by Patrick Mitchell
Alex, pick up your bowl and put it on the table. Good job. Help me? Sure, you can help me. Please take your shirt and put it in the laundry. You’re a good helper. Thank you.
Children love doing chores. Okay, perhaps I should clarify: Toddlers and pre-school children love to do chores. Parents who leverage their child’s natural desire to help—by inviting them to put paper in the wastebasket, pick up their toys, and wipe up their spills—are teaching a valuable life skill which, if continued through the school years and beyond, can help those children become successful adults. So says Marty Rossmann, Professor Emeritus of Family Education at the University of Minnesota, whose interpretation of data from a longevity study of 250 families points to a compelling apparent truth; namely, that children whose parents made them do household tasks as preschoolers were more successful as adults than children whose parents did not make them do chores in the early years. Professor Rossman prefers the word task to chore when talking about household
jobs because, she says, “The word ‘chore’ means drudgery, whereas ‘tasks’ are things that need to be done to keep things going.”
“Two year olds can begin doing chores. They can put trash in the waste basket, and they can pick up a few toys with help. If they have strewn all their toys out on the floor, they’ll need your help picking up the toys. It will be too discouraging to a two-year-old to face a whole room of toys,” Rossman said. “You make a game of it; you say, ‘I’ll pick up the red blocks, you pick up the green ones.’ Or, let’s say they spill something. A two year old can help wipe up spills.
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