Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

The mum jury’s out on chores for kids, but what do the experts say?

At what age should kids start doing chores? That’s a call for every parent to make for themselves, but one blogger is facing backlash for sharing a guide on her Facebook page outlining age-appropriate chores for kids and suggesting starting the practice from 2 years old.

More: My kids don’t do chores — and I wouldn’t have it any other way

Samantha Jokell (aka, “School Mum”) deemed the guide “useful,” but not all parents agree.
“Just remember, they are only little once! It’s great to help out, but not to become the slave,” commented one parent, while others criticised particular suggestions, such as making 9- to 11-year-olds mow lawns and asking 12-year-olds to babysit.

However, some readers agreed that age-appropriate chores can benefit children in many ways by teaching them about responsibility and routine and giving them practical skills that will be useful throughout their lives.

More: Don’t rule out co-sleeping just yet — it may actually be good for your baby

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford, which is considered to be one of best universities in the U.S., gave a TED Talk last year on what she considers to be crucial elements of successful parenting.

She referred to the longest longitudinal study of humans of all time, the Harvard Grant Study, which found that professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid — and she says the earlier you start it, the better: “That a mindset that says ‘There’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me’, that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.”

According to some studies, chores for kids are definitely falling out of favour with modern parents. In a Braun Research survey of 1,001 U.S. adults released in 2014, 82 percent reported being given regular chores as kids, but only 28 percent of them said they gave their own children chores to do at home.

Why are parents ignoring the research that suggests chores are good for kids? Such as that carried out by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, who analysed data from a longitudinal study that followed 84 children across four periods in their lives — in preschool, around ages 10 and 15, and in their mid-20s. Rossmann found that young adults who started doing chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends and to enjoy early academic and career success than those who didn’t have chores as children or only started doing chores as teenagers.

More: If my breastfeeding grosses you out, well that’s just too darn bad

Perhaps modern children are simply too busy for chores. After school, homework, and whatever the day’s after-school activity is, they need some downtime. Chances are, your kids will turn out just fine even if they don’t spend their evenings folding laundry or mowing the lawn. Even Lythcott-Haims acknowledged in her TED Talk that success and happiness are not the same thing. “The most important finding from the Harvard Grant Study said that happiness in life comes from love,” she said. “Not love of work, love of humans. Our spouse, our partner, our friends, our family. So childhood needs to teach our children how to love.”

Leave a Comment