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Are You Giving Your Child Enough Chores?

Photograph by Twenty20

Kids are a lot of work. No doubt about it. When you become a parent, you enter a strange new world of regularly cleaning someone else's bodily fluids, smashing or dicing every single meal into oblivion, lugging around a small suitcase full of someone else's items every time you leave the house, and doing (at minimum) double the dishes and laundry.

RELATED: The Ultimate Daily Chore Chart for Moms

A very wise friend of mine once told me that, as a mother, it is her job to work herself out of a job. By that she meant that mothering doesn't mean doing everything for your kids. On the contrary, it means training your children to take care of themselves, and to someday be able to care for a home. Of course, this training will happen under your roof, which means that you need to allow them the opportunity to learn about organization, maintenance, and routines while they are still living with you.

When my son was about three, we moved all of our dishes to lower shelves so that he could start helping us to unload the dishwasher. Now that he is in kindergarten, he gets up at six in the morning and, after feeding the pets and having some breakfast, it's his responsibility to empty the dishwasher before leaving for school. Of course I look through the dishwasher first to make sure there isn't anything super dangerous in there, but usually he is able to do all of it and get it done on time. Kids can contribute a lot if we give them the time they need and the space to make mistakes.

He gains an important life experience while I am regaining my sanity with a few moments of quiet.

By far the hardest thing about teaching your children to do chores is knowing what to expect of them and at what age. Of course this will vary from one child to another, as they all mature at different rates, but there are plenty of resources that will help you to know which chores you can start instituting at which age.

Some good examples for appropriate chores for toddlers are things such as putting toys away, wiping up spills, and putting clothes in the hamper. A preschooler should be able to make their own bed, pull weeds, wash plastic dishes, and fix their own cereal. Of course older children (ages 10 and up) should be able to do things for you around the house such as fold laundry, wash a car, cook a simple meal, and change their own bedsheets. The full list has plenty of other ideas as well as tips for making it happen.

RELATED: How to Encourage Siblings to Work Together With Chores

An important one? Don't give allowance for these mundane, keep-the-house-running types of chores. To give rewards or reimbursement for the kind of work that they will be doing all their lives without any pats on the back sets a child up for frustration later. There are some things we just have to do because we are part of a family and because we must maintain the things that we own. I admit, though, what works for me is that if my son hasn't completed his chores before school, he doesn't get screen time later. Loss of privileges can be a huge motivator for some kids.

Yes, it took time and work to train my son to do the dishes. But now, even though he's only six, I am reaping the rewards and can sip my coffee in the morning while the dishes are being put away. He gains an important life experience while I am regaining my sanity with a few moments of quiet.

It's a win-win.

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