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Chores Foster Responsibility

Raising a Responsible Adolescent

How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too!

Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging & Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate


by Anne Perryman

Why is it important to give youngsters responsibilities for jobs in and around the house? First of all, it can and should be helpful to busy working parents. Obviously, more work gets done if everyone has a job to do. But what purpose does it serve for the kids?

Teaching children to become cooperative members of a household is one of the best ways to teach them responsibility. And it is a vital step in developing caring, considerate adults.


With a majority of men married to women who work outside the home, men's knowledge of how to do household jobs and willingness to do them play an important role in making marriages work today, and will be even more important in the future.

Learning to set the table, make a bed and run a vacuum cleaner are basic skills just as much as learning the ABCs,”
says the mother of a five-year-old boy. And it especially important for boys to do everyday chores like dusting and laundry. We have to get away from raising men who feel comfortable only with «male tasks¡ such as cutting grass, shoveling snow and taking out the garbage.” Author Anne Roiphe puts it in more dramatic terms: If we raise boys to know that diapers need to be changed and refrigerators need to be cleaned, there¡s hope for the next generation.”

While this may come as a surprise to some parents, even young children can do lots of helpful things around the house. As Jean Ross Peterson observes: Chores begin when your child can pick it up, put it away, fold, sort it, or carry it out the door.” When they¡re in the mood and feeling cooperative, children of three, four, and five love to carry groceries, set the table and take dishes to the kitchen. Helping out with small tasks makes young kids feel competent and grownup.

Sometimes a child¡s pace and a parent¡s needs collide when little ones insist on dressing themselves for school, for example, or take five minutes to fold a towel. While you don¡t want to discourage kids from doing things for themselves and you try to allow enough time, sometimes you may need to limit participation in the interest of getting to school or work on time.

As kids get older and are able to do more things around the house, they are not always willing to help. They are not as eager to please and there is also competition with school activities, homework, and time with friends.

Young grade-schoolers can make their beds, put their clothes in the laundry, feed pets and get their backpacks organized for school. They should also be able to help out with food preparation and clean-up.

Expectations as to what jobs children can do vary according to the family circumstances, numbers and ages of children and whether both parents work outside of the home. For example, a six-year-old in one family may be expected to do a job reserved for a nine-year-old in another.

Preteens and teenagers can do a great many chores. As Fred Gosman points out in How to Be a Happy Parent” (Villard Books), A child who can program a VCR is capable of mastering a washer and dryer.”

Kids this age can come up with ingenious ideas for avoiding their chores, says Gosman. One teenager whose jobs was to make sure there was always toilet paper in the bathroom piled 42 rolls next to each toilet. Another left a broiler pan on the stove because, as he said, you only ask me to do the dishes.”

Gosman describes how some parents use the natural consequence” approach when children balk at doing chores. For example: Forget to empty the cat litter and the litter box spends the night in your room. Or children who don't change their sheets find their beds stripped.


Here are some other ways to avoid power struggles and get chores done:


š       Focus on the problem. When you want to stay, How many times do I have to tell you to take the garbage out after dinner?” try instead, Your mother needs help. Let's both pitch in.”

š       Give "I” messages. When you want to say, You're so thoughtless,” say instead, I don't like it when I have to do my job and yours too.”

š       Put it in writing. Tape notes to different parts of the house to communicate what needs to be done.



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