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Chores – Are they a key to a child’s self-esteem?

In a word, ”YES,” but let’s look at the issue more carefully…

1. What are the actual benefits of Chores?

Research shows that children who have chores experience higher self-esteem, are better able to deal with frustration and delayed gratification, are more responsible and usually perform better in school.  Some say that young adults’ success is tied to whether they participated in household tasks as young children.

In 2015, Martin Rossman, MD, reported study results showing the following from parents’ reports of kids who were required to perform household chores versus those who were not:

87% report their kids are doing well in school, vs. 61% of parents who do not require chores.
92% report their kids are creative, vs. 80% of parents who do not require chores.
88% regard their kids as responsible, vs. 63% of parents who do not require chores.
92% regard their kids as disciplined, vs. 78% of parents who do not require chores.

2. How do chores help kids develop life skills and self-esteem?

When kids participate in chores, they feel important and recognize that they add value to the family.  They develop awareness that by taking on responsibilities, they feel happy when they meet their obligations and complete tasks, along with the recognition and praise from important people in their lives. Children also learn that there are various ways to succeed; not just by getting good grades in school and doing well on the sports or dance team, but also, by participating and helping out the family.

One of the important causes of over-indulged, spoiled children is when parents do too much for their children and do not expect enough of them.

3. How do we assign chores?

Children model after their parents and your attitude about your chores sets the tone for the way your children will approach theirs.  When parents approach their chores with commitment, patience and humor, the children will see that as normal and learn to approach their own chores similarly.

Barbara Coloroso suggests in her book, Kids Are Worth It, “…You can send the message that chores are a bore and something to be avoided at all costs or conversely, you can send the message that these are the tasks that need to be completed in order for your household to run smoothly and that everyone in the family is encouraged and expected to participate.”

By the age of three, children can learn to hang their jackets on hooks, smooth their bed covers, sort laundry, place napkins on the table, and help retrieve items needed by other members of the family. Consider chores you want done in the home that are meaningful, and appropriate for the age and developmental ability of the child. Remember, the importance of the task is not as critical as the sense of responsibility the child feels by the accomplishment.

4. Should allowance be tied to chores?

There is disagreement over this question and parents have to decide what works best for them and their family values related to money.  Some believe that money is an incentive and shows the child that there is a reward for a job well done. Others believe that helping the family with the performance of chores is expected by every family member and there should be no monetary reward for accomplishing tasks that help the family function more smoothly.  In the latter, allowance may take on another function, and may be related to teaching children to save and budget without an association to household chores.

Each family must decide whether they believe there should be a monetary reward to accomplishing household chores or not. It is most important that both parents agree on the plan and adhere to it as a team.

In summary, your children will not thank you or feel grateful for having chores, but the long-term lessons about responsibility and participation will have terrific pay-offs later in life!

Lori Kanat Edelson, LMSW, LMFT, is a Clinical Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist.  She is the Owner and Director of Birmingham Maple Clinic, an outpatient mental health clinic in Troy, Michigan, serving families and individuals in the community since 1972.

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Birmingham Maple Clinic | Michigan Mental Health