Okay, I can’t guarantee the happiness promise, but a recent article called “Science says parents of successful kids have these 13 things in common” published in Tech Insider does list chores as one factor that might lead to children’s success as adults. They quote author Julie Lythcott-Haims (How to Raise an Adult) as praising chores because it teaches kids that they “have to do the work of life in order to be part of life.”
Let’s look at the benefit of chores a little more deeply (and I will put forth my not-scientifically-proven theory on why it also makes kids happier).
1. Doing Chores Raises Self Esteem
Self Esteem is confidence about one’s own worth and abilities. Little kids may not have learned to read and older kids may be struggling with long division or quadratic equations, but most kids can learn to make their beds and sweep the floor. Are these worthwhile tasks? Of course they are. And it is much easier for a child to understand the usefulness of a clean floor than to grasp where algebra is going to work for them in their lives. Kids who feel capable and competent have higher self esteem. Chores are one area most kids can develop competency relatively easily.
2. Doing Chores Makes Kids Feel Needed
When we wait on our kids hand and foot, it gives kids the wrong estimation of their own importance. Ironically, just like praising kids too profusely, doing everything for kids does not build their sense of being important; rather it leaves kids feeling adrift and disconnected. What kids want to feel is that the are important because their family needs them. When the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird explains to Scout, the main character, why he runs away from home, Scout asks herself, “what I would do if Atticus [her father] did not feel the necessity of my presence, help and advice” (143). Scout firmly recognizes her place in her family and knows how essential it is to her to feel needed by them. Contributing to the well being of the family by doing household chores is a great way for kids to feel they are an integral cog in the wheel of a smooth family life.
3. Doing Chores Shares the Work
In previous generations, families had a lot of kids precisely because a large work force was needed just to keep the family farm or business going. As soon as they could toddle, children were given simple chores to do. In this way, all the tasks of life got done and families thrived. Today, although more tasks are mechanized and there are fewer chores to do at home, people are also a lot busier outside of the home. With parents working and kids going off to a schedule packed full of extracurriculars, there is very little time left to what chores they are. And yet, “according to a survey by Braun Research in 2014, 82 percent of grown-ups polled said they had regular chores when they were growing up, but only 28 percent reported asking their children to do any (July 12 2015). Wow! Instead, imagine a home where the work was shared as equally as possible among the family members. Kids would have a much greater appreciation for what it takes to keep everyone fed and dressed in clean clothes. Appreciation is linked to happiness!
4. Kids Doing Chores Reduces Parental Stress
With only 28% of the kids helping out on a regular basis, parents are coming home after a full day’s work and are facing a full evening of chores. Just thinking about it is exhausting. Parents complain to me that they have no time to just hang out with their kids. But is that because their kids are watching t.v. or playing video games while their parents fix dinner? How about having the kids in the kitchen with you? One child can grate cheese while another cuts up vegetables. While kids’ hands and attention are busy is a great time to ask more in-depth questions, open-ended questions. Chore time becomes connection time, and human connection is one of the most important factors for happiness. One last hidden factor in reducing stress is that parents who are not up washing the dishes or folding the laundry after their kids have gone to bed might actually have time to sit down next to each and connect themselves! Connected parents do a better job supporting their kids and making them feel secure.
5. Doing Chores Teaches Kids at Home Skills They Can Use at School
Uh? How does doing the laundry help with writing a clear, well-supported essay? Well, doing laundry teaches responsibility, accountability, planning, attention to detail and follow through (Did you ever have a bunch of clothes go moldy because you forget to transfer them to the dryer?). Aren’t those all skills that you need in essay writing? Of course! And in all kinds of school related tasks like doing homework on time, turning homework back in, chunking assignments into multiple steps, etc. Kids who have learned to take on tasks as their own are the same kids who are independent learners. They are also great team members for group work. They know that many hands make light work and they stand at the ready to do their share. They do not expect someone else–much less Mom or Dad–to do their work for them.
And that’s not all!!
So here you have four arguments for chores increasing your kids’ happiness and one argument for chores increasing their success in school (not to mention later in life). And here’s one more argument: Doing chores as children helps teach kids early on about work/life balance. Life is not just about doing school work, dutifully practicing piano and going to soccer practice. It is also about creating a salubrious space in which to live and cooking nutritious meals that bring the family together. Those have long been considered mainstays of a happy home. Oh, and did I mention that kids who take part in the cooking have more varied, nutritious diets? And that kids who sharing in the washing and cleaning take better care of their clothes and toys? Really, the more I think about it, the longer the list gets.