There is a bigger picture to teaching responsibilities for children than simply giving them chores. My own daughter is completely perplexed by having to make her bed on a daily basis. She is 9 years old now and I have been engaged in this war with her for three years. It started as a chore she enjoyed but quickly became a whiny “Why?” To which I would reply, “because I said so.” But with age and maturity, comes truth. I recently explained to her that my job as a mom is to raise self-sufficient humans that are non-drains on society. Requesting her to make her bed is less about the bed and more about teaching her life skills.
A person with a sense of personal responsibility is more likely to succeed in school, the workplace, and society at large. Our children are capable humans. They can handle responsibilities. And I believe it is never too early to teach responsibilities to children.
The COVID-19 pandemic supplied me with plenty of time at home with my young children, and an opportunity to involve them in the day-to-day chores of running a household. My twins were 3 years old in 2020, and this is when I started to build their foundation for responsibility. There were (and still are) plenty of frowns and whiny mumbles when I declared it is chore day, but I know I am teaching them skills for success later in life (plus, I am saving my own sanity by expecting a little more from them and a little less from myself!).
See the list of chores below that I use with my own kids:
5 responsibilities for children that build good life skills
1. Caring for the family pet
If you have a pet, this is a no-brainer. We take turns asking each child to fill up the dog’s food dish daily. This is definitely one chore where we do not get much push-back from the kids. Does this mean the kids adore the dog more than they adore me? Probably, but the dog is adorable! This can be a messy task. It started out half in the bowl and half on the floor, but part of this responsibility for children is to clean up after as well. Practice makes perfect, and currently it is about 95% in the bowl and 5% on the floor.
The children are also asked multiple times a day to let the dog outside and then let him in when he is ready. Again, they are pretty amicable to this request, however, they are VERY good at remembering who’s turn it is and who did it most recently.
2. Putting their clothes away
I get a lot of shocked looks when I talk about my 5-year-old twins (they started doing this just before 3 years old) being responsible for putting their folded laundry away in their dressers. Most of the time I do the folding, but when I am done, I will hand them one pile at a time to put away. Are the clothes still neatly folded and organized in the drawer when they are done? No. Will they be 16 years old and still have sloppy folded pants half sticking out of their dresser drawers? Yes, but not because they will not know better, this will just be due to the teenage way of life.
This is my first step in eventually teaching my children to do laundry (again, a life skill). Right now they are responsible for putting their clean clothes in their dresser. As they get older, the lesson of neat drawers will be taught, as well as how to hang up clothes. All leading up to actually doing laundry: separate, wash, dry, fold, and put away.
3. Wipe down door handles and light switches
Children = germs. Besides teaching my children proper handwashing, I am also enlisting their help in keeping germs off some of the most touched places in our house: door handles and light switches.
Twice a week, I will give each twin a disinfecting wipe (or two) and assign them to either door handles or light switches. They are responsible for wiping down and disinfecting ALL the door handles and light switches on all three floors of our home. Little hands are great for these smaller household items.
4. Put away clean silverware
At 2 years old, all of my kids were putting away the clean silverware. This was their very first chore. I was given this idea by a co-worker, and I was very skeptical that my 2-year-old would have the patience to do this. I was wrong.
All three of my kids have been successful and enjoyed this chore. Sometimes, the little spoons end up with big spoons, and we’ve lost a ladle and wooden spoon along the way, but I knew to expect some casualties. This was the perfect starting chore for my kids.
5. Clearing the table
We are a two-career family of five. My husband and I work opposite shifts, so family dinners only happen once a week. Recently, during these family dinners, the children became responsible for clearing the table. The chosen child for the week is responsible for clearing the table of all dishes, silverware, and cups. If food remains, they are also responsible for scrapping the leftovers into the trash.
The kids are fine with this arrangement. For all other meals during the week, we are all responsible for clearing our own dishes. So, it’s not much more responsibility than they are used to.
This chore is an important one to me. I want my kids to know what it takes to care for (and clean up) after a family. I hope to give them a little insight into what it is like being a mom. Although I am sure this lesson is lost on the twins right now, hopefully, one day they will see the similarities.
This is of course a work in progress. When the twins seem ready for more responsibility, I will add them to this list. I am a type-A personality, and I do not like repeating myself (words or chores), so my biggest piece of advice is to make sure you start with age-appropriate chores. If you are giving your child something they are not capable of executing, you are only creating more work for yourself. We are moms of multiples, after all, so we certainly don’t need anything else to do!
Giving your children the chance to be successful will build their confidence while instilling life skills. Kids who regularly complete chores and handle age-appropriate responsibilities often feel a sense of accomplishment and experience a boost in self-confidence.