Chores help build responsibility in children

July 26, 2007 - 0:0

For starters, kids often are scheduled shortly after birth with music lessons, dance class and sports on top of school. All that doesn't leave much time for household responsibilities. And because both parents work outside the farm and drive their kids all over the big city, they're too tired to do much when they get home.

""We've all got crazy schedules and the last thing you want to do is nag someone to pick up something,"" parent Chris Torres said. He and his wife, Caroline Torres, don't expect their 11-year-old daughter, Libby, or 8-year-old son, Joe, to do much around the house. ""When we're home, we just relax and enjoy family time. It's like pulling teeth to do otherwise."" Still, both parents want their kids to do more beyond picking up their shoes. After all, they did chores when they were growing up. And if their children did more chores, it not only would ease their household burdens, but it also would teach their children responsibility and, ultimately, independence. ""I think the challenge with chores is also a generational thing,"" Chris Torres said. ""Our parents were always telling us to do something, so we want to give our kids a break."" But family experts say chores need to make a permanent comeback. ""Chores help establish an important hierarchy,"" said Larry Ro-Trock, a psychologist and family therapist. ""They show that parents make the rules. If children feel like they're making the rules, they can actually have more anxiety."" A chore system is especially crucial in a single-parent household. Harried parents who work and take on all the household responsibilities are the typical families Ro-Trock counsels. Chores also teach children that they're a part of something bigger than themselves. ""They're an opportunity to gain a sense of family,"" said Leah Gensheimer, an associate professor of psychology at University of Missouri-Kansas City who teaches child development classes. ""Someone who has a strong sense of family typically gives a lot to the community."" Amy Taylor uses the age-old chore-chart-on-the-refrigerator method. It's a system that works for her, her husband, Tom Taylor, and their four sons. For starters, the chart isn't titled ""chores"" because the word is synonymous with ""stuff you don't want to do."" Instead, the chart says ""Boys' Jobs: Summer 2007."" And it isn't a traditional chart with checkmarks for accomplished tasks. It simply states what each son is expected to do each day. Today is Wednesday, which means 15-year-old Jake will vacuum the basement, 14-year-old Nick will wipe down the basement walls and stair rails, 11-year-old Luke is on dog-poop duty and 8-year-old Joe has to distribute the stuff in the stair basket, typically toys that need to go back upstairs. ""The jobs aren't options,"" said Ann Taylor, who runs a home-decorating business, Small Change, from her home. ""They're typically jobs that don't take that long. Some even take only five minutes."" (Source: