Frequent Questions and Concerns about Chores and Responsibility
How can I help my child grow up to be a responsible teenager and adult?
When it comes to teaching responsibility, it helps to start early and build the practice over time. For example, when a younger child seems ready (probably between the ages of 3 and 5), negotiate a time at which you and your child will clean up her room together. After doing this for a while, set a weekly time when she cleans her own room, and periodically check on her progress. After your child masters this, have all family members take responsibility for cleaning their rooms on a weekly basis without a set time.
Should I punish my child for ignoring his chores and responsibilities?
Letting natural and logical consequences occur can be one of the best ways to encourage your child to stay on top of his chores. For example, set a family rule that everyone is responsible for putting away her or his things, and anything that is left out will be put in a box in the garage or a storage room. Don’t nag or scold your child, but be sure to follow through with the consequence. Your child will soon tire of retrieving things from the inconvenient location and will begin to put them away.
Remember that “punishment” and “discipline” are different things—punishment has a very negative connotation, while discipline can be used as a teaching experience to help your child in the future.
What kinds of chores can my younger children do?
Many chores are age-appropriate for younger children. For example, young children can help you set and clear the table before and after dinner. Your 10- or 11-year-old can strip the sheets off of beds before laundry. Teach your 13- to 15-year-old to do laundry. Get creative with the chores you have your children do, and you’ll be able to come up with something for any age. (Keep in mind that younger children will not complete chores in the same ways that older children or adults will—a bed made by a 5-year-old will not be as neat as one made by a 12-year-old.)
Should I pay my child to do chores around the house?
If your child is in a money jam, and you don’t want her to get a job, you may consider compensating her for doing some special projects around the house, such as cleaning out a large closet or doing yard work. Talk to your child about which chores are everyday tasks that she is expected to do as a member of the family, and which ones are special projects that earn payment. Whether your child is a 5-year-old picking up blocks or a 16-year-old who wants to get a job outside of the home, the point is to teach family responsibility.