Can Doing Chores Save Your Child's Summer?

Why adding this key ingredient can make for a happier summer break.
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When we think of the ideal summer for our children, parents envision more time outside, fun-filled camps, relaxed time spent with family and friends, and plenty of chores. Chores? Yes, that’s right. Research tells us that our kids need chores as much as they need entertainment or educational activities to make them empathetic, self-sufficient, and even happier as they grow up.


According to a recent article "Why Children Need Chores" in The Wall Street Journal: “Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance, according to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. In 2002, Dr. Rossmann analyzed data from a longitudinal study that followed 84 children across four periods in their lives—in preschool, around ages 10 and 15, and in their mid-20s. She found that young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.”


While it may be a bit hard to get your head around this idea, the research is clear. Hard work established through family jobs produces not only a foundation for a deep self-satisfaction, but more importantly, it solidifies an attachment to family that is critical for healthy development, lifelong happiness and success. Psychologist and counselor Dr. Tom Brunner writes, “If your child is 3 years of age or older, and they are not doing chores regularly, you are not helping them internalize key character traits such as accountability, team-oriented attitude, and humility.” Brunner sees doing chores as a key component in developing inner discipline.


Your children are likely to argue with you on the value of chores, but in the long run they will be happier and more well-adjusted if their chore habits log more hours than their screen habits. Because summer is free from the time pressure of homework, it’s the perfect time to get new habits started.  


Stay tuned for our next post where we will offer our top tips for getting your kids to do their chores. In the meantime, as you finish up those camp and summer class registrations, make your list of what needs to be done around the house, garage and yard. You may discover that your child secretly prefers activities that show she is needed and making a contribution to the family. If you do these chores together, they may form some of the happiest memories of your child’s summer!


Can’t wait? If you want to get a head start, follow these links to find age-appropriate chores, some chore chart ideas, and even some helpful books, such as 401 Ways To Get Your Kids To Work At Home. Find more resources for building family attachment on the Families Managing Media website.


Share your chore stories: Please e-mail me with stories of ways your family is bonding through chores this summer. Send photos. With your permission, we’ll share some of those stories in this blog in the coming months.