As almost all great days at the park with my toddler go, I often end up discussing our latest parenting adventures with my group of mom friends. Last Friday was no exception and I chatted with a new friend about an article highlighting a talk by author and former dean at Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims.
In the article, she described a part of the Harvard Grant study which found that kids who do chores tend to grow up to be more successful. Now, success is very subjective, it could mean a fantastic salary to some, it could mean fulfillment in your job, or having the “American dream” to others. As a mother who values kindness and confidence (and, let’s be honest, as someone who has a background in psychology and mental health) the parts that I resonated with included better relationships with others, collaboration, and higher self-worth.
If you’re curious, Dr. Marty Rossman of the University of Minnesota also analyzed data from a popular psychology study by Diana Baumrind (if you took a psych class in college you may remember learning about parenting styles from this groundbreaking study). Rossman’s findings showed that those kiddos that participated in household chores also were more successful during young adulthood. This success was measured by IQ, education completed, beginning a career, drug use, and interpersonal relationships.
What I found interesting was that Rossman notes that the earlier your little sprouts start helping out around the house, the more they benefit – we’re talking 3 or 4 years old here!
And somewhat of a cautionary tale was included, as those kids who stared chores when they were older viewed chores more negatively and were less likely to comply.
We’ve all heard this – and perhaps said it ourselves – chores build character. They help your little one learn responsibility, time management, and self reliance. And let’s not forget how proud they are of themselves when they finish making their bed, can’t you just see their face beaming when they show you their hard work?
I’ve recruited my almost two year old to help load the dishwasher and his face lights up when I ask him to be my helper. Now, his attention span is restricted to putting his 10 or so plastic utensils in the dishwasher and then he’s off, but it’s enough for now. Slowly, we’re building up to more small tasks he can help with and while it may take a bit longer for the chores to be completed…. this counts as quality time! Read that again. One reason I love chores and recommended my young clients’ parents to begin a chore routine, is because it can be not only a learning opportunity for the child, but also one in which you’re focusing on them, their efforts, and the celebration of mastering something new. This one-on-one attention is the life of a trusting, close parent-child relationship.
This is not to say you need to hover when your older ones are cleaning the toilet (tho you may want to, resist the urge ;)), but it works wonders when you’re first showing a toddler how a chore is done.
On another more frank note, kids just need to a)learn that in society everyone makes a contribution, and b) work hard and learn to struggle. It’s a give and take both inside the home and outside of it, so it’s crucial we teach our little ones to give of their efforts to help those around them. Similarly, learning how to handle struggle (think of your kiddo trying to sweep 😬) will develop their problem solving and increase their anger management skills at a young age – both of which they’ll need for the rest of their lives.
Next week we’ll talk more about age-appropriate chores so stay tuned! There you have it, find some time this weekend to introduce chores to your little ones! It can be quality time with them and/or may give you some free time if you can get your older ones to fold their laundry – win win!