Chore Wars: The Parenting Battle Worth Fighting

Why life skills matter more than screen skills
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Consider this scenario: You load the dishwasher while your kids laugh at silly videos or mindlessly scroll through Instagram. Or this one: You collect the dirty laundry as your son sits on his bed collecting loot boxes in Fortnite. Many parents have given up fighting about chores because they are losing the screen battle in their homes. Out-of-balance screen usage shows itself in how even the simplest daily tasks are completed. So how do we fix this imbalance?

One of the first steps toward screen balance is to evaluate what’s not happening in real life while kids are on their screens, which includes opportunities to build real-life skills. Leisure screen use, video games and social media are easy. Kids crave low-effort, high-reward activities, so of course they naturally choose screen time over cleaning the bathroom. Kids say chores are boring, and they are, but learning life skills in childhood matters a lot. The famous Harvard Grant
Study reveals that hard work and chores done in childhood are at the top of the list for the highest predictors for not only life happiness, but also future success across all fronts. 

In her book “Grit,” Angela Duckworth says, “Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable. Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not. Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”


Developing Self-Discipline

What is the best way to build self-discipline? Regular chores. Since we know that habits that are set in childhood have powerful staying power and can have an effect on a child’s future, it is important to pay attention to how kids are progressing in this area. Are they doing their own laundry, learning to cook, organizing the garage and washing the dishes on their own? In order for a child to develop needed grit and life experiences, they need to get their hands off the screens and on the dirty dishes. 

Here are a few reasons to follow your gut instincts and focus on setting your kids up for success.  

* You want them to be happy and successful at whatever they choose to do in life.

* You want them to be able to finish what they start and be experts at follow-through.

* You want them to understand the feeling of accomplishment and not just be a spectator in life.

* You want them to be responsible and have personal success in their goals and relationships (career and marriage), and not expect people to carry their load.

* You want them to build independence and confidence and move out of the house one day.

Enforcing chores and teaching life skills takes strong parenting. It is much easier to avoid the arguments, but learning these life skills are critical for developing delayed gratification, self-control and patience. By giving your children chores, you set them up for success, and they gain a sense of satisfaction and confidence. Children may not love doing what you ask them to do, but every time you give them a chore, remember that you are developing independent humans. Think of your home as a free life-skills workshop, perfection not required. Look for deliberate practice for the things that matter most before they practice more screen entertainment skills. Pause the video games and social media until chores are back in balance in your home. 

Melanie Hempe is the founder of Families Managing Media. She has a nursing degree and is Mom to four children. Find more resources at