If you’re a divorced parent, you may feel like you’re competing with your ex-spouse for your children’s affection. This may be particularly true if you only have custody of your kids on the weekends and during school breaks. You may hesitate to assign them chores that they’re used to doing in their other home. You’d rather spend your time together doing things that they want to do.
However, chores are an important part of kids’ development. Research has shown that kids are happier when they feel like they’re contributing to the family. Being required to do chores no matter which home they’re in can help kids feel like they belong in both places — even if they’re in one less than the other.
One Harvard study even found that being required to do household chores was a key predictor of professional success in adulthood. What do kids gain by being responsible for household chores?
Purpose: All kids want to feel like they have something of value to contribute to the family. While toddlers can’t do the same kind of chores as teens, they can always do something, like putting away their toys when they’re finished playing.
Motor skill development: Making the bed, setting the table and sweeping the floor involve movements that adults take for granted. However, they can help young children develop the motor skills they’ll need throughout life.
Work ethic: All parents want their kids to learn the value of hard work. When kids learn that before they can play outside or do something else they want, they have to clean their room or load the dishwasher, they’re learning delayed gratification. They’re also seeing that their parents have confidence in them to carry out these tasks.
Teamwork: If you have multiple kids, learning to share chores can teach them teamwork — something that will be important throughout their lives. If you have an only child, they can still learn teamwork by helping you prepare meals, rake the leaves or wash the car.
Kids should typically be expected to do some type of chores, even if it’s just keeping their room tidy, no matter which home they’re in. By not expecting your child to pitch in, you may think you’re making yourself the favorite parent, but you’re likely doing them a disservice in the long run. It’s best when co-parents can work together to ensure that kids have similar expectations around chores across households.