Only 28% Of Children Do Chores. And I'm Part Of The Problem.

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
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That’s right, I’m guilty of not insisting that my children do their share of the household chores.

Why? I don’t even know.

Maybe it’s easier for me to just do the dishes than hear them whine and complain about their arms being too tired and the water being too wet. Maybe I’m a control freak and they are really terrible at folding laundry and scrubbing toilets and simply walking across rooms without dirt trailing behind them. Maybe I worry that their lives are already so busy that adding chores to their list is too much.

Whatever the reason, not having my kids do chores is a weak spot in my parenting, and I intend to fix it.

The research shows that, by not having them pitch in, we might be doing a disservice to our kids for their whole futures. Seriously?! Their whole future? Talk about a kick in the butt to make some changes.

Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist also says that, “Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success — and that’s household chores.” Oh snap.

Yes, many studies show that chores are great for kids, developmentally, socially, emotionally, and even for their future careers. What is wrong with me? Not only am I not getting the help around here, but I’m actually taking something away from them. I’m doing everything wrong, obviously.

Growing up, I remember being perched on a foot stool washing the dinner dishes many, many nights. The pile of dishes loomed greasy and disgusting, and my fingers became wrinkly and pruney, and standing there was the very last place in the world that I wanted to be. I would much rather have been watching Punky Brewster or The Facts of Life or organizing my Lisa Frank collection.

My chores were just an expected part of my early life, like wearing scrunchies and pinning my pants, and lip-syncing to Madonna. It was my responsibility to put away my clothes and keep my room clean. I do try to enforce this, but I also remember vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom and taking the garbage out — unlike my own little freeloaders who do nothing of the sort.

I didn’t have the luxury of whining about it because my parents were smart, and whining about it just earned me more chores. Being a part of my family meant that I had to pitch in. So I’m not sure why I let my kids get away with not doing their part. I’m baffled. And very tired.

It turns out that I’m not alone in my lackadaisical approach to making my kids do chores. Braun Research did a survey last year and found that “82% of parents reported having regular chores growing up, but only 28% said that they require their own children to do them.” What are we thinking? We had to do all those horrible jobs and now we are creating lazy people who don’t think they have to do anything. Dammit. I swore I wouldn’t do that.

But really, have you ever seen a 5-year-old try to sweep something up? It’s like they somehow produce more dirt on the floor. I know, I know, I need to let that shit go.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University, and author of the book, How to Raise an Adult, says that, not giving our kids chores, “deprives them of the satisfaction of applying their effort to a task and accomplishing it.”

That’s it. I’m convinced. Those little people need to get to work, or start paying rent.

My kids really need to help out the entire family unit. There are many charts out there that show age-appropriate chores for kids. My 6-year-old can definitely sweep floors, wipe counters, and take stuff out of the dishwasher. And my 10-year-old can be put to work cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, and washing his own laundry — his future life partner will definitely thank me for this.

This all sounds magical and amazing, and I’m sure it will just go swimmingly when I inform my crew that they are going to start doing a lot more housework. Starting now.

It might be a painful transition, but it will be worth it in the end. Our kids will get a good sense of responsibility, and maybe we won’t be as exhausted anymore. In between their whining and crying, I’ll tell them I’m only doing it for their future success, and you’re welcome.

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