Should my Child do Chores?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Requiring a child to do chores is a matter of some debate and much advice. Some believe that children should not do chores. They follow the line of thinking that the child was not brought into the world to cook and clean for himself or his parents. On the other hand, many parenting and childhood experts believe that a child benefits from being assigned regular tasks. They give the child a greater sense of self-responsibility, importance and confidence, and they also prepare the child for the inevitable requirements of caring and cleaning up for themselves when they live on their own.

Older children can be given chores like washing dishes.
Older children can be given chores like washing dishes.

Most parenting experts do agree however, that the chores should fit the child. A five year-old for example, probably shouldn’t be washing the dishes and taking out the garbage. However, this age child should be responsible for picking up toys, bringing his or her laundry to the laundry room and trying to keep the home tidy. Actually, young children are usually quite receptive to chores because then they are doing what mom or dad does, and that helps them feel more grown up.

Middle school children average two hours of homework nightly.
Middle school children average two hours of homework nightly.

As the child ages, many experts consider giving the child chores with greater responsibility, like washing dishes, walking the dog, or vacuuming. However, children can become resistant to these tasks, and not all of this is simple child willfulness. As children increase in age, they also have increased responsibility in school. The average middle school student may spend up to two hours a night on homework, as well as attending at least six hours of school.

Children learn problem solving skills when they do chores.
Children learn problem solving skills when they do chores.

If the child has additional activities after school, the time left to do chores may be relatively short. Thus, adding more responsibilities may make the child non-compliant or at least resistant. A parent should weigh the amount of work a child already does, and schedule chores appropriately. Perhaps more chores on the weekend, instead of on study-heavy weekdays can be helpful. A parent should emphasize the nature of living together as a family. Sometimes all the family helps to clean up a mess, and sometimes one family member helps a little more than another because of scheduling.

Laundry is a common chore given to older children.
Laundry is a common chore given to older children.

If a parent doesn’t like loading more tasks onto an already work-laden teenager, he or she might consider assigning summer chores, but keeping them light during the school year. Alternately, some families do a 15-minute “pick-up” each night: they take 15 minutes to put away toys, do some dusting and clean up after meals. This limits chore time and involves the whole family.

If parents don't teach good habits early on, kids may be less likely to clean their rooms.
If parents don't teach good habits early on, kids may be less likely to clean their rooms.

Chores aren’t a punishment, and shouldn’t be used as such. They are a teaching tool for preparing a child to someday care for himself. Thus chores should vary. A child who washes dishes for five years may not know how to boil water. Parents should rotate chores, provide variety, and be sure to model for their children that they also have responsibilities. If a parent doesn’t do chores in front of his or her child, and doesn’t keep a clean house, the child is unlikely to find any reason or desire to do them himself.

Many believe that children can benefit from being assigned regular household tasks.
Many believe that children can benefit from being assigned regular household tasks.
Children are often responsible for chores, which may include clearing the dinner table and cleaning dishes.
Children are often responsible for chores, which may include clearing the dinner table and cleaning dishes.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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I've been with my boyfriend for five years now. We met in high school and now have a home of our own and we will be getting married and want children.

We agree when we have kids they should have chores that are fair. We don't believe in it all being on them. We've seen the "joys" of allowing kids to do nothing and when later expected to do something, all hell breaks loose. We have seen that with his two younger sisters. Both are teens now and one is a year away from being a legal adult. Both are spoiled brats nine times out of 10. I love them dearly but that doesn't change that they are spoiled and behave in such a way that it makes us want to pull our hair out – and we don't even live with them anymore!

You see, when my boyfriend was still living with his parents and sisters growing up, he was expected to do just about everything, and it got worse as he got older. His parents' reason? "You're the oldest.” He was rewarded greatly many times for what he had to do, but other times it was just complete bull that he had to deal with while doing the chores and sometimes after.

His mom was more appreciative and when she felt like it, would defend him against his dad about him being overworked. But all the time he was doing this, his younger sisters were never told to do anything but play basically and had no consequences for when they did wrong most of the time. And you've got to understand the youngest wasn't a baby anymore, but she was treated with such a higher degree of importance that there was something called "baby rules" where she got her way and what she wanted even if it upset her sister or brother. She was hardly punished and was openly favored though her mom denies it. Only once in a while did they have to help out and it was a 50/50 shot on how it would turn out. Both girls were old enough to help out with many things but never did.

After high school graduation I moved in with him, and them being 14 and 12, they still didn't have to do much of anything. If anything. All the rewards my boyfriend got he had to earn. His sisters got a lot of things for doing nothing. We were the only ones cleaning and it was rare to get anything other than a "you didn't do crap". It got to the point where the parents lived in a fantasy that their daughters did everything and were such hard workers!

After a few months, we moved out with my family so he could start a better job and they made a huge deal about it by putting on a show about how they didn't need us and their shining star girls would be there for them. Well after a few months we started to visit, and the house had fallen apart. Clean and dirty clothes thrown everywhere, laundry piled up for months up with only a minimum being done, clothes were in the washer and dryer smelling of mildew and dishes were all over the house. The girls' bedroom was a disaster, the laundry room (where the cats stayed) was dirty and got to the point where if you walked on that floor after it was cleaned, your feet or socks still smelled of urine. And there was much more. It was just a horrible mess.

His parents would (once in a while) admit how much we did after that. Sometimes they'd even try to punish the girls for not doing what they were supposed to or try to make them do what they asked. But after years of expecting them to do nothing and treating them like babies, well, it didn't always work out or stay that way for long. Sometimes if they're mad at us or just my boyfriend, they'll say we didn't (or he didn't) do a lot but they always end up admitting the hard work we did.

His dad has gotten to the point where he can't handle the girls' attitudes anymore and says "we created a monster" about the youngest one when she has her "devil fits" and he gets annoyed that they expect to get away with everything, including treating their parents like crap when they don't get their way!

His mom? She still hardly holds to any punishment she gives out to them, even though she's tired of a lot of their crap, too. And now to this day they hardly have to do anything and their mother, who does not work anymore, doesn't do much unless she gets a motivation boost either. Funny thing: she hates messes! Sorry this post is so long but the explanation was a long one.


Kids should do a regular amount of chores, not let everyone do everything for them. Doing chores prepares them for later in their life. Enough said.


Kids should not do chores just for parents. They are kids. They want to enjoy being a kid.

When they make a mess, tell them to clean it. If they say it's not theirs, Believe them, then leave the mess, unless it's huge.

I have a daughter (10 years old). She used to do chores then had a talk with me. We made an arrangement that she does chores until she's 13 years old. Let kids be themselves. Discipline them, but not too hard. If they cry when you hit them and if they don't stop when you hit them, it makes it worse.

Let kids be kids. Don't do chores until age 13.


i am 14 years old. i always help my mom do the chores and look after my younger sisters because my mom is doing her phd. it's annoying at times but it makes me feel like a better person helping her out. but now i have this project where i have to argue why children should not help in chores. does anyone have any ideas?


I have three children who are now grown, 27, 25, and 21. I also have a stepdaughter who is 11. I have been with her for almost seven years. My fiance' doesn't believe she should do anything.

When I give her a chore to do and she fails to do it (which is most of the time) he just says, oh well, and there are no consequences. She also gets into a lot of trouble with lying and such and he just does not like to punish her. He tends to get mad at me for grounding her.

I can see this getting out of control very quickly at her age. I believe she should have regular chores that she is responsible for every week and if not completed there should be consequences. Does anyone have any advice on how to get my fiance' to understand that by letting her do pretty much as she pleases is going to create a teenage monster? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


I looked up this website because my husband and I were arguing about our children 14, 14, 11, 9 and 7 doing chores. We live in a huge house on three acres which entails a lot of upkeep.

I ask that they clean their own rooms and bathrooms, which I check and fix with them. I also create them a list of miscellaneous chores to do like dusting, emptying the trash and taking care of the animals. I emailed him this site and they ended up having a family meeting to discuss what is normally expected of children.

I think it sunk in a little more when I told him that if I don't get some help I will just pay a housekeeper to help out!


@87672: I feel you pain. My girlfriend's daughter is nine and she does the same thing with her. Zero responsibilities and whenever I try to step in and give a little structure (which all children like, i am a teacher) I get total resistance. Have you found anything that helps?


My children are ages 10, 9, 5,4, and 1. My 10 and 9 year old either clean the kitchen or their bathroom. They also have the option to help each other with each chore. So one of them will mop while the other one will sweep. But they also have the option to just do the whole kitchen floor, or the whole bathroom by themselves.

As far as my 5 year old who is about to be in kindergarten, I ask her to sweep up after she eats or just in general sometimes. She actually enjoys helping, and my four year old does the same sometimes because she is eager to help as well.


I live with my girlfriend who has a 12 year old. I have been in the picture for six years now, and they moved in with me last year. She has never given him chores and I have been pushing it lately but I get met with a lot of resistance.

He will help do stuff when asked, but I view that as "a favor" rather than "responsibility". I'd like to assign him a couple of jobs to do on a regular basis, like once a week cleaning his room and taking the trash out every Monday night. Penalties come if he doesn't do it, but also gets rewarded if he does things on time and correctly.

I can't get my 'liberal' girlfriend to agree on this, and she is definitely against monetary compensation for any 'help' the kid gives. I don't really get it.

She also coddles him like you wouldn't believe, tucks him in every night (for 30 minutes!) which I find ridiculous. It's one thing to give a kiss and say goodnight, but it's another to spend 30 minutes doing this every night. That's bothered me for years but now that they live here I am really annoyed. What to do?


I do a lot of chores because my family lives in a huge house and so we all try to make the least amount of dirt!


I just wash the dishes (sometimes). that's it. we don't do much.


i have found that my children (aged 5 and 3) really enjoy helping out around the house. unfortunately, sometimes it's harder for me to have them "help," but i just try to suck it up and let them. i know that someday, it will be a different story, but i guess it's a good idea to try to associate fun with doing chores now. also, if you make it part of their day early on, it may not be as much of a struggle later.

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