Realistic Responsibilities for Your Kids

Household chores. Teenagers try to run from those words, parents may cringe at the thought of trying to implement a checklist, and previous generations are eager to give advice on how they should be done. So what are realistic expectations when it comes to dividing up chores and teaching children responsibility?

First, it is important to know what chores are age-appropriate. If a child is younger than 2 years old, they should not be expected to have the awareness to start picking up their toys. Each child develops at a different pace, so try to focus tasks based on your child’s skills and talents while striving to include chores that will teach them life-skills they will need as an adult.

At age 2, a child could be expected to help make up their bed, pick up their toys, or carry clothes to the laundry room. You notice I used the word HELP – they still need supervision, and performing these tasks side by side with your toddler is important.

At age 4-5 years, a picture chore chart could be implemented and a child this age may take on more tasks without supervision. Most kids at this age can start brushing their teeth, washing their hands, and picking up their toys independently. They can help parents set the table, feed the pets, and carry in light objects from the car.

Around first grade, it is reasonable to expect your child to get ready each morning independently. Making up their bed, folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher with varying degrees of supervision are very reasonable expectations as well.

Once a child reaches middle school and high school age, the goal of chores should be to teach skills they will need to survive and thrive in college and as an adult, while also teaching them the importance of contributing to the family and being a team-player. It should be apparent that everyone in the family is contributing in some way so the family works as a team. Allowing your child’s input for some of the chores helps too. There should be a combination of chores that no one likes to do, but still need to be done along with chores that come naturally to them or that they enjoy doing.

Once children are more independent, the fight over their bedroom may become problematic. The teenager may argue over cleaning their room since it is their space, but the parents could argue it is their house, and honestly both would be correct. So, setting minimum requirements such as cleaning the room at least once a week, and keeping the door shut if it is messy can help minimize arguments.

There is no one way to assign chores, and every family’s chore list should look different. You can start by modeling how chores should be implemented, praise or reward kids for finishing chores and helping around the house.

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.