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Give Your Child Chores for Christmas

Ten benefits of giving the gift of chores and ideas for making it happen.

Key points

  • It is faster and easier to do household chores yourself, and you do a better job than your child, especially in the beginning.
  • Kids who do chores are happier, more confident, more resilient, and more successful as adults. They are less likely to be alienated as teens.
  • If you want chores to go well, start slowly, frame them as a ticket to freedom, make them fun, and focus on what your child is doing right.
  • The gift of chores may be one of the best gifts you ever give your child.
Source: mooremedia/Shutterstock

Whether clearing the table after dinner, folding the laundry, or sweeping the kitchen floor, it’s quicker and easier to do it yourself, and you’ll do a better job.

Besides, your child’s life is so busy. They have school, homework, friends, teams, and practice, and they also need time to do what they want to do, to chill. You don’t want to over-program their life or add more burdens. And you really don’t want the arguments and pushback you get when you tell them to turn off the screen and take out the garbage.

So Many Good Reasons for Kids to Have Chores

Your burden is lifted when your child helps out around the house, and that’s a good thing, but the benefits for your child are bigger and more long-lasting:

  1. Self-regulation. Doing chores helps your child learn to persevere, delay gratification, and prioritize. These skills contribute to success in all areas of life.
  2. Competence. Your child will learn real-world skills that will serve them well across their life span, no matter their circumstances.
  3. Self-esteem and confidence. A child who contributes to the smooth functioning of their family feels better about themself.
  4. Happiness. Researchers have concluded in study after study that kids who are expected to do significant chores are happier than those who aren’t expected to do very much.
  5. Gratitude. Doing chores helps your child realize all that goes into keeping a household running smoothly, supporting a move from an attitude of entitlement to one of gratitude, which has enormous benefits for every member of the family.
  6. Family connection. This is an important one, a potential life-saver. The child who helps at home feels closer to their family and is less likely to feel disconnected or alienated as a teenager.
  7. Success. Doing chores increases a child’s sense of responsibility, initiative, and likelihood of high achievement at school and (later) at work.
  8. Relationships. Kids who do chores grow into better-adjusted adults with better relationships with friends and family.
  9. Resiliency. A child who does chores learns to persevere through adversity. They’re more confident they can surmount the obstacles they encounter in every area of life.
  10. A sense of responsibility, connection, and belonging in the wider world. Instead of letting others do the work, the child who does chores at home looks for ways to contribute in other situations.

Give New Chores for Christmas

Some children welcome the invitation to be a bigger participant in the family, but if your child resists (as most kids do, especially if they're older when you get started), here are some ways you can ease the transition :

  1. Frame chores as tickets to freedom. Describe your child’s new chores as opportunities for them to prove how responsible and mature they are, which will (obviously) be accompanied by new privileges.
  2. Start small. If your child hasn’t been doing much before now, start with a small task you know they can do. Build from there because more is better, but be reasonable as you grow your expectations.
  3. Set up a schedule. Embed consequences for completion and non-completion into the chore. Maybe your child earns screen time on chore completion and/or gets no screen time until their chores are done.
  4. Include your child in designing chores and consequences. You can ask your child what privileges or freedoms they’d like to earn and discuss what chores they can do to earn them.
  5. Make it fun. Schedule chores as teamwork when possible. While your child is clearing the table and putting dishes in the dishwasher, you can be sweeping the floor and scrubbing the pots, listening to the music of your child’s choosing. While your child is cleaning their own space, you can be cleaning your space. It’s even better if other family members are making their contributions to the family at the same time.
  6. Help your child organize their space. It’s easier and more inviting for your child to keep their space tidy if they have somewhere to put their stuff. Ask them to help map out, choose, and put together the shelving, bins, or drawers they might need.
  7. Be patient. Your child will be slower and clumsier than you as they learn to master a new task. They probably won’t care as much about the outcome, so in the interest of gaining all the benefits from chores, take a deep breath and relax your standards.
  8. Emphasize the positive. As your child gets started on a new chore, don’t focus on what they’re doing wrong. Instead, praise what they get right and help them do better next time.
  9. Notice and be grateful. Thank your child for their contribution, and point out how what they’re doing is helping everyone.
  10. Insist and persist. Your child may resist doing their chores, especially if you’ve waited until they’re past the early childhood stage when they want to please you, but stay with it. Let your child know that contributions to the family are not optional.

Everyone benefits when their child or adolescent contributes in meaningful ways to the running of their household. Chores might turn out to be the best gift you ever gave them.


More Chores, Less Play: Teaching Children Self-Regulation,” by Michael Ungar

Associations Between Household Chores and Childhood Self-Competency,” by Elizabeth White, Mark DeBoer, and Rebecca Scharf

Children, Chores, and Happy Productivity,” by Dona Matthews

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More from Dona Matthews Ph.D.

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