Children, Chores and Responsibility: What Jobs for Which Ages?
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Published on June 03, 2021

boy helping dad load dishwasher

Children, Chores and Responsibility: What Jobs for Which Ages?

Running a house is the full-time job parents have on top of their full-time jobs of being moms, dads and also their employment. To tackle it all, it helps to remember that teaching children at a very young age how family members work together, things can be better. When each person can do their share, it makes the work easier.

But what if you’re trying to teach chores and those best laid plans go haywire? Instead of nagging, blaming or making threats you are unwilling to follow through on, one way towards resolution is logical consequences.

As the name suggests these occur naturally as a result of the child’s actions. For example, if a child repeatedly forgets to put his bike away at the end of the day, a logical consequence would be not being allowed to use the bike for a few days. It is best to clarify consequences before a child slips up. Use only consequences you will carry out with consistency.

Think it through, taking away a tween’s phone may be more of a hardship on you if you can't reach them.

Nagging and constantly asking a child to complete the chore, will not provide a positive outcome any faster. In fact a child may “tune-out” the parent’s repeated requests. If a child forgets to do a chore on time or refuses to do it, parents should say nothing and simply apply the consequences. A final thought about a child’s refusal to do their chores is that parents should NOT do their child’s work. If parents get frustrated and give in and do the chores, children learn that their parents to do not mean what they say and will not follow through. Secondly, children learn that if they hold out long enough someone will do their chores for them. Again parents should simply apply the consequences and say nothing.

Chores are beneficial, not just because it shares the load of household responsibilities but it teaches children important life skills such as self-motivation, cooperation, organizational skills, fairness and commitment. Chores can also help children gain confidence from helping around the house and a sense of accomplishment for a job well done. This brief list of age appropriate chores serves only as a guideline.

Keep in mind that not all children will be able to complete the tasks based solely on their age.

Age 9-24 months

  • Simple errands like "Bring the diaper here” or “Put the blocks in the bucket, please."
  • Put dirty clothes in hamper or laundry basket

Age 2+

  • Clean up what they drop after eating
  • Help feed pets with pre-measured amounts
  • Put away shoes

Age 4-6 years

  • Pull the covers up on the bed, put pillow at top
  • Carry groceries into the house, even if it is 1 or 2 items at a time
  • Help set the table before and clear the table after meals

7-9 years

  • Put away own laundry
  • Dust furniture
  • Make their own snack

Age 10+

  • Load and unload dishwasher, wash dishes
  • Take out the trash
  • Vacuum, clean kitchen counters, bathroom sink

When children are given age-appropriate responsibilities, they can flourish. Praise your child for “being a helper” by mentioning specific things they have done, such as:

“Thank you, Claire for dusting, the family room looks so much better.”

“Wow, Peter, you put all your laundry away from the basket on your bed. Great work doing it so quickly.”

Giving them feedback along the way helps with their learning. As you might imagine when more people help, keeping up with the housework doesn’t take as long! Find a system that works for your family and change it with input from everyone involved. As I said before, no need to post a want ad, look to those in your own house to help with some of the chores that need to be done.

This is the second of two stories on teaching children responsibility by involving them in household chores. Read the first story.

By Twila Perkinson Certified Child Life Specialist, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. Additional Sources: Dr. Brittney Schrick, Center for Effective Parenting (Parenting Press).

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