A lot of people from Indian households may have been brought up with the responsibility of doing chores. The same people as parents, however, may struggle getting their own kids nowadays to do so. This could be because sometimes it may feel like your toddler is making more of a mess than helping out. Other times it could be because you think your teenager could be doing important things with their time like studying, doing homework or learning a new skill. Or perhaps the day is so busy and it’s just easier to get things done yourself than putting up with whining and grumbling in the house! However, your child could be missing out on a lot of benefits and opportunities that doing chores provides them with!
The many benefits of household chores
By expecting children to complete self-care tasks and to help with household chores, parents equip children with the skills to function independently in the outside world. Imagine an 8-year-old not able to walk to the kitchen and pour themselves a glass of water and fast forward to an 18-year-old not able to adjust with a roommate and keep their dorm room clean.
Neuropsychological research shows that those children who have a regular set of chores are better able to deal with frustration, delay gratification, sustain effort through a task and are better at self-monitoring. All of these contribute to greater success in school, work and relationships.
Often, in the Indian context, girls may be raised contributing more in the home chores than boys. Both boys and girls, however, can benefit from doing chores which can help them be independent in adulthood and have better mental health as well.
Chores and housework are linked to happiness in children as they feel they are making meaningful contributions to their families. Helping in the house is an opportunity for a child to feel useful and worthwhile, which builds self-esteem and resilience. This may be especially important at a time when your child may not be doing very well in another area of life and seeing their contribution to the home provides an opportunity for success and value, especially when this is coupled with the appreciation parents may add to it.
- Having a 5-year-old put his toys back in place or a 10-year-old tidying his room can help them develop organizational skills.
- Knowing that a pet has to be fed on time every day before school can help an 8-year-old learn time management skills and the meaning of responsibility.
- Expecting a child to keep their uniform ready and their bag packed for school before going down to play can help them learn to balance work and play.
- A teenager washing the dishes after a meal and seeing a parent grateful and relaxed can help them feel useful, contribute to a positive self-concept and increase family cohesion with the shared responsibility.
Perhaps a question that can sometimes plague parents is - How much responsibility is too much for my child? In this case it would be helpful to remember-
- Keep chores age appropriate: 3-year-olds can put toys and groceries in their correct place. 5-year-olds can help feed pets and help set and clear the table before and after meals. For these younger children, focus on small, manageable tasks. If they are eager to help you with some other work, as longs as it’s safe and won’t make them sick, allow them, even if they make more of a mess.7- to 9-year-olds can wipe tables and counters, put clothes away, sweep floors and arrange and organize their school things. 10- to 12-year-olds can change their sheets, clean their rooms and help out in the kitchen work. Teenagers can help in the house, manage errands outside the house and help out with younger siblings.
- Reward and reinforce good behaviour: Showing your children verbal appreciation and giving positive feedback by saying “Great job on that cleaning”, “I am happy you managed that difficult work”, “This was really helpful to me”, “I am proud of you completing this task” etc, can go a long way in instilling pride and purpose in your child and increases the chance of them repeating good behaviour. Some families set up a star chart in a common area in the home which the whole family can be a part of to divide responsibilities and encourage good behaviour. Children could earn privileges for completing their chores.
- Avoid using chores as a punishment: Using chores as a punishment may not be good in the long run. It does not give the child the feeling of doing something because it is the right thing to do or important. It only makes them detest chores even more. Chores should be used as a sense of purpose and value rather than as a consequence.
- Set clear and reasonable expectations: Establish regular routines with what is expected with your child, for example "Clean up before dinner" or “Homework before play”. Be consistent with your expectations.
At the end of the day, be a good role model. Children will learn better to help around the house when they see all other family members doing the same. Chores can instil in them the fact that they are capable of taking care of themselves and their surroundings. Having your children do chores at home can be a help to you … and is good for them too!