To predict how successful your child will be in life, look at how eager they are with chores now
We all want our children to grow up to be well-functioning, well-behaved, well-mannered adults with lead successful, happy lives.
Which is why, of course, we ferry them around from activity to activity, organise playdates to nourish their friendships, take a keen interest in their school work – in other words, literally do what we can to help them on their merry way to a great life.
But did you know there is one very simple thing we should be doing – that can actually end up greatly impacting how successful your child is in life?
Are you ready to know what it is? It's rather simple: Just put them to work.
Yep, really. You can make a big difference in your children's future by asking them to take out the trash. And do the laundry, wash the dishes, make the beds and put away the toys.
According to research by Marty Rossmann, emeritus associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, studies show that involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life. In fact, by involving children in tasks, parents teach their children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives.
To conduct his research, Rossman explored outcomes for 84 young adults based on an in-depth study of their parents' style of interacting with them, their participation in family work at three periods of their lives (ages three to four, nine to 10, and 15–16), and a brief phone interview when they were in their mid-20s. Variables such as parenting styles, gender, types of household tasks, time spent on tasks, and attitudes and motivators connected to doing the tasks were analyzed for their relationship to outcomes for the children.
And guess what? Rossmann determined that the best predictor of young adults' success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four. But beware – you need to start early.
Get an early start on chores
Rossman's studies showed that if children did not begin participating in household chores until they were 15 or 16, the participation backfired and those subjects were less "successful." The assumption is that responsibility learned via household tasks is best when learned young, and the earlier parents begin getting children to take an active role in the household, the easier it will be to get them involved as teens.
Keep in mind, though, the tasks should not be too overwhelming, parents should present the tasks in a way that fits the child's preferred learning style, and children should be involved in determining the tasks they will complete, through family meeting and methods such a weekly chore chart.
Interestingly, Rossman says children should not be made to do the tasks for an allowance.
Why this research matters Involving children in household tasks at an early age helps them learn values and empathy as well as responsibility. It is important for children to internalize values when they are young because household responsibilities continue to play a significant role throughout one's life. Young adults are living on their own longer and they need to have household skills as part of becoming well-adjusted adults. And not only that – managing household responsibilities can be the biggest cause of stress in marriages.
"There's a lot of talk about family values, but little action," Rossmann says. She would like to do more work in this area that would replicate the study with a larger sample of the population and groups that represent greater diversity