For parents it can sometimes feel like it takes more effort to get kids to complete their household chores than to simply do the chores themselves. This often leaves parents wondering, are chores really worth the effort?
Research by Marty Rossmann, emeritus associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, says yes, imple- menting chores in the home at an early age can have beneficial impacts later in life. Specifically, chores help children develop self-reliance, responsibility and maturity.
Rossmann conducted an in-depth study of 84 young adults and their families. She examined a number of factors such as parenting styles, gender and enforcement of chores during ages 3 to 4, 9 to 10, and 15 to 16. She also checked in with the participants in their mid-20s.
Amazingly, Rossmann determined that a children’s involvement with household chores during ages 3 to 4 best determines the success they will have in their mid-20s. Chore participation was a better predictor than completion of education, IQ, closeness with family and even drug use.
The importance of chores cannot be understated. Not only are household responsibilities important, but the age at which parents begin to implement chores is crucial. If children started doing chores as teenagers in the 15 to 16 age range, their chance of success was even lower than that of peers who had no chores. The take-home: chores must be started young. Jewish philosophy also highlights the importance of chores and responsibility for children. Judaism teaches us that raising children is not easy through the principle of tzar giddul banim (the necessary pain of raising children). Implementing and enforcing chores is not easy, but knowing there is a payoff later in life makes it worth the effort.
Jewish psychologist Wendy Mogel says that parenting with rachmanut (compassion) and tsimtsum (contraction of divine energy) is the most effective way of parenting children despite the difficulty. In her book, Blessings of a B Minus, Mogul advises parents, “Chores form a foundation for the rest of life. … To be effective, it’s time for you to practice detachment, to do less instead of more.” With chores, parents can set up the rules and the consequences and then step back.
Rossmann echoes Mogul’s philosophy of loving detachment. She encourages parents not to choose tasks or punishments that are too overwhelming. Rossmann also advises that children should be involved in determining the chores they would like to do.
Teaching children how to complete household tasks like laundry, yard work and maintaining a clean bedroom are also lessons for a lifetime. This falls in line with one of the oldest Jewish perspectives from Maimonides: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chores teach children how to run balanced, healthy homes for their future family.
Vanessa Van Edwards is a freelance writer and speaker who specializes in human relationships, with a focus on youth and family. Her book for parents Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded? won the 2012 Mom’s Choice Award.