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It is extremely important that we teach our children personal responsibility. We want them to understand, fully and completely, that they are an important and productive part of the family system. It is also important from a young age to be accountable for one’s actions and behaviors. Furthermore, it is imperative that a child understands that if he neglects his responsibilities, they will not be done for him.

A parent should start teaching work ethics at age 3 to 4. In fact, the University of Minnesota did a study on the important determiners of adult success. Dr. Martin Rossmann’s research showed that the best predictor of a child’s success is that he or she began helping with household chores at age 3 to 4. These youngsters were less likely to use drugs, more likely to finish their education on time and had better relationships than children who started doing chores much later or not at all.  “Through participating in household tasks, parents are teaching children responsibility, how to contribute to family life, a sense of empathy and how to take care of themselves.”  The key is to start early.

The study showed that when a parent started their children in tasks at ages 9 or 10, or worse, 15 or 16, the children thought that the parent was asking them to do something they didn’t want to do. They didn’t get the concept of “we’re all in this together.” They were far too self-centered.  “The earlier parents encourage their children to take an active role in the household, the easier it will be to get them involved as teenagers,” Rossmann concludes. This research is an incentive for parents to get their children involved at an early age.

How to get started:

  • Find the right time-Schedule a family meeting on a weekend or an evening when the kids are relaxed.
  • Start with a master list-Develop a list of all the daily and weekly chores that need to be done.
  • Be prepared to negotiate– Be willing to listen to the children’s concerns.
  • Be clear about expectations-Write down what is involved in completing each chore.
  • Help them see progress-Making a chore chart helps children to see their progress and is a great motivational tool.
  • Have reward systems-Each child is motivated differently-find what works for each one.
  • Set the example-If you have a regular assignment do it on time and within expectation.

Remember, it takes time. We often think about how much faster we could get something done rather than teaching our children to do it for us. That may be true in the early stages, but later in life, when the kids all know and perform their responsibilities, it gives the whole family more time to play and have fun together. It’s a worthwhile investment of your time to teach responsibility through effective household chores.

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