Age Appropriate Chores and Responsibilities for Kids

by | Jun 17, 2020 | Uncategorized | 35 comments

Merchandise is Here!

What is an appropriate age to expect children to do different chores? When can you expect them to be responsible for their own stuff?

We’ve been talking about emotional labor and mental load this month, when mom carries the mental and physical burden for running the household, often almost entirely by herself. We’ve talked about how to get men more involved in sharing the load (and we’ve talked about what to do if he won’t).

But husbands are not the only ones in many of our households. Many of us have children, too–children who can be taught how to take responsibility for themselves and taught to share in the household load. And children who, if they aren’t taught these things, will end up contributing a LOT to your mental load.

Before we get started, I want to do a shout out for Grill Masters Club, with whom I’m an affiliate! It’s my “Sheila’s Spotlight” item today–a product I highlight so I can afford to get rid of ads on the blog. If you’re looking for a unique Father’s Day gift, GrillMaster’s Club sends you an amazing rub, an amazing barbecue sauce, recipes, and more for your grilling husband. So fun!

I think we don’t expect very much out of kids with chores now compared to what was expected in the past.

Read Little House on the Prairie and see what Laura was expected to do when she was really young! Our kids have it easy. All over the world little children have tremendous responsibility at a very young age. I’m not saying that I advocate child labour; only this idea that kids aren’t able to do tasks young is almost an entirely North American phenomenon.

They’re not able because we’ve never taught them, and we haven’t raised them in an environment where they would expect to have to work. Too often, for many kids, the point of life becomes being entertained, or doing things that they like to do.

Yesterday we talked about the app FamZoo, and how it can help you teach your kids money skills and organize their chores. It’s a great app, and I encourage you to read about FamZoo and check it out! 

I just can’t understand 13 and 14-year-olds who go off to summer camp for a few weeks (back when we could go to summer camp!) who don’t pack their own suitcases. Why is mom packing for them at that age? And what about a 10-year-old who doesn’t know where to start when it comes to cleaning their room?

So I’m going to suggest a few ages for things, and I’d love comments on what you think. This is a rough guide; I may revise it later. But here is what I think is reasonable to expect from children (which means that you have to teach it to them at that age, of course):

Age Appropriate Chores for Kids

Age 4: Put toys away in toy bins. Dust a coffee table. Clean the outside of the stove and the bottom of the fridge. Dust baseboards. Get dressed by yourself.

Age 5: Brush teeth by yourself (especially with an egg timer there). Start putting dishes in the dishwasher. Choose your own clothes. Clean walls/cupboards/doors with water and a cloth.

Age 6: Make your own bed. Sort socks. Sort your own laundry by whites and colours (empty your hamper into the laundry room).

Age 7: Dry dishes. Put your own laundry away after parents fold it.

Age 8: Clean room by yourself. Tidy anywhere in the house. Clean a bathroom (including the toilet). Wash dishes while standing on a stool (not necessarily pots yet). Pack for yourself if you’re going away. Pack your lunch for school.

Age 9: Wash dishes. Fold laundry. Make cookies by yourself, and cake from a mix.

Age 10: Put a load of clothes in the washing machine. Mop a floor. Pack for yourself if you’re going away.

Age 11: Vacuum. Make three different meals (spaghetti, chicken pie, ham, for instance). Supervise younger siblings by yourself.

Age 12: Baby-sit. Sort out the organization of your own room, or a linen closet, or a front hall.

Age 13: Be pretty much self-reliant. Need parents more for advice about any household task, but already know how to do them all. Start to become independent by using a clothing allowance.

Age 14: Start to buy your own toiletries, with allowance if parents prefer. You’re responsible for your shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Allowances can be given on monthly basis for this.

A few tips for helping kids own age appropriate chores:

Kids need mentoring before they can do a chore on their own

Kids will not be able to do things as well as you. If you want a child to take over a task, you have to be patient and let them learn, even if that means it’s not done perfectly for a while.

And you’ll have to teach them how to clean a bathroom by doing it with them. Show them that they have to dust the back of the toilet or the top of the toilet paper roll; show them what the cleaners are for, and your own tricks for streak-free mirrors. Give them checklists for each chore–what’s involved in cleaning a bathroom or taking out the trash (empty all garbage cans into one bag; replace bags in garbage cans; add new garbage to garbage in garage; attach garbage tags (if applicable); take to curb; sort recycling; take to curb). “Taking out the trash”, in other words, doesn’t just mean “carry the full garbage bag to the curb on time”. It means much more, and they need to “own” the whole task.

Age Appropriate Chores for Kids: Mentoring Kids in Housework

So do it the tasks with them for a few weeks. Make a game out of it. Ask them to examine YOUR work and see if you missed something. Have fun while teaching them!

Kids need reminding to do their chores

To relieve all of the mental load from you means that a child will do the chore without being asked. However, realistically, most kids do need reminding until they’re into their teens. It can just be a quick thing–“do your chores as soon as you’re home from school!”, or “chores before TV!”. But they may need to be told.

Make it easy for kids to remember what to do

At the same time, you don’t want to be giving extensive orders all the time. Keep lists on the fridge where they can check off their chores, or check what needs to be done. Use FamZoo like we talked about yesterday so that it sends reminders and checklists to the kids. Or use an app that will remind kids. When kids are younger, pictures of what they’re to do can help if they can’t read well yet.

Once they’re well into teenagehood–say, by 15 or 16–you can start expecting them to remember by themselves, and have consequences if they don’t do the chores by a certain time each week (say, they miss their allowance or you change the wifi password for a day). That way you don’t have to say anything, but the kids will learn that it’s best to remember! And they can set up their own apps to make sure they do (and I do recommend FamZoo!).

Age Appropriate Responsibilities for Kids

Okay, we’ve covered chores. But what about other things, like homework, practising piano, remembering to bring their lunch, remembering to make sure their sports equipment is packed and ready to go?

When we revisit Sandra and Mark’s story that opened this emotional labor series, a big part of Sandra’s stress was kid stuff–kid birthday parties, homework, and piano practice. When can we let this fall from our mental load to theirs?

Supervision is always part of parenting

Parents need to know what their kids are doing and what is up in their lives, and that means that we will always be supervising to some extent. We need to know whether they’re doing their homework or failing; whether they’re practising music or we should drop it; whether they’re bringing home all of the school notices.

But just because you have to supervise doesn’t mean that more and more of the first-line responsibility can’t fall on the kids as they get older. 

I’m a big believer that the best way for kids to learn responsibility is to face the consequences of their actions. For instance:

  • Forget their lunch? They have to come home for it or buy it out of their own money (when they’re old enough)
  • Fail in school? They lose wifi privileges so that they have time to do their homework.
  • Don’t have their stuff ready for a sports practice? They don’t go (or they’re late)

I talked about this for younger children in my post on alternatives to spanking, but as kids get older, the consequences should fit the crime, too.

Now, I would never jump straight to those consequences, and they should be age appropriate. Spend considerable time mentoring them. Talk about what they need to do to get ready for sports practice. Remind them the night before. Set up checklists. Remind them on the weekend if they have to do laundry. Make it a habit for quite a while that you do it with them before you expect them to do it without reminder. But if you don’t want to be bothered by the constant, “Mom, where are my soccer cleats?”, then you need to transfer that responsibility early, and train them even when they’re very young to keep their shoes in a particular place.

Even if you do all of this, though, you will still have to keep tabs. That’s part of being a parent. But I found that when we expected a lot from our kids, and we equipped them and taught them how to carry it out, they lived up to it! And Rebecca talks a lot about this in her book Why I Didn’t Rebel–which you really need to check out!

A few other considerations about age appropriate chores and responsibilities

Expect the same from your boys as  your girls when it comes to chores

I’ve seen the dynamic in so many families where the girl is expected to help with housework while the boy is not. Boys need to be able to clean as well. If in your family the boy gets off without cleaning or cooking while the girl has to pick up after everyone, then your daughter is likely to marry someone who doesn’t  help, and your son may end up being a bad husband. Train both of your children how to manage a household.

Expect the same chores and responsibilities from your youngest as your oldest

Did your oldest have to start chores at 8? Then so should your youngest. Could your oldest cook spaghetti at 11? Then so should your youngest.

Now, some children have more challenges than others, but all things being equal, your youngest should also be expected to contribute. In some homes, the oldest does far more, at far younger an age, than the oldest. That’s not a good dynamic, either.

We need to raise kids who are capable of looking after themselves. And they can’t learn everything starting at 16!

We have to start younger.

If we do everything for our kids, then they grow up thinking that it is the mother’s job to look after them, and they can’t be expected to do any work. If that’s what they think, they’re likely to become lazy adults, or selfish adults, who don’t realize when they are putting other people out. We all know people like that; people who take advantage of your hospitality, or who expect you to bail them out of a jam, because they don’t realize how much work is involved. Or maybe they just think they deserve it, because someone has always done everything for them.

Being a Christian parent does not mean that we do everything for the family. It means we work hard to work ourselves out of a job. I know not every family would be able to work towards that timeline. Learning disabilities, or maturity levels, would also play a part. Some children will be ready for things before others. I just encourage you to think about what you want your children to be able to do, so that they do become teenagers who are motivated and helpful.

Age Appropriate Chores for Kids

So please comment: is this list fair? Have I left anything out? Am I too easy on the kids? Too hard? I’d love to know!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Ina

    My 2 and 3 year olds don’t have chores assigned yet, but they do a lot of these things with me. It’s the best age for training because all they want is to be involved! They don’t see work as boring or bad yet. So, they run to get cloths when they see me dusting. They take all the food out of the fridge when I say we’re going to clean it and they help put the plastic plates and bowls away from the dishwasher. They love being just like Mama and Papa and they start being independent from a young age. I was really inspired by the Montessori method with my little ones and I’m for when I can stand back more.

    • Meghan

      I’m a big fan of Montessori too! We’ve set up our home to be fairly accessible to our 3 year old. She can get all her own snacks, the cleaning rags, can reach all her toy bins and bookshelves and all her clothes. She can even turn on the lamp in her room all by herself and is completely responsible for feeding the dog. It’s glorious.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s so awesome! We did that with our kids, too. It was really fun.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So much YES!!! I think what people don’t understand is that 2 and 3 year olds LOVE helping. Give them water in a spray bottle and a cloth, and they’ll clean the bottom cupboards for you and have a blast. And yet instead, when they ask to help, often parents “shoo” them away because they’re in the way. But if we can foster that enthusiasm when kids are young, it really pays off. And kids love it! They love doing stuff with their parents and feeling like they’re acting “big”.

      • Becky

        It’s true. Our dishwasher has been broken for well over a year, and my 3 year old loves helping me wash the dishes. He often throws a fit when we’re done!

  2. Jane Eyre

    One of the things I appreciate about the way I was raised is that my father always expected us to contribute because someday, we would have to run our own homes.
    He grew up in an extremely wealthy area with a lot of kids who never had to shovel the driveway or mow the lawn, and when those kids grew up, they didn’t have the capability to do those things on their own or the resources to hire landscapers or a plow guy for the driveway.
    Now, I’m not sure it was appropriate to ask a 7 year old to do a lot of shovelling (the walkway might have been age appropriate, not the walkway plus the driveway), but I’m glad to be able to do those tasks as an adult.
    My stepsiblings were not. A housekeeper cleaned the house; a lawn service mowed the lawn; a driveway service plowed the driveway. Correlation is not causation, but my stepsister is one of the most entitled people I’ve met in my life.
    When you mentioned RATs yesterday, I couldn’t help but think that some parents do this to their kids. Out of nowhere, there’s a task. Hurh? Having a set list of chores felt much more, well, respectful is the best I’ve got.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely, Jane. I also think that while a 7-year-old can’t shovel the driveway, many of them LOVE to help Daddy or Mommy! And if you can do it together, you train them and you also build relationship. I think that’s what’s often missed–when you clean/do chores together, you spend time together. You talk together. And, yes, you definitely don’t grow up entitled!

  3. Nathan

    Great topic. Kids who get pampered and entitled grow into adults who can’t function well.
    My wife’s sister married a guy who was raised in a traditional family, and grew up watching mom do laundry, dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, all the child care, etc. while dad just drank beer and watched TV.
    He managed to overcome that, though, and helps out a fair amount with tasks. They don’t have their kids do any chores, though.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wonder if that’s a new generational thing? When I was young, I think most kids did chores. But I’ve noticed that fewer kids do them now. I think parenting has changed. It used to be that kids were expected to contribute, but now it’s more that parents are supposed to turn their lives inside out for their kids. I don’t think that ends well usually.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Just realized that this comment makes me really sound like a curmudgeon! But maybe I am one. 🙂 I don’t think the “good ole days” were better in every respect whatsoever (I think we’re far more emotionally healthy in general in how we parent). But I do think chores and helping on the house/farm helped kids develop a sense of purpose and a lack of entitlement and a connection to their family.

      • Meghan

        I think it’s definitely new generational thing, and I think it has a lot to do with the Internet and social media. I’ve seen a tendency towards child-centric family life and this weird idea that parents shouldn’t prioritize themselves (but let’s be real, it’s more on moms than on dads). If you’ve ever seen a post that shares the struggles of parenthood or how parents need down time, it’s always prefaced with “OF COURSE I love my kids,” like if you don’t love every minute of parenthood then you obviously shouldn’t have had kids.

  4. Phil

    Just my opinion. The lists are fine except I wouldnt want my 4 year old working around the stove even if it’s just the front. To easy to turn a burner on. As for kids working. My kids know I will put them to work. Yeah boy girl do t matter – get to work.

  5. Lisa Johnson

    Good ideas . Could I suggest one change? Please consider editing the list to not say “mom” but to say “parents”!
    “Age 7: Dry dishes. Put your own laundry away after “”Mom” (dad or mom) folds it.
    Age 13: Be pretty much self-reliant. Need “Mom” (parents would be better) more for advice about any household task, but already know how to do them all. “
    To tie this into the discussion of men being expected to own more equally, this kind of framing is why it’s still considered the wife’s job to manage everything. Dad is nowhere to be found on the age chore lists.
    I know you are targeting moms to change here but imho the more we can talk about this as a being owned by both mom and dad the better it is to change mindset defaults.
    Thanks for your great work on this whole topic! It makes a difference😀

    • Wild Honey

      So true! When we were training my oldest to put her shoes away, my husband told her, “Go put your shoes in the shoe bin.” She was in the “why” phase, so she naturally asked, “Why?” My husband looked at me with a panicked expression, “Because Mommy says to?” I chimed in, “And so you can find them easily the next time you need them!”

  6. Nathan

    > > I wonder if that’s a new generational thing? When I was young,
    > > I think most kids did chores
    It may be. I believe that the idea that kids are delicate flowers who can’t have ANY burdens placed on them at all is mostly unique to North America and of fairly recent origin.
    > > I don’t think the “good ole days” were better in every respect whatsoever
    Me neither. However, I do believe that some thing about the olden days are better and some things about today are better. As I often say on other boards, I’d like to take the best of back then and marry it to the best of today. Then we’d really have something!

    • Rachel C

      I think part of it might be that school standards are different too. My just-finished-3rd grader had more homework than I did at the same age; other than during the distance learning during the Corona quarantine. Plus, when they get home at 4 p.m. or later if they have a working parent, when do they have time to be a kid if their parents give them too many chores? He does have a few chores but not as many as I had at his age, and that’s my reasoning. He’s young and needs more free time.

  7. Melissa W

    Great list and I completely agree. Especially when it comes to expecting the same things from boys and girls. I was lucky enough to marry a guy who was raised to do everything. His dad did nothing but his mom didn’t want her three sons to be like him so she intentionally taught them to do all of the housework. When I met my husband he was a 21 year old homeowner and by the time we got married had owned and cared for his own house for 2.5 years and that made a huge difference for us as a newly married couple and housework expectations. The only issue I see with expecting the same things from boys and girls is physical ability. For instance my daughter was only 4’9″ when she started 9th grade. When the kids do the dishwasher my daughter does the silverware and my son does everything else because my daughter literally cannot reach most of the cupboards and we do not have any room in our kitchen or near our kitchen to keep a stool. She also doesn’t take out the garbage or recycling because she is just too short to carry it down the stairs without falling or dragging it, so that is my son’s job. She does mow the grass through and he doesn’t do that. So sometimes physical limitations may make the chores inequitable in that they don’t both do the same things but we aim at making it equal in that they have the same amount of chores.

  8. Meghan

    Has anyone read the article that circulated around a few years back about Maya parenting? The gist is that Maya parents include their children in what they’re doing from a very young age, even if it means more work for the parents. We kind of do that in our home; my 3 year old has helped (ok, more like “helped”) me cook for over a year now. She helps me load the washer and dryer and I’m teaching her which buttons to press to start the cycle. She unloads and sorts the silverware from the dishwasher. She has her own tiny watering can to help Daddy water the plants. She has a small broom to help us sweep (again…”help”).
    Also, like I said above in a reply, we’ve set up our house to be as accessible as possible for her. Her toys, books, clothes, and snacks are all within her reach. She can also reach the wash rags to clean up her messes and can reach the dog food bag to feed the dog. We give her as much autonomy as possible and it’s given us as parents a lot more freedom. One morning after we removed the crib rail from her bed, we woke up to find her downstairs with a cup of almond milk reading her books!!
    I think kids are capable of far more than we give them credit for. Some things they just have to grow into, but often I think we just haven’t given them the opportunity to try, whether it’s just the physical reality of how we arrange the spaces in our homes or whether it’s having too low expectations for them.

    • Ina

      Our girls sound so similar! We’ve recently even had to make a rule that she needs to ask before helping herself and her sister to almond milk because we kept running out too quickly!
      I think you’re so right about how families organize their houses though. It takes intentionality to plan for things to be stored low to the ground. If you’re not actively thinking about your child’s reach when organizing your house then you really limit their independence right off that bat without even realizing it. I love that my kids dress themselves (who cares that it’s a pink tutu with a red Christmas dress?!) I love that they set their own places for meals! But I’m still trying to learn to love the water they splash on the floor when helping to rinse the dishes…

  9. Kemi Esho

    Thanks for this awesome post. It emphasizes the point of the earlier they learn to do things themselves, the better for everyone. These are tips I’ll keep in mind for the future.
    The chores assigned for each age are fair enough and you’re not too harsh. I loved how you also spelt out consequences.

  10. Wild Honey

    Chores can also be a good way to introduce children to early/age-appropriate versions of more academic skills. Sorting utensils to put them away is an early math skill. Folding washcloths and kitchen towels has introduced the concept of fractions to my preschoolers. Baking together can turn into a rudimentary chemistry lesson.
    I’ve been touching up paint around our house, and the kids (ages 5 and 3) always want to help, at least for a few minutes. After all, when else does Mom let them paint on the walls? Touching up spots with their paintbrushes reinforces fine motor skills, which will in turn help when they learn writing.

  11. Kailin

    I have an 18-month-old. Currently she helps me with laundry–she puts her clothes into the dryer (I drop then on the floor for her) and turns on/starts both the washer and the dryer. She has always “helped” me close blinds and pick up toys. We’ll keep adding things as she grows up.

  12. unmowngrass

    I had to chuckle at the irony of this post, although I know how it’s meant… “feeling too overwhelmed with how much you’re doing in your house? then teach your kids how to Do All The Things — with plenty of supervision!! — and then the problem will be solved!”
    You need money to make money. You need time to get more time.
    It’s an important point, teaching kids to do more of their own things and family things, and definitely beneficial in the long run. It just seems like this is something that overwhelmed Moms are already aware that they should be doing, and how much it will help, but it’s faster and easier to just vacuum for 10 minutes and have it done and “done properly”, and zone out a bit at the same time, than to take 45 minutes and an awful lot more presence/focus to cajole and then train an unwilling 8yo to do it imperfectly, y’know? Of course, this is the same problem she had when that 8yo was 2yo and more than willing to help/join in, but she still only had 10 minutes to do it so she told the 2yo to buzz off. I know that if nothing ever changes then nothing will ever change, it just also seems like, for a Mom that is already overwhelmed, there isn’t an easy road to change that in the short term does not have a higher cost, y’know? And that’s a problem in itself.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, I get that. I think that’s also where dividing up the mental load with your husband does matter. But I can tell you that having teens who could help and having younger kids who were able to be responsible for basic things (like making their own breakfast) made a huge difference. But, yep, it’s a time investment, and many may not have it. But it is worth it in the long run, both for your own sanity, and for their life skills. I think parenting is just all-consuming for the first decade. I’m not sure there’s a way around that. And that’s why I hope this series can help overwhelmed moms get their husbands more involved!

  13. Lynne

    Am I the only one who struggles with letting their toddler “help”? I have such a hard time with the fact that “help” inevitably leads to A) me needing to re-do the job later, B) a massive mess or disaster, C) running away or making demands on my attention instead, and D) a whole lot of time out the window. I like the idea in theory of encouraging independence and helpfulness, but it leads to so much stress and wasted time. If anyone knows how to manage this, please do share!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I get it, Lynne. Here’s what I found: when kids are toddlers, they need to be entertained or played with. I didn’t really enjoy traditional play. But I had no problem with them “helping” in the kitchen. So if they did that, it maant I didn’t need to get down on the floor and play something else. And at least the kitchen eventually did get clean!

    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Hi Lynne!
      I work with Sheila on the blog and am mom to a 2 year old little girl who LIVES to help around the house. Some of that, I think, is her little personality – some things come easier to some kids than they do to others. My daughter loves to help and really enjoys feeling “big”… but she struggles mightily with block stacking and her visual spatial reasoning isn’t the best. While my daughter can be trusted to pick up a plate from the dishwasher and carry it to me without breaking it, your little one might not be ready for that. That’s totally okay. Maybe get them involved in dusting? Or watering plants? Even just putting books or toys away is a great place to start, even if it’s slow.
      I’d also try to make sure that your toddler is set up for success. We don’t expect our daughter to put books back on the shelf. But she can put things into a bin very easily, so we put a lot of her books in baskets and bins and if books go on a shelf, we put them away for her.
      A side note – a lot of “chore helping” is really about following multi-step directions and I’ve found HABA’s My Very First Games line of board games to be a major help to us in getting my toddler used to doing several steps in a row (and following the rules). It might not be a fit for your family, but it’s been AMAZING for us. It’s also just been really fun to see what my daughter is capable of.
      As Sheila said, I try to see “helping time” as quality time. It helps me to feel like I don’t have to do everything when she’s asleep and even if it takes longer, at least we did it together.

  14. Ruth

    I love this! I don’t have kids now, but this was how my parents approached responsibility around the house. By the time I was three or four, I was helping my mom fold laundry–you know, the easy things, like washcloths and towels and matching socks and things like that. By the time I was in my early teens, I could effectively run the house on my own for periods of time. I could do laundry, cook a few meals, clean anywhere, etc, along with different responsibilities specific to our family. For instance, we heated our house with a woodstove, and I could start a fire and keep it going through the day. And my little brother and I were homeschooled, and by then I was very independent in my studies. My mom and I would decide what needed to be completed by the end of the semester, and I would break down my work from there.
    I wasn’t always responsible for all the cleaning or all the laundry–everyone pitched in as needed–but I was responsible for certain tasks each week or each month, as was my brother. And having the knowledge and ability to handle them made a huge difference for our family. My dad worked as a paramedic, so he worked 24-hour shifts. I remember a period of time in early high school where my mom’s mom had some major health issues and surgery, and my mom had to be with her in the hospital for quite a while. Sometimes that time overlapped with my dad’s need to be at work. We had neighbors and other family who could come if something came up, but most of the time we were fine on our own. And my parents didn’t have to worry or hover, because they knew we were equipped to keep things running around the house and they weren’t going to come home to a disastrous mess.

  15. Ruth

    I should add, the fact that my parents taught responsibility this way was a huge help for me as an adult when I moved out and bought my own place. It made the transition to adulthood substantially easier overall, because there are enough other things you’re learning with new jobs and relationships and things like that. On the flip side of that, I rented a room in my house out, and my roommate hadn’t grown up with responsibilities or expectations that she would help around the house. Her space was usually very messy and sometimes downright dirty. She seldom contributed to the common areas of the house either–for example, I think she vacuumed the living room twice in two years–and ultimately that was the major factor in why I eventually asked her to move out. I didn’t want to live with someone who needed to be reminded to take responsibility for their own space or pitch in around the house with things when they needed to be done. It was such a huge example to me of what a difference it makes to grow up with the expectation that you take on responsibilities in the house you’re part of.

  16. AK

    You’re only a kid for a few years. Kids need to got to school and play. They will learn about household chores when they are older. Kids 10 and under don’t have the maturity to be responsible for household chores. It will come in its own time like everything else.

    • Anon

      Lots of kids 10 and under don’t have any other choice and they manage just fine – just ask any young carer.
      And I think the risk of not starting kids young is that you never start them. I have friends who are still running themselves ragged after teenage kids because they’ve never learned how to do basic chores. One mother still makes lunch every day for her 14 year old – and when he still forgets to take it with him, she leaves work and drives half an hour to drop it off at his school. At 14, if I didn’t remember to make AND take my own lunch out with me, I’d be spending that day feeling very hungry. But as long as the kid has his parents to bail him out, he’s never going to learn.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think there’s also the question: WHY does anyone “deserve” to live a life without responsibility, with others waiting on them? I believe that people should start taking responsibility at age appropriate levels. Children are not “owed” their parents waiting on them. No one is “owed” a life of leisure. That’s not what we were created for. We were created for a life of purpose. We are part of the kingdom of God! And it’s easier to see that we’re part of a grand plan when we don’t feel entitled to others waiting on us, but we instead realize that we are responsible to do what we are able to do. Kids who learn that young, in an environment that is nurturing, caring, and affirming, do very well in the long run.

    • Meghan

      Look, kids live up or down to our expectations. Setting too low of a bar and doing everything for them robs them of important growth opportunities and pride in themselves and what they can accomplish. Also, according to The Center for Parenting Education, “Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school” and “the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20’s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four.” (Source:
      We do our kids a disservice if we don’t expect them to contribute to the household as soon as they’re able.
      Also, for a fun personal anecdote, my 3 year old LOVES cooking with me and once made a risotto almost all by herself. All I really did was measure out the rice and water, set out the appropriate herbs and spices, and manage the temperature of the burner. She did everything else on her own. (Although I did eventually have to put up the rosemary – she kept adding more and more!) And she was so proud of herself and ate every veggie filled bite.



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