What is the Right Age For Chores?

Parents have many questions about assigning children household chores.  As children, some parents were assigned heavy chores, some were paid for them to be done, and others had no prescribed chores.  When two adults come together as parents but were raised with differing points of view on chores, they may become confused and unable to agree, and the child suffers.  Sometimes, I’m asked, “At what age should children be expected to start doing chores around the house?”  Many parents want to begin teaching their children responsibility and are eager to get them started.  They are also not sure what are age-appropriate chores for the different age groups?

Children should be expected to begin helping around the house whenever they are ready to do so.  Regardless of the exact procedures used, parents should create an atmosphere in the family that encourages everyone to clean up after themselves and contribute to an organized home.  Also remember to be gentle with your children’s performance while they are learning and not focus too much on perfection.  Children who are constantly corrected become discouraged and eventually give up.  They many not say “No” to doing their chores but may express it in other ways through their actions.

Children 3 to 5 should be introduced to the concept of helping with tasks, not taking on chores, based on the concept of being helpful and encouraging them to feel like important members of the family.  But parents shouldn't expect them to take on consistent responsibilities.  Preschoolers are still in a mode of discovery and experimentation for learning.  Some suggested tasks for helping are: Pushing in chairs, washing the baby, and carrying the diaper bag.  Be careful not to create schedules or routines with them.  At first they may want to help to show they are big boys or girls, but can easily become frustrated or overwhelmed and give up. Go easy on them and be patient when they don’t cooperate.  At about age 6, children are usually ready to play a bigger role in the family by helping out with official chores.  Start with smaller and easy-to-accomplish assignments; putting them on a visual chore chart will help develop routines and habits.  Once new chores are mastered, use family meetings to add new ones gradually.


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