Kids and chores…it’s a constant debate and everyone has an opinion. Before we get into my personal thoughts, let me ask you 3 questions. Do you want your child to learn and acquire new skills? Are you interested in helping your child become as independent as possible? Do you want your child to gain confidence? If you answered yes, yes, and yes…welcome to “TEAM chores.”
Don’t worry! I’m going to share exactly how we learn, and how requiring our kids to complete chores follows the exact same path of learning as every other skill we acquire.
The Path of Learning
All learning follows a specific path. First, you find out about a skill and how it applies to you. Then, you see it modeled appropriately. Finally, you get an opportunity to do it yourself. Obviously, there are occasions when this changes slightly, but typically, learning follows the “introduce, model, and practice” path.
Think about it like this. Let’s say, your child is selected to spend the day with a dolphin trainer. He will have the opportunity to swim with dolphins, teach the dolphins new skills, and learn about preserving their habitat. There are four different ways you could handle this situation. You could…
- Encourage your child to participate completely!
- Let your child watch the trainer, but you don’t allow him to actually get into the water.
- Introduce your child to the trainer, and then you both leave.
- Go in your child’s place experiencing everything while your child misses out.
I think we would probably all agree that we would want our child to participate completely. But what does this scenario have to do with chores? I’m so glad you asked. In one word, EVERYTHING.
Having Your Kids Complete Chores
The way we learn doesn’t change based on what we are doing, but many parents choose to ignore this fact when it comes to chores.
Consider the previous scenario with the dolphin trainer and how each option directly relates to chores. If you chose the first option, you allowed your child to become completely immersed in learning resulting in tons of new knowledge, skills, and experience. This would be the same as introducing a new chore, explaining why it needs to be done, modeling how to complete it appropriately, and finally allowing your child to complete the chore. Learning at its finest.
If you had chosen the second option, it would be the same as requiring your child to watch you complete a chore, but stopping before the “practicing” stage. Thus never allowing him to become involved or hone his new skills. He might observe how the chore needed to be completed, but would never have the benefit of personal accomplishment.
The third option would be the same as introducing a new chore, but neither modeling how to complete it appropriately nor requiring him to complete it. Just as you introduced your child to the trainer and then walked away, you might talk about washing dishes. Unfortunately, naming a chore doesn’t teach your child anything other than the word for it. In the last option, you take your child’s place. In essence, doing the chore for him. This would be equivalent to intentionally handicapping your child.
Acquisition of New Skills
If you want your children to acquire knowledge in life skills, like sweeping, washing dishes, mowing the yard, and laundry, they must be taught how to do them properly. They need to be shown, step by step, the correct technique for completing each task. Many times we assume that our children have an innate knowledge of how to complete a chore when we’ve never taken the time to teach them. This is unrealistic, and quite frankly, unfair.
We would never assume our 2 year old innately knows how to read aloud and write a paragraph. Why? Well, because we have never taught him the foundational skills needed to complete the tasks. The same rule applies to chores. We need to model, model, and model how to appropriately complete chores for our kids. I know it takes more time than it seems worth, but in the long run, you’re doing this to help your children. Without these early opportunities for acquisition, we are setting our children up to become permanently dependent on us as parents.
Unfortunately, in today’s society, there are kids who go off to college without the foggiest idea about cooking, laundry, or cleaning. They have no concept of what being independent actually looks like because they’ve always had mom or dad to do everything for them. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children these skills in an effort to create independent, autonomous adults.
My boys have learned important life-skills like laundry, dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning their bedrooms and bathroom. My older son has shown an interest in cooking, and can make several meals entirely independently, and if you are hungry for pancakes or macaroni and cheese, he’s your man!
Since I have required my boys to complete chores, they’ve not only gained independence, but confidence as well. My older son and I actually had a conversation recently about the fact that he has more knowledge of specific life-skills than many college-aged kids.
If you are blessed with boys, you know that everything in life is a competition with them. My son’s realization of being more capable than many individuals almost twice his age provided him a huge confidence boost. Our conversation also provided him with a previously misunderstood reality. He assumed I was making him do chores to be mean. What he discovered was that I was trying to help him become an independent man.
So, should we make our kids complete chores? Well, the answer is ultimately up to you. But, if you want your kids to acquire lifelong skills while becoming self-sufficient, independent, and confident, you need to require them to complete chores. You’ll be so glad you took the necessary time to teach your kids because the result will be your children becoming competent adults.