Raising children is not for the faint-hearted.
I mean; most of the time when you have young kids, you are so focused on the then and there, just getting through the day, that you don’t have time to think about the bigger picture. Bigger picture, you ask? Well, you know, the fact that you are not actually raising kids as such, but involved in a long-term project of raising these little kids into adults.
And really, we all want to raise good, solid, successful adult, don’t we? You know, adults who are kind and caring and who can look after themselves and others, and who will contribute to society and make the world a better place. That kind of people.
There are, of course, many ways to achieve this goal, and what works for one child might not be the best thing for another.
However, if there is one thing we should all be doing when it comes to our kids, according to several studies, it is to give them chores.
That’s right. We need to get them helping out and doing some work – and not as a punishment, but because, really, this is what is good for them, both in the short-term and, more importantly, maybe, in the long-term.
In a recent TED Talk by Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of How To Raise an Adult, she goes on to quote a longitudinal study from Harvard University, where researchers found that children who are made to chores as kids grow up to become more successful adults as a result of this.
“If kids aren’t doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing it for them and so they’ve absolved of not only the work but of learning that work has to be done and that each of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole.”
The study in question is one of the longest longitudinal studies to date, and it really reveals so many interesting facts about human life and health and what really matters and what is less important. Looking at things like relationships, community, mental health and childhood experiences, the Harvard research found, when it comes to children and chores, that the earlier children start having chores, the better.
And it is this responsibility, and this helping out attitude that helps children so greatly in the long run, says Lythcott-Haims.
“When young people have been expected to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, and to ask how they can contribute to the household, it leads to a mindset of pitching in in other settings, such as the workplace.”
In fact, the study showed that children who grow up doing chores are not only more likely to be successful in their jobs and careers later, they are also more likely to grow up to become kind, empathetic people who treat others well and are willing to lend a helping hand to people in need.
By being made help out at home as children, they are made feel they are helping out with family life, adding to their sense of competence and responsibility, and even if they don’t like the job they are being made do, like taking the bins out or helping fold laundry, they will get a great sense of satisfaction once the task is done – and this feeling is what Lythcott-Haims explained is so important that we should all be giving our children more chores at home.
Not giving kids chores, she added, “deprives them of the satisfaction of applying their effort to a task and accomplishing it.”
Another important reason for making children help out at home is that they are learning really important, basic life skills, such as doing dishes or laundry, or even cooking, when they are old enough to help out with that.
My eldest is now 10, and while both she and her younger brother have had other chores for years, I have only recently started having her help me out with certain simple cooking tasks, and so far, she is loving it. Fingers crossed it’ll pay off in the long-run – both for her own future – and for mine – dreaming of some breakfasts in bed in my near future, to be honest!
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By Sophie Collins