Chores are more important than you might think
By Desmond T. Burke, Deputy Head - Student Life
Posted September 20, 2011
Other than piano practice, few things cause more continuous friction between parents and their children than the completion of household chores. At first glance it seems obvious that children should help around the home. With both parents in many families employed outside the home and working longer hours than ever before, it seems only reasonable. After working hard all day, and then arriving home only to face doing everything there too, can be stressful for parents. And yet when the arguments begin, those same exhausted parents may wonder if it’s really worth all the acrimony. It might just be easier just to do the jobs, keep the peace and collapse into bed later than they had hoped.
Children need to do chores appropriate to their age that increase in difficulty and responsibility over the years. While it’s wonderful to have help sharing the load, the work itself isn’t what’s good for children. It’s the knowledge of how to do things and the development of a sense of personal competence that’s important. Cooking, shopping, making a doctor’s appointment, laundry and budgeting without help from mom and dad are all important life skills that students need to have before they head off to university.
Preparation for life after high school isn’t only about academics. There’s been quite a bit of research published recently indicating that students who lack basic life skills can find themselves prone to depression. That someone has always done things or advocated for them not only leaves them feeling overwhelmed and helpless at university but sends an unintended and unhealthy message to kids that they aren’t competent enough look after themselves.
As I wrote on the website in a recent article about teenagers and summer work, even those who don’t really need the money, need to work through university and high school. They need to acquire all the skills and knowledge about how to find, secure and keep a job when the stakes are lower and there is time to learn. Sheltering our children from mundane household chores isn’t preparation for life. We don’t want our children to learn how to work starting on the first day when we’re not there to support them and we don’t want them to venture into the world lacking the knowledge of how to look after themselves.
As our job as parents is to prepare our children to be able to manage through life when we aren’t there to support them. Household chores aren’t a panacea, but a small part of the preparation all young people need to experience before university. The road to independence is a long one but it begins with small steps and small skills and tasks. These skills won’t help students gain acceptance to the university of their choice but they will help them stay there and be less of worry to mom and dad too.