A major US newspaper recently ran a piece detailing all the ways children benefit from doing chores. Well, not all the ways. They failed to mention the most important benefit: chores, properly managed, teach citizenship values. “Properly managed” means children are not compensated monetarily for doing chores.
Democracies cannot survive when citizens have no need to perform uncompensated service, as in when big government provides everything. Since we are still a democracy, however tenuously, it is vital that children be taught proper citizenship values. And as your great-grandmother probably said, “Good citizenship begins at home.” During his 1961 Inaugural Address, President Kennedy succinctly defined proper American citizenship: “Ask not what this country can do for you; ask what you can do for this country.” The strength of a democracy depends on service. Likewise, the strength of a family is greatly enhanced when everyone pitches in to do what needs to be done to maintain a clean, comfortable, organized environment.
My experience with my kids, who were doing all the housework at ages 10 and 6, is that chores are a source of legitimate pride. They also prevent the development of a generally ungrateful (i.e. entitled) attitude. Contribution also assists children in “bonding” to the values of the family. Fundamentally, it teaches what “family” really means.
The ideal time to begin assigning chores to a child is shortly after the third birthday. If you’ve ever lived with a 3-year-old, then you know threes want to help when their parents are doing housework. Capitalize on that! Give the young child his or her own chores to do. Responsibilities define roles, so provide your child with a functional role in your family.
-John Rosemond (taken from the John Rosemond Facebook page)