Kids need chores to grow

12:0AM, Aug 9th 2010

Children should be given daily household tasks to teach them how to be responsible, new research suggests.

Children should be given daily household tasks to teach them how to be responsible, new research suggests.

In a review of parenting magazines published between 1920 and 2006, researchers at Massachusetts' Wellesley College in the US, found that up until the 1980s it was widely acknowledged that housework helped children develop empathy and a good attitude towards other people, Adelaide's Advertiser reported.

Children these days tend to have minimal chores which require little effort or responsibility, such as putting their toys away or making their beds, but the study reported chores help to teach children how to organise their time and show regard for others. Often the main focus is on them doing their homework.

Looking at articles and letters from readers the study found that from the 1930s to 1970s, children's chores included helping to prepare meals, nursing sick family members and keeping the household accounts, hardly leaving time for children to get bored or misbehave.

"One mother's letter describes how she taught her four-year-old to lay kindling and strike a match to start a fire," Dr Markella Rutherford, who led the study, said.

"Until very recently, greater autonomy and responsibility were emphasised as antidotes to teenage listlessness and rebellion."

VIDEO: Childhood behaviour expert joins the Today show to talk about ways to get children to help around the house.

From the 1980s onwards, if children were given more difficult tasks which required more responsibility there was often a bribe involved, the study reported.

"In the 1980s, descriptions of children's household chores all but disappeared from parenting magazines," Dr Rutherford said.

Mother & Baby forum member Kylie, from Canberra, believes it's important for kids to start helping around the house from a young age.

"My three-year-old son has been clearing the table after dinner since he was two-and-a-half [years old]. He takes the sauces, margarine and bread and packs them all away, " Kylie said.

"He also helps me load the washing machine and opens the washing powder drawer and pushes start when it is ready ... and puts his pyjamas and dressing gown in his room after he gets dressed in the morning. And he packs away his toys because he doesn't like the 'mess'," she said.

"As he gets older he will be asked to keep his room clean, pack away his clean clothes, help load and unload the dishwasher and pack away anything he has played with. Once he is a teenager the mowing will be his chore and probably the rubbish as well, as the other chores he will have been doing all along."

Kylie and her partner believe getting kids to help around the house prepares them for adult life and teaches them to be self-sufficient.

"There is nothing worse than a grown adult who cannot look after themselves," Kylie added.

VIDEO: Ways to make housework fun.

Do your children do any household chores? Do you believe in getting them to help out? Share your thoughts below.

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