At what age should a child be expected to Do Chores On Their Own?
Now to be honest, on some levels, I don’t really care. I mean, really? Who cares when a child picks up a broom and can sweep the floor, right? You do you and I will do me.
However, if you find little understandings about child development helpful and you want to keep building your family in a positive way, then read on.
Many years ago I lived by a young mom of four kids and she was continually frustrated at her children’s “unwillingness” to do their chores.
She spelled out what they needed to do.
The issue: they never really did what she wanted them to do, at least not in the manner that she expected.
She punished them if they failed.
Her frustration came off of her in waves.
She was one unhappy mama.
I thought to myself, “I would hate to be your child.”
However, I could also see that her heart was in the right place. She wanted responsible kids.
So what was wrong?
Now, for those of you that don’t know me, I love to solve problems. (This character trait is a blessing and a curse.)
I looked at this issue from all angles and I simply started doing research.
I discovered that just about every single parenting expert has an opinion about When A Child Should Be Expected To Do Chores On Their Own.
It was overwhelming.
Finally, Dr. Terry Brazelton, a pediatrician, said something that really stuck with me. Let’s see if it makes sense to you.
He said that a child needs guidance with chores until they are around the age of reason, which, for most kids, is seven or eight. Then, if they have been guided, they should be able to do their chores on their own.
What that meant for me, a mother of lots of little ones, is that I needed to work WITH my children on a, bless it, daily basis.
However, the promise was ALSO made that if I kept with it, my children would become worker bees!
I am going to use my youngest, David, as the example here. David is now eight and HE CLEANS ON HIS OWN. (When he was seven I kept hoping he’d make the jump but he didn’t. He was several months into his 8th year before he made the switch.)
What life was like before now:
I gave him a list of simple chores (put away clothes, dust, take out the trash) and I basically did them with him. I knew he wasn’t ready to do them on his own because he whined and complained at the aspect of cleaning, a sign that he was feeling overwhelmed.
The chore list changed, according to what needed to be done and according to what he needed to learn.
Now I can just hand David the list and he does it all on his own. The best part? His attitude. He is almost excited to get his list now.
Now, I will just tell you straight up, I am NOT about to turn this blog into a cleaning blog. Nor do I want to claim a seat at the Expert Parenting Table, simply because I am still learning, every day, from these kids.
However, because I have parented 129 years (adding up all of my children’s ages), I know things.
And this understanding, that a child shouldn’t be expected to clean on his own until the age of reason, saved me. It saved my children.
It ratcheted down my expectations to match their developmental stage.
And when expectations and abilities kiss, there is peace and joy in the home.
So the next time you get frustrated when your six-year old daughter cannot remember to fold the towels and put them away, get a little giddy. She isn’t supposed to quite yet. It’s totally fabulous.
Put on some music, smile and show her, once again, the way you like those towels folded; show her, once again, how to put towels of the same color on their appropriate piles.
And know, deep inside, that you are an amazing mother growing amazing, responsible adults, one towel at a time.