Although I wasn’t strict about giving my kids chores and following up to see that they were done — my mom sure was. Maybe that’s why I was lax with my children. My brother and I would come home to an empty house after school and we’d spy the dreaded list. It was on a yellow legal pad, single spaced, filled up the entire page and part of the back. I HATED those lists. My mom’s writing was a terrible sprawl and it took work to make out all the stuff she’d written. From sweeping the sidewalk, vacuuming the living room to cleaning the bathroom and weeding the garden, she found plenty for us to do.
I read an informative article on WLNS.com called, “PARENTING CONNECTION: Chores Help Kids Build Worth and Responsibility” by Jorma Duran. I learned all the benefits to assigning chores to kids and there was even a helpful list of what kids could do at certain ages. I wish I’d been stricter with my kids and chores. But, they seemed so busy with swim practice, piano and mountains of homework. It was easier to get things done myself rather than have them find time. This article would have been helpful back then.
Child experts say, study after study shows kids who are given household duties are more responsible, can deal with frustration better, and have higher self-esteem. These three qualities can help kids in both school and in society. That being said — suddenly presenting chores for kids who haven’t done them before will likely go over poorly, so strategies to get them interested include:
*Impress upon them you feel they’re responsible enough to help the family by doing certain tasks
*Make the requests simple, but important
*Offer up options
Child development expert Claire Vallotton with MSU says, introducing household chores can start when toddlers began responding to direction.
“Not only are they building life skills, like doing your own laundry or cooking, that is really important when you are on your own — but they are also learning the values of being part of a family and contributing to that. Little ones are so anxious to actually be part of the family and do the work of adults it’s not a challenge to get them to do it — it’s just a challenge to help them do it.”
Here’s a short list of chores matching the skill level for certain ages:
**Ages 2 – 3
*Pick up playthings with supervision
*Take their dirty laundry to the laundry basket
**Ages 4 – 5
*Make their bed with minimal help
*Pick up their toys
**Ages 6 – 7
*Choose the day’s outfit and get dressed
*Be responsible for a pet’s food, water, and exercise
**Ages 8 – 11
*Learn to use the washer and dryer
*Take the trash can to the curb for pick-up
**Ages 12 – 13
*Vacuum the house
*Mow the lawn with supervision
What is your experience with chores as a child? What chores do you give your children?
I found an interesting article on a website called Moneyish, which by the way is filled with interesting articles by a group of writers who happen to be women with backgrounds writing for the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Media Group and other major publications like the New York Daily News and Seventeen magazine. The article I read today was called, “Overindulging kids makes their adulthoods harder, research shows” by Erica Pearson. She interviewed an overindulgence expert, Jean Illsley Clarke, age 93, who grew up as a “Post World War II Depression Kid” and had a very different childhood than kids today.
Overindulgence expert Jean Illsley Clarke tells Moneyish how teaching kids to fend for themselves makes them successful adults.
Too much stuff, too much help, too little structure — it’s a trap that leads well-intentioned parents into making life as a grownup hard for their kids.
Jean Illsley Clarke, the country’s foremost expert on childhood overindulgence — and its pitfalls — has a fresh, vested interest in helping millennial parents rein things in as they start families of their own: a brand new great-grandson, the first great-grandbaby in her family.
“I haven’t intruded anything yet. But I will!” she admitted, sitting down to talk to Moneyish in her mid-century modern Minnesota home a few weeks before her 93rd birthday.
Millennials, known for their overscheduled childhoods overseen by helicopter parents, may be the most overindulged generation yet — but there’s still hope that they won’t repeat their parents’ mistakes, Clarke believes.
“When people finally get it, how damaging this is, they’ll take action,” she said.
Her research shows that being overindulged as a kid has been linked to an inability to delay gratification, a lack of gratitude and self-control, and an increase in materialistic values as an adult. “Too many things results in lack of respect for things and people. Doing things for our children that they should be doing themselves results in helplessness and lack of competence. Lack of structure results in irresponsibility,” she said. “What we found in our big study was that nobody said ‘thank you’ to their parents, but the word ‘resent’ came up often.”
Clarke still thinks about a woman who told her that she didn’t do chores as a child and had never done laundry when she got to college. “She went to her roommates and said, ‘Which is the washer, and which is the dryer’? And they ridiculed her. And she made a very unfortunate decision. She decided she would never ask for help again. So her college years were not happy ones,” she said.
A self-described “World War II, Depression kid,” Clarke felt that she didn’t know much about overindulgence, just that it hadn’t been her own experience. She couldn’t find any research studies that adequately tackled the subject, so teamed up with fellow parenting expert Connie Dawson and David Bredehoft, a now-retired Concordia University professor, to study it on their own.
Eventually, parents started coming up to her during workshops to ask, “I want to know if I’m doing it.”
Through their research, Clarke and her collaborators discovered that overindulgence of some sort was happening at all income levels, and that it has serious consequences — serious enough that she grew to consider it a form of neglect.
They also found that “spoiling” is about much more than just stuff — while too many clothes or toys isn’t a good thing, it isn’t as damaging as doing too many things for kids that they should be doing for themselves.
My mom and dad grew up with one of these to wring out clothes.
I think about the childhood my parents had compared to mine, and then again versus our kids’ generation. My parents began life before every household had a washing machine and dryer, or refrigerators. Mom told me about the ice man who delivered ice for the “icebox.” Clothing was washed on a washing board, and then there was some strange contraption that you’d run through the clothes to wring them out before they were hung out on the lines to dry. Mind you, these aren’t my memories, but my mother’s. Because nothing was automated like it is today, their lives as kids involved a whole lot more work around the house.
I do remember we would hang the wash out in the backyard, too. We had a pole in a cement circle that had arms extending with lines going around in a circle like a big spider web. I remember the wooden clothes pins I’d play with while my mom spun the clothesline around to hang up our laundry. We did have a washer and dryer, but she preferred to hang clothes outside in the spring and summer.
This is what the clothesline looked like in our backyard.
In comparison to my kids’ generation, I had less homework than they did in middle school and high school. Also, I had a ton of chores, which my kids didn’t have. My mom was a firm believer that busy kids stayed out of trouble. But if the chores were done, most of my time away from school was unstructured. I had a lot of hours to read, sit outside and watch the clouds pass by. My childhood was very different than my kids, who grew up on a competitive swim team with practices six days a week, and hours and hours of homework each night. I didn’t burden them with chores and perhaps I should have.
At the time, I thought my kids were too busy with swimming and homework to have many chores.
What do you think of the advice from “overindulgence expert” Jean Illsley Clarke? Is doing too much for our kids just as bad as giving them too much?
What I neglected to teach my kids, they learned from swimming.
Yesterday, while driving to the mountains to escape the summer heat of the desert with a friend, we talked about how different our childhoods were and how our parents were much less hands-on than we have been with our kids. It was fun to reminisce about the good old days. It’s also kind of sad to think about how sheltered our kids are today and that they didn’t get the chance to ride their bikes for miles and miles and play in the street with neighborhood kids.
For example, we both recalled our first day of kindergarten when our mothers took us to school. The second day, we were walking on our own! Our kids were chauffeured everywhere, every single day by good ol’ mom.
Here’s an interesting article that gives nine somewhat scientific steps to raising successful kids. There are some good tips in it and I agree strongly with several–like kids need to play outdoors more and have chores. Here’s tip number three from “Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 9 Things:”
“3. Send them outside to play
This research applied specifically to boys, but it’s common sensical for girls as well. In short, smart parents will advocate for their kids to get a significant amount of unstructured recess time during the school day–and never to have recess withheld as punishment.
Unfortunately, researchers say we’re more likely to do the opposite in schools now: overprotecting kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, and ultimately inhibiting their academic growth, because lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.”
I had a ton of chores growing up. I’d cringe coming home from school or on weekends to my mom’s difficult-to-read handwriting filling every line on a legal yellow pad with chores to do before “we played” or “watched TV.” We had to weed the garden, sweep the steps, vacuum the entire house, cook dinner, clean the game closet, etc.
I wasn’t as good as my mom at making my kids do chores. They were so busy with school and the pool that I felt they didn’t have the time for more work. I know that was a mistake. I had attempted having them do the dishes every night, but that turned into more trouble than if I did it myself. Also, my daughter developed a unique allergy to dishes. Her legs and arms would break out in blotches whenever it was her turn. I couldn’t let her off the hook while making my son wash dishes, right?
Another thing that’s not on the list but should be is letting my kids fail and suffer the consequences. It’s a nice reminder to let kids fail while they’re young and you’re not paying $30k for a year of college. Consequences are what make them steady, reliable adults. I should have let my kids fail when they were younger so they could learn the consequences. I took way too many trips to school with forgotten homework or lunches.
All in all, despite me, they’re happy and hard working. I think that swimming taught them about hard work since I failed in the chore department. Also, swimming taught them how to turn a missed goal or failed swim into motivation to try harder. So, despite my not being a perfect mother, letting them experience life with the swim team taught them life lessons that I neglected to teach them.
How do you parent differently than your parents?
Ribbons and medals received for hard work from her coach.