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February 13, 2014

Dirty work

Should busy, stressed-out kids have to do chores?

(Continued)

Cameron, who grew up having “very consistent” chores, believes that Siobhan is learning responsibility through the discipline of her dance classes, getting there on time with her bag packed with the right gear.

No matter how busy a family is, Kennedy-Moore advises parents to ask kids for at least the minimum effort. “You don’t want to set it up where the kid is the honored guest and the parents are the servants,” she said.

The best way to start is to enlist kids when they are young, about 2½, so it becomes a regular part of their lives, Arond says. A toddler can clean up toys and sort socks; make it fun with songs or by making it a game. By elementary school, kids can hang up wet towels and can dust. They can load the dishwasher by 8 or 9. Teens can do their own laundry and take care of sports equipment.

And if parents haven’t required that their kids do chores, it’s never too late to start.

For kids who are new to chores or resistant to the idea, Kennedy-Moore recommends that they be given some say over how they do them. Parents should consider: Will the jobs be assigned or rotate through the family? When is the best time to do them? And perhaps most important, is the workload fair for all siblings?

Parents need to invest time teaching kids how to do the household jobs.

“You have to give up a sense of perfectionism,” Arond says. And be patient: “This is going to have a long-term payoff for them and you’ll have a really good helper.”

Whether kids’ household labor should be rewarded is a disputed point, with one camp believing that kids should get an allowance as payment for chores, and another saying the work is for the good of the family and should be done without financial reward.

Either way, experts say giving kids a pass on chores is a disservice.

“A child who is spoiled, it’s going to work against them when they’re adults,” Arond says. Employers can’t afford to hire divas, she said. “Don’t raise divas at home.”

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