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by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Parenting Writer
Neapolitan Family, September 2015


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According to H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen in Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, “A belief in one’s personal capabilities is an essential building block for successful adulthood.” The best way for children to achieve this sense of capability is to be assigned household responsibilities. Offering children such opportunities makes them feel essential to the family unit and teaches basic skills, acceptance of responsibility, and self-discipline. Ultimately, it leads to self-esteem and a successful, fulfilling life.


Whether to compensate and reward children for their work is a difficult question. Conflicting opinions are held by child specialists which don’t help. But one thing is certain. Experiencing self-satisfaction from work is important. Even adults receive compensation for their work. In turn, they reward themselves in many ways, from mini shopping sprees and eating out to buying recreational toys and taking expensive vacations.

So your best bet is to take a middle-of-the-road approach. Assign your children some responsibilities without reward, such as cleaning their rooms and taking care of personal belongings. This can provide self-satisfaction.

But also offer an allowance or rewards for additional tasks. Children learn valuable lessons from earning as well. They learn to budget and handle money and come to understand hard work pays off, just as it does in the adult world. Whether your child receives a reward for a particular task or not, always praise the efforts. This helps to reinforce the intrinsic value of completing a task.


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raising a responsible child with household choresWhen selecting prizes, choose something your child wouldn’t receive otherwise. If you go to the park several times a week, an extra trip to the park won’t seem much of a reward. But if you normally go only once a week, an extra visit will be more enticing.

For toddlers and preschoolers, immediate rewards are important. Offer to go to the ice cream store or park, to play a favorite game together, to invite a friend over, or a fun sticker or favorite treat. You can also purchase prizes that come in a set, such as markers. Then offer one piece of the set for each completed task until your child has earned the complete set.

Elementary children are able to save for bigger rewards. Use a chart and offer prizes for accumulated stars. But don’t make your child wait more than a week or so for a reward. Otherwise, the reward will lose its motivational value. Rewards for elementary age children might include additional television or computer time, a trip to the zoo or museum, baking together, having a friend overnight, or a new magazine or Matchbox car.

Older kids are able to accumulate points for longer periods and begin to look for long-term rewards. A teen could accumulate points for several weeks to earn a concert ticket or trip to the amusement park, a new outfit, or a special privilege such as staying out later or additional phone time.


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Raising a responsible child through age appropriate chores

Toddlers and preschoolers are more capable than we realize. In these early years, children should take on household tasks. Remember that attention span is short at this age. So keep chores brief when assigning them to little ones unless the chores are especially fun. Your preschooler can:

Make juice

Frost cakes and cookies

Set the table

Rinse dishes

Empty wastebaskets

Vacuum (with a small vacuum)


Sort dirty clothes

Put clothes in drawers

Pick up toys

Stack books

Answer the phone

Get the mail

Water flowers



Elementary age children are more coordinated and capable of performing better quality work. In addition to the previous items, your elementary age child can:

Fix her breakfast

Prepare microwave foods


Help pack lunches

Warm soup

Clean off the dinner table

Load the dishwasher

Wash windows

Clean bathroom sinks

Fold laundry

Run his own bath

Pack her suitcase

Care for younger siblings (with an adult at home)

Feed and walk pets

Vacuum the car

Take out trash cans



Kids in middle school and beyond can learn nearly any task. During the teen years, introduce new tasks periodically so your adolescent can master all skills. Your teen can:

Clean tubs and toilets

Organize the garage, basement, and closets

Set up a garage sale

Clean the kitchen, refrigerator, and oven

Fix dinner

Make a grocery list

Grocery shop

Pump gas

Do laundry and ironing

Mow the lawn

Do minor household repairs

It’s not too late for raising a responsible child

If your child is beyond preschool or elementary age and you haven’t offered many household responsibilities in the past, don’t despair. While it’s better to start when children are young, it may be more difficult, but it’s not too late. Make a plan today to set your child on a path toward self-reliance. You’ll both be glad you did as you watch your child reap the benefits of growing into an independent, successful young adult.


Kimberly Blaker is a freelance parenting writer.





Tips on Raising a Responsible Child with Household Chores
Article Name
Tips on Raising a Responsible Child with Household Chores
Assigning children household responsibilities makes them feel essential to the family and teaches skills, acceptance of responsibility, and self-discipline.
Publisher Name
Neapolitan Family Magazine

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