A case for making them help out around the house
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I like to consider myself a (at least semi) successful adult. And while I'd chalk it up to a good education and even better parents, one expert says there may have been another factor at play: the fact that I did chores when I was younger.
At a recently-revived interview with Tech Insider in 2015, Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of "How to Raise an Adult" and former dean at Stanford University, claimed that kids who do chores go on to become happier, more successful adults.
"By making [kids] do chores, they realize I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life," she told the media outlet. "It's not just about me and what I need in this moment, but that I'm part of an ecosystem. I'm part of a family. I'm part of a workplace."
Below, we dig into the details of the study and discuss with our own experts (and parents!) whether or not they agree that washing the dishes or vacuuming the living room could translate into adulthood success.
Lythcott-Haims analyzed data from the Harvard Grant Study which, at 75 years long, is the longest longitudinal study ever and looked at a variety of factors that contribute to a person's happiness as they age. The research found that not only were people who did chores as children happier later in life but they were also better employees and had more successful careers.
Parenting Editor Anna Lane (who's a mom herself!) says yes without hesitation. "I think it’s really important for children to learn from a young age that for a family and household to run smoothly, everyone needs to help out," she explains, adding, "I am a mom, not a servant!"
And while our Major Appliances and Home Design Editor and mom Cindy Bailen, says it's difficult to directly link chores to adulthood success, she does agree that there is value to having kids help out around the house. "I think everyone in a household needs to contribute at some level," she says. "The idea is that everyone works together so nobody is doing it all. I can't speak to whether or not it makes kids more successful going forward. But everything a kid learns to do potentially builds confidence."
Regardless of whether chores = better careers, there's no denying that teaching kids responsibility and the value of hard work is beneficial. And as Lane points out, at the very least it's a much-needed extra set of helping hands for parents.
If you're worried about younger children handling cleaning products, there are other ways to slowly introduce them to the world of chores. "Clearing the table after meals is a great place to start," Lane recommends. "Once they get a little older they can also set the table, put their dirty clothes in the hamper after their bath, keep their rooms tidy, make their beds, etc."
Bailen adds that mopping or vacuuming the floors can also be a good task for little ones. "One of the easiest things to get kids to do is sweep," she says. "We got a Swiffer when my son was small, and he didn't mind walking it around the house."
Just be prepared for—and know how to handle—a little resistance. Lane says, "They may complain at first, but after a few weeks they’ll start to really take pride in their work, and that’s the key to keeping it up." She adds, "I always make sure to say, 'Wow, you did a great job, you should be really proud of yourself!'” for a little extra motivation.