Will Chores Make My Kid Happier?

A long time ago, most of us lived on farms and people had big families to help with all there was to do. As soon as the little ones were walking and able to hold something they started helping. Not all the time of course, and probably not with much skill in the beginning, but they had jobs and a place of service within the family. Now we have kids because we want to and they don’t usually do all that much to help us out. Has this made them happier? I think not! Can chores cheer them up? I think yes!

We worry a lot about our kids. And we don’t just want them to be successful, we want them to be happy. A recent WSJ article, Why Children Need Chores, cites new research explaining how relationships are what make us happiest, and good relationships start with feeling connected to and helping our families; help the family run smoothly by doing chores and you get to feel good.

I asked the collective wisdom of my facebook friends how their little ones helped out and was happily surprised to learn they did a lot! I was impressed with my friend Melanie’s just turned 2 year old daughter who, “puts her laundry in her laundry basket, empties pee from her potty (!!!), and gets her plate or bowl out of the cupboard for meals.” Julia wrote that her daughter gets one chore for every year of age. She is 7 and does a lot! Another friend wrote about her son, “Marc likes to be helpful, so sometimes when we are at odds, I will ask for his help. We do not talk about it as chore, but simple direct request – can you get cheese and tortillas from the fridge.” Helping makes him feel better.

My 4-year-old son has a job in our family. We call it his “diaper job.” Whenever we get a diaper delivery he carefully opens the box with my help and then takes all the diaper packages out of the box. He usually lines them up as a first step, and then carefully, in as many trips as is necessary, hauls all the diaper bags up to his little sister’s room and deposits them in her closet.

He takes this job very seriously and is usually at his most well behaved while doing it. I am certain it is because he has a purpose. He is also proud of using a (sort of) sharp implement (butter knife) and moving (relatively) heavy objects up a flight of stairs. When his job is done he gets moody and frustrated again, pushing his little sister and asking for chocolate, but I am sensing improvements.

Here are some chore ideas for the littlest members of your family:

  • Unloading the silverware and non-breakable/kid dishes from the dishwasher. Silverware is a nice choice because it won’t break if it falls on the floor. For the kid dishes, find a low cupboard to store them in so they can put them away all by themselves.
  • Copy us and give one of your children the diaper job! It’s fun and builds stamina!
  • Clearing his or her plate from the table. Teaches balance and helps mom or dad not feel like every inch of the kitchen has to be cleaned only by them.
  • Lining up shoes. If you take your shoes off when you come inside, they can create a mighty pile. Lining them up is satisfying and kids love shoes!
  • Putting away their clothes, just don’t expect them to always stay folded…
  • Paper recycling job: Putting the recycling in a clear plastic bag or appropriate bin to go outside. Recycling is cleaner than garbage and teaches social responsibility as well.
  • Watering plants treads the line between a chore and fun. They can also call themselves a “plantdaddy” or “plantmommy” and that is really fun.
  • Finally, an idea to help them actually do the chores: charts! Charts were by far the best motivating factor for my friend’s children. I’m going to start one tomorrow.

Do your little ones do chores? If so, what? I’d love to make this list longer!