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How Chores Are an Essential Part of Childhood

How chores are an essential part of childhood and how co-parents can teach kids responsibility in the household.

Vacuuming, cleaning your bedroom, emptying the dishwasher, and mowing the lawn... These are just a few of the many household chores to get done. Who does them in your house? Do the kids help?

According to research cited in Psychology Today, children feel happier when they make a meaningful contribution to the family. One of the most extensive longitudinal studies of humans ever conducted, The Harvard Grant Study, found that one of the best predictors of professional success in life comes from having done chores as a child.

In joint custody situations, co-parents should work to keep chore expectations consistent between households. Keeping your child’s daily chore routine steady is beneficial to their willingness to help in both homes. It also helps your child develop good habits at a faster rate. Father and son washing dishes

Being responsible for chores as a child fosters a stronger work ethic, which leads to greater success in life

Science backs it up. Julie Lythcott-Haims is a former dean at Stanford University who wrote the book How to Raise an Adult. In an Inc. magazine article, she says, “The earlier you start, the better. A roll-up-your-sleeves and-pitch-in-mindset, a mindset that says, there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me … that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.”

Researchers also found that children who were given chores at an early age grew into more independent adults. Doing chores helps kids build confidence that they are capable of successfully performing and completing tasks.

Being on the same page with your co-parent is important to building this confidence in your child.

If chore expectations or routines are lacking in one household, it is much harder for your child to build this trust.


Another key predictor of success in life, often cited by science, is reading readiness

According to Michigan State University, reading proficiency by the end of third grade is considered a make-or-break benchmark. 83 percent of children who are not reading on grade level by the beginning of fourth grade are at risk of failing to graduate from high school.

Further research suggests that reading readiness has little to do with workbooks and computer programs. Laura Grace Weldon, a reporter for Wired, says “it’s the result of brain maturation as well as rich experiences found in bodily sensation and movement. These experiences happen as children play and work. This includes expansive movements such as climbing, jumping, digging, swimming, playing hopscotch and catch, riding bikes, sweeping, running. It also includes fine movements such as chopping vegetables, drawing, building, using scissors, and playing in the sand.”

Many of the activities children do as chores require them to move and hone fine motor skills. Again, it’s beneficial for co-parents to discuss these kinds of activities to set similar guidelines for their child.

Children helping with yardwork

The ability to work and get along with others is an important life skill that contributes to success as adults

Dr. Marty Rossman, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, analyzed data from a long-term study following 84 children. He found that kids who helped around the house had better relationships with family and friends as they got older, in comparison to children who did not. Completing chores requires teamwork between kids and other family members to get everything done. It also teaches kids the adage that many hands make light work, meaning people can do things more quickly and easily when they work together. 

In joint custody situations, having similar chore routines and expectations will encourage your child to contribute to each family unit equally. This helps ease tensions or arguments over how the workload is shared among the members of each household.

Chores allow kids to feel important because they are contributing to the well-being of the family

We all want our lives to have meaning, and children are no exception. Teaching kids about chores early on will help them carry these lessons with them later in life. For co-parents, keeping consistency between households is key. Your child will benefit from a shared parenting style that guides them similarly.

If you and your co-parent need help coordinating chore schedules between homes, check out the TalkingParents Shared Calendar feature.

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