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Why chores are important for kids: keep in mind the end goal and do your best to prepare your child for adulthood and to gain independence.
Parenting often means compromising. It can mean indulging cries for pizza for dinner when we really wanted to try a new recipe that includes one dreaded vegetable or another. Other times, it can mean going to the same vacation spot we’ve always gone to because trying something new may be too trying to introduce this time around. But there is one area that many of us may compromise when we shouldn’t. That area is chores.
For many of us, we’re tired. For those of us who teach our children skills that are second nature to so many (such as social skills, self-care, etc.), it’s not uncommon to skip teaching chores. It could be we are exhausted or that our child has so many “lessons” to begin with, we don’t wish to pile more on. (Give the kid a break, right?) But remember, our goal as parents is to prepare our children for adulthood, regardless if we can envision it or not. That includes doing basic chores.
So, why do we skip this section of “Life Lessons 101”? Often times, it is simply quicker and neater if we do these things ourselves. Let’s face it, taking the time to teach our kids anything from washing dishes to doing laundry can be a draining thought.
Here’s an example from our life.
Teaching the skill of dishwashing took a lot of patience. Our daughter has trouble with gross motor skills, so letting her do the dishes was not exactly something we were in any hurry to do. We didn’t have a dishwasher at the time, either, which meant everything had to be washed by hand. We broke the task down into steps for her. As she is a sensory girl we made sure she had a pair of bright yellow cleaning gloves she could use in order to tolerate the warmer water. We showed her how we soap up and clean dishes and let her at it.
Normally in any good story, this is the part where the windows fly open; a blue bird alights on the windowsill, singing a tune as the sun shines on the bubbly water in the sink.
For the first several attempts, this is what it looked like.
Our daughter did not mind washing the dishes… initially. Neither did the floor, which soaked up most of the suds. Plates and bowls were piled haphazardly in the drain, with bubbles all over them. Mentioning they needed another rinse resulted in my daughter feeling insulted. Glassware and heavy pots remained on the counter as those we off-limits. In short, it was a mess and stayed like that until she mastered the task.
Fast forward to college and our current reality. Our daughter is a big help in the kitchen, but gross motor skills are still a work in progress. Glassware is still a no-go zone, but everything else she handles better than my husband!
To be true, washing dishes along with other life skills such as laundry, vacuuming, and dusting, takes time to learn and to master. There very well may be compromises you make along the way within these skills. Earplugs may be needed for handling the noise the vacuum cleaner makes. Single load laundry capsules, while more costly than a jug of liquid detergent, may be an option if pouring it into the measuring cap is too difficult. And there are oopses and messes to expect along the way.
Again, keep in mind the end goal – doing your best to prepare your child for adulthood and the independence it requires. Don’t avoid things that take time now, leaving messes in their wake. Remember, planting seeds now won’t reap fruit immediately. And as anyone who has ever planted anything knows, a garden can be rather messy. But it’s well worth the effort.