Success Linked to Early Childhood Chores

How many of you remember having chores to do as a child? I remember being tasked with mowing the yard, being the sole person responsible for the family pets and setting the table for meals. Today parents are cheating their children out of this great learning and social tool in lieu of more time on homework and activities. Braun Research found that of 82% of the adults they surveyed, who grew up doing chores, only 28% of them require the same of their children. The goal of parents today is to have their children focus on things they believe will bring them success. However, it is proven that doing chores as a child leads to happier and more successful lives. Why is this true? Giving a child household chores to do at an early age builds a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance. A University of Minnesota study started in 2002, which followed children across four periods of childhood beginning at age 3 and ending at age 20, found that young adults beginning chores at age three to four were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, achieve academic and early career success and be self-sufficient compared to children not starting chores until they were teens.

Chores teach empathy and how to be responsive to the needs of others. How is this related to success later in life? Dr. Richard Weissourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education has an explanation. He led a study which asked 10,000 middle and high school students what they valued more achievement, happiness or caring for others. Roughly 80% said achievement or happiness over caring for others. What Dr. Weissourd points out is that personal happiness comes most reliably not from high achievement but from strong lasting relationships. What this tells us is we are creating generations of people who will be out of balance with priorities that will not bring them personal happiness. So the next time your child wants to ditch chores to do school work be strong and say no. This will start sending a message that caring for others is just as important as work and achievement.

The following are some ideas to motivate your child properly to do his or her chores:

1. Language matters – Letting your child know they are being “a helper” versus just “helping” increases their desire to pitch in and it creates positive  self-esteem.

2. Schedule chore time – Enter chores on the calendar right along with sporting events and extra curricular lessons.

3.Make it a game – Start chores off small and as your child gains in proficiency bump them up to the next level of responsibility.

4.Keep allowances and chores separate – Research has proven that paying for chores lowers motivation and performance. The goal is to increase altruistic behavior and not make chores a business transaction.

5.Types of tasks matter – Chores that focus on helping the family or others will build prosocial behavior and empathy. Self-focused chores like cleaning your own room do not have this effect.

Talk about chores differently – When chores need to be performed do not say “do your chores” but say “let’s do our chores”, and this will underscore that everyone helps to pitch in for the family.

Be a good example – We all know as adults we are our children’s mentors, so talk positively about the tasks you do around the home and never make a child’s chores part of a punishment.


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