groceries, emtying the washer, taking out trash, vacuuming, cooking something, minding the baby for a while, tidy up a room or anything else that needs to be done.

    I find that it works out just fine this way:)
    We only have 4 children of course, but I don’t see myself changing views on this even with more. We model that you help out as a natural thing and when something needs to be done, we just do it.

    I should say that we don’t do the “you made the mess you clean it up either” – I find that this teaches the children to care about their own messes only and doesn’t encourage a serving attitude. This goes for messes made accidentally or while playing – not for someone purposely dumping out all the legos on the kitchen floor for nothing, then I obviously sit with that person until the legos are back in the box 😉

  8. Children should do chores. This is the way they learn to help out, to realise that everything does not come on a plate and that living as part of a family , large or small involves everyone helping. As a child, I lived with just my mother, who I cared for from the age of nine, so I have little time for the people who say children should be children.
    We have five teenagers, and we both worked full time (until I went on maternity leave). I do not see what it teaches them for us to come home after long days at work, for us to chase around all evening whislt they sit for hours watching the TV or having ‘me’ time. That isn’t the way the world works, it is certainly not honouring your parents or training children in anything other than your parents will do everything for them.
    Sorry if this sounds harsh, as a teacher I have little time for children who are spoilt and pampered to these extreemes. It does them no favours.

  9. We have 8 going on 9 children and we call them “responsibilities”. Chores sounds like a punishment almost, not that there is a difference in activities, we just want to stress that cleaning up after ourselves is a responsibility, and not a “chore”.

    We have responsibilities as adults as well as children. If we make messes we need to clean them up. As a household we need to care for the house together, and together it is our responsibility to keep the house together, clean, and treat it kindly!

    1. I really like that, Sephia! I think we might adopt calling the chores “responsibilities” instead as well. It does sound better and has a feel of being more “grown up” and, let’s face it, what kid doesn’t want to be more grown up?!

    2. To me the problem with “chores” is that it’s mostly associated with charts – charts for who has to do what – and then sticker charts and such to “motivate”. I find that this too often teaches the child to self-focus rather than think of the whole picture (well, I don’t have to do THAT, that’s YOUR chore) and is often a source to learn to expect something in return, ie what’s-in-it-for-me? (this could be allowance money, an extra privilege or whatever…)

      Of course, most children do learn to pitch in regardless, with age and maturity – but I just find it nice to avoid the whole stick-and-carrot thing from the start.

      For those families where the system of chores works out, great – but children can actually learn to help out also without mandatory chores. Our oldest has never had anything she was required to do, and yet she is a most helpful and attentionate young girl. I suspect that all those times of seeing me just naturally pick up legos from the floor or carry pj’s to the laundry bin without making a big deal of it has paid off in some way, allowing her to now cheerfully pick up little sis’ dolls or doing the dishes when there’s a need 😉

      Just think it worth to mention, that kids do not necessarily turn out lazy spoiled because they don’t have traditional “chores” or are even required to do this or that. Perhaps it is more the general mentality behind that counts?

  10. I really do think it’s important to teach kids chores because it teaches them skills they need to survive when they first move out of the parental home.

    I was amazed when I first started university aged 18 the number of fellow freshers who not only couldn’t cook basic food for themselves, but didn’t know not to put metal in a microwave, not to wash dark red socks with bright white t-shirts and (I kid you not) that shopping doesn’t automatically appear in the cupboards. Our halls were bills included, (as in water, electric, gas) but I had a flatmate who thought that included food and toiletries too. Quite how he thought they’d know what to supply is beyond me. I suppose if you’ve never had to do or think about any of this stuff, how would you know about it?

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