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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.