Summary: Children’s and adolescents’ participation in household chores has diminished in recent years in the United States. In this podcast, we explore this phenomenon and examine what researchers have discovered about the benefits of this fading tradition. While our podcasts generally focus on adolescent girls, these findings are obviously applicable to all genders in the household. (Gender equity in household chores is associated with higher well-being and household harmony of adults and children.) We suggest ideas for involving children and adolescents in the teamwork of family household chores.
Research on Household Chores
Welcome back to the Div. 35 Raising Strong Girls podcast. My name is Leanne Arsenault and this month's recording, covering the research and theories about adolescents and household chores, has been produced by students in the Psychology Department at the University of Maine at Farmington.
This month's podcast focuses on the benefits of encouraging adolescent girls to help out with household chores, how to get them excited about helping, as well as some age appropriate chores.
Chores have been a part of the family culture across the generations. However, a recent study done in 2015 by Rende found that the family chore trends are changing dramatically within newer generations. Placing some household responsibilities on children is no longer as widespread as it once was and some families choose to abandon chores all together. A survey conducted by Braun Research found that 82 percent of adults reported doing chores as a child but only 28 percent were having their own children do household chores. This decrease has caused some concern in the Psychology community. Within the family system childhood chores have been shown to have a positive developmental impact on children of all ages. Rende (2015) notes that chores have been shown to decrease risk of drug and alcohol abuse, reduce behavioral problems, increasing school engagement, increase positive mental health in adulthood and increase family cohesion due to the shared responsibility. Research by Kennedy-Moore (2013), has also shown that childhood chores lead to increased competence with necessary life skills, increase in instilling values and even general well-being. Chores and housework are linked to happiness in children as they feel they are making meaningful contributions to their families.
Research has shown that children are becoming increasingly more entitled. There is a concern in the Psychology community that this is due to the lack of responsibility enforced within the household. Over time this could lead to problems not only in school but also as adults in the workplace. Parent-child conflicts contribute to emotional and behavioral problems and stressors, so the sharing of household responsibilities can be beneficial in keeping a positive family dynamic.
With that being said, there then comes the problem of how do we intrinsically motivate our children to contribute to household chores? and What chores fit best with what age group? Current thinking in cognitive science reflects that individuals are more intrinsically motivated to complete tasks they want to do rather than tasks they have to do. Rende (2015) suggests that one way to encourage children to want to do chores is to present chores as not only a contribution to the family but a way of showing that all the members of the family care for each other by expressing support through action. Avoid presenting chores as a punishment or something you do for money. This will undermine the positive effects of completing household tasks.
This brings me to some advice on how to make chores fun and what chores to start when.
For very small children around three to six, have them help you with chores. They can help you put laundry into the washer and push the start button. This gets children into the habit of helping out with chores from a young age when they are already interested in being helpers. Children around this age are also capable of making their own beds, feeding pets, helping to put their own toys away, helping to set the table and brushing their teeth. While they may need supervision, it is important to start early so that they can begin getting in the habit of helping out. Habit can become a strong motivator.
A focus on the family article suggests that age five is a good age to start implementing the use of a chore chart, and that by age eight children should be using chore charts on their own with little supervision.
Children seven to nine are capable of helping get their own breakfast (after being given choices), vacuuming, helping load and unload a dishwasher, taking the trash out, emptying litter boxes, making their lunch for school and collecting the needed supplies for school or sports practices.
Around ages eight to 11 children, are more independent and can begin doing previous chores on their own, like folding and putting laundry away for themselves and family members, grocery shopping, helping with family meals and helping to organize spaces like closets or drawers.
Starting at ages 12 through 15, children can assume even more household responsibility like getting themselves up on time, changing bed sheets, keeping their rooms clean, doing yard work, mopping, changing lightbulbs, washing windows, preparing food and babysitting.
Around ages 16 to 18, it is important to start preparing your children to earn money on their own. This can include money for clothes and any spending money they may want. It is also good to involve them in the maintenance of any cars they are driving such as gas, oil changes and tire pressure. At this point adolescents should be doing housework as they see needed without being asked.
During family dinners would be a good time to casually bring up the implementation of chores. Make sure you involve your children in the conversation rather than just telling them what they have to do. It helps them feel like their opinions and feelings are valued and they will be more willing to help out when they feel included.
Make a chores chart and have children involved in the process. Have chores that are alternating between children – this will get rid of the “unfair” factor for those chores that may be less favored like cleaning out the little box.
Try making chore time into a game. Write each chore that needs to be completed that day or that week. Evenly divide chores between family members. Each family member will pick chores out of the hat to be completed. This technique works better for older children who are already familiar with most of the household chores.
Create a family reward system, if everyone completed all their chores for the month plan a family activity together. Go out to the movies together, go bowling or go out for pizza. It is a good way to reward everyone for pulling their weight and creates a great opportunity for more family bonding in a fun setting. You can also take the time to discuss how the chore rotation is going and make any adjustments that are necessary.
I hope you found this information helpful and will find the techniques easy to implement in your own home
Thank you for listening. Special thanks for the background research for this podcast which produced with assistance by Ryan Berthaiume and Nicholas Blasens. This podcast was written and researched by Leanne Arsenault. Until next time, thank you for raising strong girls.