By Jason McCormick, Psy.D.
In her excellent piece in the NYT (Happy Children Do Chores, August 18, 2018), reporter KJ Dell’Antonia describes the importance of chores for a child’s development and well-being. While I will provide a brief summary and add my own reflections, I strongly recommend that the reader read the full article.
In her article, Ms. Dell’Antonia cites several benefits of chores. Among those, chores can help a child develop a greater sense of responsibility and awareness of the needs of others, and they can also contribute to a child’s emotional well being (no, really), in that they can help a child feel needed. In addition to her list of benefits, chores are an excellent teacher of life skills. Knowing how to do laundry, prepare a meal, change a vacuum cleaner bag, or tighten a loose doorknob can help prepare a child for the responsibilities of adulthood. Meanwhile, more involved tasks like raking leaves or cleaning out the garage can be used as vehicles in the development a child’s problem-solving skills, prompting them (perhaps with parent assistance) to figure out how to tackle the task in the most efficient, most systematic manner, solutions that they may be applied to a host of other life responsibilities.
While most parents recognize the importance of chores, a large survey cited in Ms. Dell’Antonia’s article found that only slightly over half of American parents required their children to do them. Some reasons given for this disconnect include parent-child conflict surrounding chores and a desire to free up a child’s time so that they can focus on academics or extracurricular activities.
In those last regards, however, while a strong GPA and an application chock-full of extracurricular accomplishments might help a student get into college, it is their work ethic, sense of responsibility, and time management skills that help a student meet success in college. In fact, a more robust predictor of success in college than grades is whether an adolescent has held a part-time job prior to college, and chores are an excellent teacher of readiness for part-time employment.
Ms. Dell’Antonia concludes her article with advice that is, unfortunately, easier said than done, which is that helping to establish a chore routine at home requires perseverance. Sometimes that means that it will take longer to convince the child to attend to the chore than it would take for the parent to do it themselves. No easy answers, I guess.
About the Author:
Dr. Jason McCormick is a senior clinician at NESCA, sees children, adolescents and young adults with a variety of presenting issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), dyslexia and non-verbal learning disability. He has expertise in Asperger’s Disorder and has volunteered at the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE). Dr. McCormick mainly sees individuals ranging from age 10 through the college years, and he has a particular interest in the often difficult transition between high school and college. As part of his work with older students, Dr. McCormick is very familiar with the documentation requirements of standardized testing boards. He also holds an advisory and consultative role with a prestigious local university, assisting in the provision of appropriate academic accommodations to their students with learning disabilities and other issues complicating their education.
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Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.