Raising responsible children is a top priority for parents. We all want our kids to grow up to be responsible and independent adults. One way to achieve this goal is to give your kids chores or other responsibilities. It may seem a little old-fashioned, especially in our high-tech society, but chores teach kids life skills, give them a sense of responsibility, boost their self-esteem, build a good work ethic, and show them that being part of a family unit means working together to achieve a common goal. Teens who help around the house and develop a sense of responsibility are also less likely to engage in risky behaviors like underage drinking. Research from a Harvard study found that “chores were the best predictor of which kids were more likely to become happy, healthy, independent adults.”
Some chores can also provide opportunities for parents and children to develop new family bonds over a shared task. For example, while you’re working on a household chore with your teen, you have the perfect opportunity to start the conversation about the dangers of underage drinking and keep the conversation going during their teen years.
To assign chores, use a chore chart or let kids choose which chores they want to tackle, based on their ages and abilities. Remember to set realistic timelines for job completion, and always let kids know how much you appreciate their effort. After all, it’s much easier running a house when everyone pitches in. Here are nine age-appropriate responsibilities for children that build self-esteem, responsibility, and improve family bonds.
Unload the Dishwasher
Ask your child to unload the dishwasher while you’re making dinner. Younger children may need more supervision and help to put away breakable items, or you can put them in charge of storing silverware and stacking plastic containers.
If you have a teenager who can handle unloading the dishwasher on their own, this is a good opportunity for conversation while you’re both working. You can ask how things are going at school and with their friends. If you’re working together, and there’s something bothering your teen, there’s a better chance they’ll open up to you or ask your advice about a problem they can’t solve.
Depending on your child’s age, making a family meal is a fun chore idea that will allow them to contribute to the household and develop skills they’ll use their whole lives. Small children can help with stirring, mixing, and setting the table, but older teens may want a whole night where they’re in charge!
Encourage your teen to choose a recipe for a healthy meal they want to try. If they don’t mind you hanging around, act as their kitchen assistant and catch up on the day’s events while you work.
Even children in preschool can help pick up their own laundry and sort it into piles for you. This is also a life skill that older teens will need when they go to college or move out of the house so they can handle this task all on their own! A few simple guidelines about not overloading the washer or adding too much detergent should be all they need to tackle this task.
Wash the Car
We all ride in the car, so a natural responsibility for children is to help clean it. Small children will love getting the car soapy and using the hose to rinse it off.
Older teens will learn that taking pride in their vehicle means using a little elbow grease from time to time. They may also keep the car tidier between cleanings because now they understand how much work it can be when people don’t pick up after themselves!
Teens who’ve recently received their driver’s license are always eager for an excuse to get behind the wheel. Ask your teen to pick up a younger sibling from soccer practice, drop off the dry cleaning, or pick up milk from the store.
Clean Their Room
When kids clean their rooms, they improve their organization skills. Whether kids have their own room or share with a sibling, being responsible for their room is a good way to teach them about taking care of their belongings.
Younger children can help make the bed, pick up toys, and put dirty laundry in the hamper. Older teens can also oversee dusting the furniture and vacuuming the carpet.
Make Their Lunch
Are you tired of hearing your kids complain about what you’re packing them for lunch? Have your kids pack their own lunch as a daily responsibility. If your mornings are too hectic, kids can make their lunches after dinner and put them in the refrigerator so they’re ready to go in the morning.
Younger children can select from your approved healthy choices. Older teens may surprise you by packing their favorite dinner leftovers or making a salad. Encourage kids of all ages to put in their (reasonable) requests for new lunch options before your next trip to the grocery store.
Walk the Dog
Everyone can use a little extra exercise, including the family dog. Kids who take care of the dog will learn they’re responsible for this living creature. Caring for a pet also teaches a respect for life and empathy. Don’t forget about picking up after the dog! This is a good lesson in becoming a respectful member of the community.
If your teen seems to have a lot on their mind, ask if you can join them on the dog’s evening walk. This one-on-one time could be a good opportunity for them to discuss something that’s on their mind.
Mowing the lawn, trimming trees, and raking leaves take a lot of time! Make it a family event; and get everyone outside to tackle yard work quickly. Once the job is complete, use the extra time you saved for a cookout to celebrate family teamwork and enjoy the beautiful backyard.
Getting Kids on Board
We understand kids may not initially be on board with chores. After all, they see that things have been running efficiently with you doing everything, so why should that need to change? And while child-rearing shifts during the teen years, helping out around the house is an important part of family life.
One way to successfully assign responsibilities for children is to start when they’re young. Even preschool-aged children can help with picking up toys and feeding the dog. If your teen pushes back on chores, remind them that being part of the family means enjoying certain perks such as having access to the car and having a cellphone while also working together on household responsibilities.
Your family can also work together to stop underage drinking. Take advantage of chore time to talk to your teens about the dangers of alcohol on the adolescent brain and about making responsible choices about alcohol. Your family can also Take the Pledge together and stop underage drinking.