When the dishes in the sink are piling up, the dust on the bookshelf is noticeable, the dog needs to be fed, the mirrors sport fingerprint decor and you have no time, who can you call for help?
That’s right. Once kids reach a certain age, they can be your best tools for tackling all of the tasks you need to handle in your home. But what is that age exactly? And how much can you expect from them? And, perhaps most important, how do you motivate them?
St. Clair Shores mom Marisa Valice grappled with those questions when her son Lucas turned 7.
“He really had his own personal responsibilities handled – his room, his clothing and whatnot,” Valice says. “It just seemed like he was ready to take on more.”
Parents looking for an exact age when kids are ready to take on chores won’t find it, says parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley, who’s written several books, including Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate.
Parents have to take it case-by-case, depending on the maturity level of their child. However, by age 7 or 8, kids are usually prepared to take on extra household responsibility, she says. And it’s good for them.
Pantley says that chores teach children real-world skills, valuable lessons and how to build good attitudes toward working.
But don’t overload them. “I think kids still need to be kids,” says Pantley.
Waterford mom Melissa Weimer targets specific areas that she wants her kids to handle independently, and then a few areas where they are expected to pitch in.
“They clean the bathroom, which I refuse to do living with three guys,” she says. They also care for the dog, help with laundry, assist in the preparing and cooking of meals, help carry in the groceries, vacuum, dust and do yard work.
Weimer has a strategy for motivating her two sons to do chores. They both have a jar, and for each chore that her boys do, they receive a marble in their jar. Natural sibling rivalry kicks in to help the kids try even harder. “It has helped to eliminate any complaining about having to do chores,” she says.
Assigning chores can be a beneficial experience in many ways for children. They can learn responsibility, and it may even help them appreciate all the hard work that you do day in and day out.
Plus, you’re helping your child prepare for the responsibilities of adulthood.
“Behavior patterns are learned at a young age. If we wait until the child is a teenager and expect them to do something, it will be a lost cause,” says Ferndale mom Christina Stamper.
“I feel that if a child learned the value of responsibility and success through doing their chores, they will utilize those same values and judgments as an adult.”
This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated for 2016.