How weekly tasks help kids be more caring, responsible

Telling your children it’s fun to be productive probably won’t convince them that doing household chores is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

It’s worth the struggle, though, because doing chores is good for kids in many ways.

“Chores are incredibly important for developing children and teenagers,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. “By mastering new skills in daily life, they will build positive self-esteem and essential life skills.

In short, chores will make them feel like they are growing up.”

Additionally, chores are necessary to prepare kids and teens to be more independent, responsible individuals.

“Even if they don’t recognize it at first, they will enjoy being able to take care of themselves and others,” Beresin said. “It is valuable for them to feel and be recognized that they are making important contributions to the family.”

Choose a motivating reward

Assigning chores will likely be met with resistance and eye rolls.

“The stigma of chores as boring activities does still exist, so it’s important parents stand their ground in enforcing them, as they will be beneficial to everyone down the road,” Beresin said.

Parents may have to be creative to get children to cooperate.

“Rewarding kids and teens for completing chores is a great way to motivate them. One of these ways is by giving them more freedom. For example, allow school-age kids to choose how to spend their down-time after completing their chores, such as using their iPad or watching TV. For teenagers, allow them a later curfew or more use of the car if they have a license,” Beresin said.

Supplying child-sized cleaning tools may help children get in on the fun, but role modeling good behavior helps set the right tone.

“Doing chores alongside kids is also a way that you could make it more fun. Kids love spending time with their parents, so helping them do things like putting toys away or cleaning up after dinner will give them that opportunity,” Beresin said. “You could also put on some music while you do the chores, which will brighten the mood.”

Helping kids succeed

Parents should gear a task toward a child’s maturity and ability to perform to help them succeed, Beresin said.

“Reframing chores as responsibilities will show kids and teens that chores are just life skills that have a great payoff,” he said. “Not only are they learning to be more independent, which will obviously help when they grow up, it gives them opportunities to learn something and perfect it for use later in life.”

Chores help teach kids and teens that they have a responsibility for themselves, but also to care for other people.

“This will later help them with relationships and working in a group to accomplish a common goal,” Beresin said. “Because our brains are wired for giving, performing acts that help others release powerful neurochemicals that make us feel good.”

Avoid overloading kids and teens with too many family chores, because that can affect their schoolwork or ability to just be a kid.

“Children require time to play, learn social skills and pursue their own hobbies and interests,” Beresin said.

Age-appropriate tasks

Assigning age-appropriate chores helps to cut down on frustration at kids’ and teens’ inability to complete them, Beresin said

Preschoolers are learning the basics of taking care of themselves, so keep things very simple.

“Things like carrying their plate to the sink after dinner or feeding the cat will make them feel important and accomplished,” he said. “They may also help in putting their toys away or tucking their stuffed animals away and putting them to bed.”

School-age kids will succeed with more responsibility, such as setting the table for dinner or taking the dog for a walk.

“They also are old enough to help in cooking meals with older siblings or parents. This age group might be more likely to push back and complain about being assigned chores, so remembering to express praise and gratitude will go a long way,” Beresin said.

As they’re getting ready for adulthood, teenagers’ chores should revolve around preparing them to be independent.

“Babysitting, cooking meals on their own or cleaning the bathroom are great things they can do for the family, and skills they will eventually need later in life. Teens, in particular will be motivated with more freedom, so consider that as a reward for completing chores,” Beresin said.