Self-reliance and self-confidence: these are among the most important qualities you can give your child. After all, your child won’t be dependent on you forever.
One of the best ways to cultivate these qualities is to give your children responsibilities, both around the house and in their lives in general. When children are required to do various tasks, they learn self-discipline, time management, empathy, and the consequences of actions.
The research on this subject is clear: kids who participate in household chores are more likely to succeed in school, careers, and personal relationships. Studies have shown that they are more responsible, have higher self-esteem, and are better able to manage feelings of frustration and delay gratification. Many adults could use more of these qualities.
Here are just some of the ways responsibilities can benefit children, as well as suggestions about how and when to involve your children in household tasks.
A 2002 study by Marty Rossmann of the University of Minnesota showed that young adults who started doing chores at 3 or 4 years old were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, experience success in academics and their career, and be self-sufficient, as compared with young adults who didn’t have chores when they were young or who started doing chores as teenagers.
In another study, Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that 80% of middle school and high school students polled indicated that they valued achievement and happiness more than caring for others. However, research suggests that happiness often comes from strong relationships, not from high achievement. He says a good way to recalibrate young people’s priorities is by emphasizing the importance of being helpful and kind at home. Household tasks are a way to achieve this.
Keep in mind that the type of tasks matters. If you want to cultivate behavior like empathy, your child’s tasks should be routine and centered around taking care of the family as a whole (washing everyone’s dishes or vacuuming the living room floor) as opposed to just caring for himself (keeping his room clean).
It’s important that children have opportunities to show that they are responsible for their actions, their schoolwork, and the relationships in their life. To be responsible means you are trusted, you can make decisions, and you can face the consequences for your behavior.
Chores are a great way to teach children responsibility. However, it’s important that chores are not a form of punishment; rather, they’re a way to help the family. Try to give your child many opportunities to be responsible and model responsible behavior for them. Encourage your child and be positive about chores, and help them but don’t do the work for them. Through household tasks children start to see themselves as vital contributors to the family, making them feel more responsible, and also making them more responsible.
Research also suggests that external rewards such as an allowance can lower a child’s intrinsic motivation and performance; psychologists say giving children money for completing chores can reduce their motivation to help. Ideally, you want your child to develop a sense of intrinsic satisfaction and do chores as an act of altruism, rather than a means to a reward.
Activities such as putting groceries away and digging in the garden promote large motor development, while fine motor development can be encouraged through activities like peeling an orange. Hands-on learning is an important part of brain development in childhood. Children who regularly manipulate object with their hands and do simple math in tasks such as following a recipe are better able to understand abstract mathematical concepts when they’re introduced later. Movement-related tasks such as these are also linked to the brain development needed for reading and writing.
Therefore, chores can also help a child’s brain development.