What age should a child be when they start doing chores?

young child washes the dishes
young child washes the dishes | Source

How old should a child be before they start doing chores and why? A good question as there are some excellent reasons for actively encouraging your children to help out around the house by performing household chores. Naturally you have to select the chores based on the age of the child in question, which means for obvious reasons you are not going to let your very young child loose with sharp knives or dangerous chemicals. I suppose I must have started helping out with basic household chores at the age of about three or four. I remember that at this point in time 'helping out with chores' largely consisted of standing on a chair in front of the kitchen sink, armed with a potato peeler and a sink full of potatoes to peel. Our Mum would stand by me as I did my best to peel the potatoes, and although my efforts were probably not perfect I seem to recall I did a passable job of this, plus I actually enjoyed the feeling of 'helping Mum'.

As I grew a little older (and taller), I would be left with more adult responsibilities such as stirring the homemade gravy or the white sauce so it didn't stick to the bottom of the pan. I would take in cups of tea (made by Mum) to our Father where he was 'parked' in front of the television, or up to our Nana (Grandmother) who had her own room upstairs (when she wasn't in the same part of the house as we were.)

By the age of about eight or nine I was helping to rake up grass cuttings in the garden, feeding our chickens and collecting eggs, filling up the coal scuttle for our fire, cleaning out the grate and lighting the fire. I was even making a pot of tea after main meals and taking it into the living room complete with cups and saucers, milk, sugar etc so everyone could have a cup whilst they relaxed. This is not intended to read like I lived in some kind of child labor camp, because I didn't, in fact looking back I was getting off lightly compared to how my parents grew up.

I believe that children benefit from feeling they have a vital part to play within the family unit. It is character building for them to take an active role in the essential chores that are part of the families daily routine. You only have to see documentaries about African tribes still living a largely natural existence to see that their children are out collecting firewood and learning to hunt from a very early age. Those children are not only contributing to the tribe's essential chores, but are at the same time being educated in preparation for their adulthood.

Unfortunately a great many parents in the western world are guilty of running around after their children and doing literally everything for them. When those same children reach maturity a large amount of them are ill equipped to cope with living alone, so they don't! Instead they choose to live at home as long as possible and let Mum and Dad do their laundry, tidy their bedrooms and pay the household bills. To add insult to injury the parents still only charge their adult children a pittance of weekly rent / keep. The kids know they are onto a winner and of course they have more free cash to socialize with and hardly any responsibilities, (why would they leave!)

When I finally reached the age of 17 I immediately went out to work. By this time I had saved up and bought my own horse (which trust me was very hard work). My first proper job paid me a take home wage of £86 per week, and out of that it cost me about £45 to feed and care for my horse. On top of this I was paying for and running my own moped / scooter as my means of transport. I still lived at home, but I was not getting a free ride by any means. My weekly rent / keep at the time was £15 (we are talking 1986 here). Add up the figures and roughly speaking I was left with about £26 a week to put fuel in my scooter/moped, buy myself clothes, go out with friends and cover Christmases, Birthdays etc.

When I moved out of home for about 6 months and lived in a bedsit, I was paying about £30 a week rental just for the room, and had to buy food on top of this. I then upgraded to a larger bedsit which was £50 a week. Ultimately I moved back home again briefly, but now I paid £50 per week to my Mum. You probably have some idea of how it now makes me feel when I hear that in 2012 many parents I know are often only charging their adult children £20 per week and still tidying their rooms for them etc! This is wrong on so many levels, and what they are actually doing is keeping their children in a perpetual state of childhood. You can hardly blame the child for not growing up and learning to 'stand on their own two feet' if their parents do everything for them.

To illustrate this point further a friend of mine told me the other night how she had fallen out with her 20+ year old son because he was doing nothing around the house and was even leaving her to tidy his room. His answer to her complaint were words to the effect of "you are lucky, my mates do even less". She only charges him about £10 or so per week (including his food), and he chooses to only work when he can get bookings for his new photography business, (which at the moment is very part time work.) I told her he should get off his backside and at least get a part time job until his own business takes off, and in the meantime if he won't tidy up his own room he should move into a caravan on the driveway and be responsible for cleaning and tidying it himself. She is a lovely lady, so is her Husband and so is their son, but allowing him to take them for granted like this is far from a good example to set, and nor is it good parenting to allow it to have happened in the first place.


My Husband was much the same until he met me. Before we got together he had never lived alone, and had always either lived with parents or friends. During these times he paid them a small amount of rent and left them to sort out things like making sure the bills were paid on time. He concentrated on his social life, international traveling, and buying as many designer label clothes as his finances would stretch to, (or not as it later turned out.) Bear in mind when I met him he should have been old enough to know better as he had already reached his late thirties. Enter me, and I liked him because he was a nice and funny guy, but I was unprepared for the shock of living with him. To start with he was terrible with money, and was already quite deeply in debt when I met him, (I took out a £5000 loan to help him pay this off and ultimately we paid this back between us.) He had never bothered to get a car because he preferred being able to drink and not worry about driving, plus he lacked any confidence to drive even though at some point he had managed to pass a driving test in an automatic car! Even when we bought a second hand scooter / moped for him to get around on he never used it and relied on lifts (mainly from me) or buses instead, (we ended up selling the scooter/moped after about two uses.)

As for the household bills, I was forced to take on responsibility for making sure those got paid because he had no idea how expensive they were, and on the few occasions he suggested he take on responsibility for some of them I would later find out we were over £2000 in debt to our landlord in unpaid rents (amongst other bills.) The screaming rows these incidents caused between him and I nearly split us up on many occasions. I think he thought I was conning him out of his salary when I asked him for the amounts I had to in order to cover his share of the bills, (and this was just so I could pay them myself and know we were not getting into debt again.)

Nowadays things are slightly better as after six years of marriage I have gained some ground. My problems with him do reappear though, and mainly when money is short and I have to tell him that he can't hold as much money back for his spending money as he wants to. These are the times he starts claiming it is 'his money' and he will 'spend what he wants', (usually after he is a few beers the worse for wear.) Some of his comments infer that he feels he should not have to 'give me his money' and of course I argue he is not 'giving it to me' but he is simply using me as the 'free' accountant/bookkeeper who 'pays it to the electricity, the phone, the rents etc'. This is frustrating to me because I am still quite old fashioned and always dreamed of a man who would take control of making sure the bills were paid on time etc. Sadly I have been left with the undeniable truth, and that is, if I don't do it, the bills won't get paid and by the time I find out they haven't been the phone will have been cut off (yes this did happen) or the landlord will be on our doorstep demanding to speak to me because he knows he will get a straight answer from me, (yes, that happened too). What will be worse is the money to pay them will also have vanished.

Not to say my Hubby isn't better with money than he used to be, but the bottom line is that he was never put in a position to learn the life skills he needed to. He knows it, and so do I. The result is that I have to take charge of the bill paying, even if it does cause a few rows when he can't understand where all the money vanishes to. I still notice he is excellent at delegating chores/tasks that need doing around our home and our fishing lake to his friends and our neighbors rather than getting on with them himself, and he still manages to sponge lifts off those same people rather than try to drive himself.

child mops floor
child mops floor | Source

So to hopefully summarize what I am trying to say here, our children, kids (or whatever your preferred term is), need to learn to function within a family unit from an early age. Children need to learn the value of money and how to survive as an adult.

Depending on everyone around you to do everything for you is not a good way to learn any of life's survival skills. Many young adults I know do not even know how to cook a basic meal or light a fire in a household grate. My much loved Husband is now 43, and I know he would not have a clue how to top up the oil level in a car, wire a plug or cook a joint of meat. He is making some progress as I teach him basics such as how make scrambled eggs or omlettes, but these same skills could have been instilled into him from a much earlier age. On the plus side his abilities to iron his own clothes, vacuum and change a duvet cover have dramatically improved, (with some insistence on my part!)

  • Bring up your children so that they learn to survive without help.
  • Teach them life skills through practical methods such as household or garden chores suitable to their age range (no matter how young that may be.)
  • Ensure their pocket money/allowance is earned from allocated household tasks and not freely given.
  • Make certain your children grow up to be capable enough to not rely totally on anyone else to look after and/or support them.

Whilst it may be difficult at the time you instill this discipline, in the long run you will be so proud of the independent and self sufficient adults your children will grow into as a result.

Children's Chores

Did you have to do household chores as a child?

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If you were made to do household chores as a child how old were you when you started?

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Do you make your children do household chores?

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Do you believe it is a good idea to make children do household chores?

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Comments 40 comments

Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 4 years ago from West Virginia

My mom had us diong dishes at age 4. She put us up on chairs so we could reach the sink. Oh and if we didn't do them perfect she would pull all the dishes out and we would have to do all of them including ones that weren't even used at dinner. Now I know why I had doing dishes!

Voted up and useful and pinned it too.


win-winresources 4 years ago from Colorado

Hello Misty-

From the time a child can understand simple directions, they can be enlisted to help. Just getting their own diaper will save steps and make them feel useful at the same time. By helping, they develop a growing sense of self reliance and what it means to participate for the common good.

Generally speaking, children really want to please their parents. Letting them help, along with a "thank you" demonstrates your confidence in them and your appreciation for their work. All of this is part of what they need to learn as they grow.

All of this said, I don't believe that children should be paid to do "chores". Are you getting paid to do your chores? Nah, didn't think so.

Fair, not preferential, treatment is a fine lesson to be learned.

-DW


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I can remember when I was almost 3 and wanting to help my mother with the dishes. She would let me stand on a chair in front of her and splash in the water. It's one of the only memories I have of her as she died when I was 3. My stepmother had me doing all the chores that she possibly could. Kinda like Cinderella :) I think children should help out around the house and have set chores to do.

When my 3 sons were younger I had an allowance chart and when they did a chore on the chart it was noted and they would be paid at the end of the week. This was a great way for them to work to get that special toy or save the money up for something they needed it for.

I'm not sure how old a child should be before they start doing chores as each child is different and there are parents that do not make their children do anything at all. Good question though and I'll be interested in seeing what everyone says.


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

Hi Misty... Great subject you have chosen. I think it is a good thing to help children learn some good habits early i life. As a child I learned at an early age that little came from doing nothing. By the time I was 10 I had several jobs in the small community where I was raised doing chores as in income. Often as not I would give my earning to my folks to help a little. My vote is it is never to early in life.

Hugs from Canada


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Debbie, it sounds like you had the same kind of start as I did, and it all began standing on a chair. Thanks for commenting and voting :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi win-winresources. Thanks for commenting and for the most part I really liked what you said. I would like to emphasise that I did not suggest paying children to do chores, I suggested their allowance/pocket money was conditional based on whether they had done their chores. This is very different from paying them to do the chores as you would probably give them an allowance or pocket money anyway, but this way they have to fulfill their end of the bargain and not expect a free ride.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Susan, how very sad that you lost your Mum so young, I am sorry to hear that.

I am going to be very interested to hear other people's thoughts on this subject too. The comments are already proving very interesting and it is early days yet.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Hey Misty - brilliant! Yes - kids that have no responsibility as children do not gain it just because their bodies get larger:) lol.

You're right and my oldest - started her first job at 151/2 - at a pizza parlor attached to our subdivision. She walked the half a block....she was often left in charge in favor of the 25 year olds! She's 23 now, and is soooo meticulous with her finances. Her BF is a financial analyst too..so maybe that is a huge factor.

My 12 year old gets herself up for school, gets her self ready - it started because she was like "sleep in I don't need you to get up" but I could tell she was super proud of herself and decided not to stop letting her be responsible unless we have a problem...it's 4th quarter and she's still honor roll so going great!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Rolly, I agree that you can never start too young. It is an important part of learning to be responsible and end up as a functional member of society.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Kelly, you sound like you have wonderful kids and you must have done a fabulous job of bringing them up. You must be very proud of them :)


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Our kids had to make their beds before they went to school. I folded their clothes and put them on the bed and they had to put them away. We had a laundry shoot and one day when I went to do laundry I found clean underwear in the basket. One of our sons had thrown his underwear back down the shoot instead of putting them away.

Good hub.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

LOL Moonlake, that is a funny story. Thanks for sharing it :)


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

My two and a half year old was asked to bring Mommie a clean diaper out of th box for her baby brother when she was in the room. Made her feel involved. We went from there. By middle school my three did their own laundry and made their own school lunches. Hey - they outnumbered me! I needed the help.


fosginger profile image

fosginger 4 years ago

I remember being like 4 and sweeping the porch. My jerk of a step dad wouldn't let me ride my bike if I didn't..lol then at age 5 I remember cooking pancakes, wait was that matilda? lol Then at age 6 I think I had to take all the chores on in the house, then at age 15 I was workin, um kids should be used as slaves..i mean underpaid workers..i mean as the blessing we have been given. Kids are not working or doing chores like us old people. I look forward to bosing my kids around. lol. Kids should probably start doing chores at age 6 personally. Light chores, not plowing the field or hauling horse poop.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Kathleen, nice one, sounds like you got it right :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi fosginger, thanks for sharing your experiences. Great comment lol :)


drgmpatil profile image

drgmpatil 4 years ago

hi its interesting thanks for sharing your knowlge


jandee profile image

jandee 4 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

Hi Misty,very interesting this one .My three from the age of 3/5 used to take shares in doing the dishes nightly,Vacuum their own rooms and change sheets, and sometimes trade with each other. when my daughter was 3 she used to constantly say to me 'don't smoke mummy'how could I resist and I thank her today for her wise request,

thanks for taking me back over the years,

jandee


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

Hi Misty. I remember doing the yard and my underwear and I enjoyed doing them so much that I would help the housekeeper do the laundry and vacuum. I think young kid can pack away their toys and books. They can also take their cups to the sink, so long as it's plastic. Wonderful hub.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks drgmpatil, glad you enjoyed this.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi jandee your young daughter was wise beyond her years bless her. I stopped smoking three years ago ad feel so much better as a result :)

Nice to know they also had to help out around the house from an early age :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Cardisa, it sounds as if you got off to a great start, although I admit I had to read your comment twice because the first time I read it I thought you said you used to do the yard IN your underwear, as opposed to AND your underwear LOL.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 4 years ago from West Coast

Great Hub! I started my children out young. They started with making their own beds and doing laundry. I agree you have to choose age appropriate chores for your children and also you cannot expect your children to do everything perfectly. My kids enjoy doing chores and are now very helpful around the house.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Triplet Mom, so pleased you liked this, and delighted your children enjoy doing their chores to help out around the house.


Lyrickkw profile image

Lyrickkw 4 years ago from PHILADELPHIA

Yes. I make my child do chores because it show her responsibility. When a child is able to understand what he or she is doing ,a parent she give that child good life skills such as cleaning up after yourself. You don't have to give them a lot to do or hard work but teach them the importance of cleaning though play by creating house assignment or games that will help them clean up and earn things at times as rewards for their work. Make cleaning fun for you and your child and it won't seem as if chores are a bad thing to do!:^)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Nice to hear that Lyrickkw, and good idea to make the chores fun as well. Thanks for commenting here :)


Rufus rambles profile image

Rufus rambles 4 years ago from Australia

At the end of the day, teaching your child to do chores is teaching them life skills and a good work ethic. There are many benefits of asking them to do chores. These include being an active and contributing member of the family, avoiding the pitfalls of having spoilt children, delayed gratification is instilled which will help them to work towards goals in every day life. Also - a burden shared is a burden halved! Go the chores!!!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Rufus, I am glad you agree, like you I say 'Go the Chores' (and as early as possible).


DreamsInBloom profile image

DreamsInBloom 4 years ago

I don't have my own kids, but with children I've babysat or nieces and nephews I've seen as toddlers that they want to help out and do what the older people are doing. Helping a toddler do simple things like putting flatware away in the right places in the drawer is like a game to them and makes them feel useful. I remember my young nephew having so much fun helping us wash walls when he was probably just about three. As long as they are capable of doing it, and you are accepting that they won't do it perfectly, and don't put too much pressure on them, etc. then doing chores is a great way to entertain kids, help them grow and learn, help them gain confidence, etc. Most creatures "play" at doing what adults do (like kittens play at "hunting"). It's the way we learn to become successful adults. I know too many people who are now of adult age, but don't know how to function because they grew up in environments where "real life" was not included as part of there childhood in a positive way and only kept in a "bubble." I had chores myself when I was young, but I wish that a bit more had been expected of me when I was growing up.


yolaurel626 4 years ago

Being the first-born in the family, I learned making steamed rice at age 6. I was given more chores according to my age, year after year. At 12 I was baby-sitting my youngest sister and at 14 I did baby-sitting for my second year high school teacher - for the money. At 16 my mom taught me how to do button holes on dress shirts, by hand, a job that I held for two years right after high school. Every chore I learned at my young age has honed me into a good homemaker. I am very impatient with my second husband's teenage grandkids who won't even make their beds or clean up after their mess when they sleep over our place. One thing is obvious here - they were not taught to do household chores the same way I was as a kid.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi DreamsInBloom, thanks for the fabulous comment. I totally agree that babies of most species mimic the adults behaviour, and parents should encourage this from an early age.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks for your comment yolaurel626, I just love the sound of the way you were brought up. No wonder you get frustrated with your second Husband's teenage grand kids.


ksknair profile image

ksknair 4 years ago from Kochi,India

Beautiful articles and an interesting insight. Its sad to see children glued to television or computer games nowadays. At our times, there were no computer games and tv had fewer channels. We should teach our children what it takes to make a house a "Home".


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I agree, growing up for me we didn't have computers, and T was restricted to what our parents wanted to watch most of the time. To be honest I spent more time outside or reading than doing anything else. Thanks for commenting :)


FreezeFrame34 profile image

FreezeFrame34 4 years ago from Charleston SC

I agree that a lot of children are given a lot of privileges rather than earning them. If every American child could job shadow in a third-world country, we would all be in a better place. Everyone seems to feel they are "entitled" to the world and it better cater to them. I like the fact that child should earn their "keep" and learn life skills instead of relying on Mommy and Daddy for everything. My brother was six years younger than me and I loved helping around the house; I never once felt obligated; I just wanted to help out my family any way possible; maybe it was my motherly instinct. Thanks for writing; it is eye opening!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks FreezeFrame24, what can I say other than your comment was great and summed up the message I wanted to get across. :)


ElleBee 4 years ago

Interesting! I definitely feel that chores are an important part of a child learning responsibility and learning that "running" a home takes work! This brings up a lot of interesting points about the benefits of chores.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi ElleBee, thanks for your comment. It is nice to know that you agree with the benefits of children assisting in household chores.


tamarawilhite profile image

tamarawilhite 18 months ago from Fort Worth, Texas

Your toddler can learn to pick up the toys and put them a toy box at the end of play time.

Toddlers can learn to put plastic cups or spoons on the table.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 18 months ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Exactly tamarawilhite, this would be a very good place to start.

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