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Children’s chores

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

If it feels like you are the one bearing the brunt of domestic chores in your home it may be time to share the load - with your children.

Giving kids chores not only lightens your workload, it also encourages teamwork and discipline. They get to understand they are an important cog in the family wheel.

It also makes them realise that you aren’t there just to pick-up and clean after them, so it eases any frustration you may have about being taken for granted.

"Most of the problem here arises from the words we use. There's a big emotional difference between 'doing chores' and just 'helping out' around the house," says parenting guru Liz Fraser.

It’s good for them to help out

"Chores are a normal part of everyday life and it is important that children learn to understand this as young as possible," says Sarah Ockwell-Smith author of ToddlerCalm. "Children need to understand that they are expected to contribute to all parts of family life," she adds.

Chores may make them consider the time you spend on keeping the home clean and tidy. They may be a little more thoughtful, perhaps even putting their dirty washing in the laundry basket rather than just chucking it in a pile on their bedroom floor.

Children are pretty egocentric on the whole and think about themselves a lot of the time but they also like to receive praise for their actions. So doing chores gives them the opportunity to be helpful and do something for a collective rather than just themselves.

It’s good for a child’s self-esteem to be given a task to do and for them to do it successfully - even if it’s making their bed.

Chores give a child confidence in their own abilities and teach them the domestic skills they’ll need in later life, like using the washing machine, vacuuming and cleaning the loo. They may not always want to do them but to be honest which of us really relishes them?

"It also teaches them responsibility, and how to look after themselves, and others," says Liz who’s also the author of Lifeshambles, about the Middle Years of Parenting. "It's not an imposition or cruel, these are crucial life skills, not least in how to not be a really spoiled, selfish brat!"

How to work it

Not many kids will be chomping at the bit to help around the house, but if you start early and then make a list of chores that need to be done and by whom they’ll soon come to accept it as a part of life rather than something to try to shirk out of.

Don’t expect perfection from your children. It may be hard to resist shooing them out of the way and doing the job yourself, as you will do it better and more quickly. But the children will never learn to do it if they aren’t given a chance to try.

You wouldn’t expect your three year old to be defrosting the freezer or cleaning the oven so make chores appropriate to their age.

"Expecting children to engage in age appropriate chores from toddlerhood onwards helps to avoid any battles about chores later in life," says Sarah. "If the child sees their chores as an everyday expectation you are likely to experience a harmonious household for as long as they live with you."

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