Age-appropriate chores to give your kids the sense of responsibility and independence
by Loraine Balita-Centeno
Congratulations! Your son’s off to college and to his dorm where he’d have his first taste of independence. As separation anxiety starts to kick in you suddenly realize that your son, who’s had a yaya all his life cater to his whims, cannot cook, clean, or do laundry, not even to save his life. Yes, you have raised a spoiled child and have rendered him unable to fend for himself so he can live alone.
While the thought of having him depend on you and need you forever seems nice, at some point it gets annoying if not frustrating. Because we all know that a. you’ll eventually have to let go especially when he starts his own family and b. no one likes a full grown adult man (or woman) calling his or her mom when the laundry basket gets full or he can’t find his shoes under that much clutter.
So how do we get them ready to, as Millenials call it, “adult”?
You start them early. While spoiling the most precious person or little people in the world is the easiest, most natural thing a loving parent can do, it does a lot of damage in the long run. A research by Marty Rossman, associate professor for Family Education at the University of Minnesota, found that assigning children household tasks at an early age has a lasting impact later in life. By assigning them tasks, parents teach kids a sense of competence, self-reliance, responsibility, and so many positive values that stay with them throughout their lives.
Results of professor Rossman’s research show that individuals in their 20s whose parents assigned them tasks starting at age three or four are more successful (in terms of completion of education, getting their career started etc.) than those whose parents assigned them tasks starting at age 15 or 16. The sense of responsibility according to Rossman is best inculcated when children are young. Getting them involved in tasks at an early age makes it easier to get them to accept responsibilities later on in life.
“A good age to start giving chores to children is at age six years because by this time, they have more control over their behaviors and are entering the stage of development wherein they are now developing increased intellectual capacity, discipline, and conceptual skills,” says Dr. Vanessa Cainghug, head of the Department of Psychiatry at St. Lukes Medical Center Taguig. At this age according to Dr. Cainghug they are able to practice more independence, capable of increased socialization and learning.
But parents of very young children aged two to four can allow their kids to do basic self-care tasks like brushing teeth, changing clothes, bathing, and combing the hair. This way the child is eased into becoming independent and not having a yaya or a caregiver do things for him. Some other basic tasks that a child this age should be taught to do alone include putting away their toys after use, picking up dirty clothes and putting them in the laundry basket, and throwing trash in the trash bin.
These tasks according to Dr. Cainghug “will teach them independence, will give them a sense of achievement, and will greatly hasten their maturity.”
When a child becomes more disciplined and begins to think in abstract terms, he is now capable of increased independence. He or she can serialize, order, and group things and is ready for more responsibilities, she adds.
At age five to seven you can assign the child to set the table, water the plants, walk and feed the dog, and return things to their proper places. Other tasks you can assign your young child include clearing the table, helping prepare meals, sorting, and folding socks, and small items like washcloths and handkerchiefs, or wiping the sink or toilet. Some may even be assigned to vacuum clean a certain area in the house and mop the floor.
By age eight to 11 the child should be ready for more tasks like washing the dishes, dusting the floor, cooking simple meals, dusting furniture, collecting, bringing in, and organizing mail, walking the dog, and helping wash the car.
Older children can be assigned all previously mentioned tasks plus others like cleaning the shower area, clearing and cleaning the fridge, baking basic desserts or breads, and others based on the child’s skills.
Dr. Cainghug advises parents, however, to keep chores enjoyable. “Incorporate play in the chore or activity (e.g. exercising the dog will also including playing with it),” she says. Rewarding also reinforces the value of reaping good things after working hard. “Give rewards for chores done especially if the chore is difficult and the child did a very good job,” she adds. Or you can tap your kids’ inner competitive streak by making a contest out of the chores. Give a prize for the cleanest room or most organized bedroom.
Choosing to do things for them or assigning a yaya to answer their every whim is easy, especially since in your eye they will always be just a baby but we have to realize that at some point we have to get them ready to be on their own in the future. We have to accept that someday they will pry themselves free from your loving arms and survive out there on their own and we have to get them ready when that time comes.