Children, chores & Independence

Children, chores & Independence

Marriage & The Family

Shelly Ann HARRIS

Monday, August 03, 2020

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DID you know that making your bed every morning is somehow linked to improved productivity in the long run, a sense of general well-being, and the ability to stick to a budget? That's what Charles Duhigg found in his bestselling book The Power of Habit . Parents have long accepted the enduring value in helping their children form positive habits, but these benefits put forward by Duhigg certainly help to reinforce a mother's and father's resolve.

One of the key ways to develop positive habits in children is assigning them chores. A chore is a routine household task, such as spreading the bed, doing the dishes, or taking out the garbage. According to Baylor College of Medicine, “giving children simple chores can help them learn responsibility and independence from an early age and ease the transition to adulthood”, which is a relevant and opportune way to reflect on Emancipation and Independence with your kids this season.


Simone is a single mother of two — a 16-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl.

“Routines are very important, especially for my son. My daughter is more free-spirited and is more of a challenge,” she says. They both nevertheless have chores.

“For example, with washing the dishes everybody has their day and my day is on a Sunday, so they alternate the days of the week, and then there are some set things that each person is assigned and they own it — my son is assigned to take out the garbage and my daughter is assigned to taking the clothes off the line and fold and sweep up,” the dedicated working mother explained. As it pertains to cleaning the bathrooms, Simone says, “My son cleans his bathroom. I clean the other bathroom. My daughter needs to take on some of that,” she confesses.


Married mother of two boys, ages 16 and seven, and one girl, aged 11, Angela shares that maintaining and managing a routine of household chores for her kids is a constant work in progress. The Jamaican-born mom, who now lives in the United States, has a very structured system of reward for chores. “I have a thing where they earn time to use electronics, specifically using the computer to watch whatever they want to watch. They get a base time that is freely given and then they have a maximum of a certain number of minutes that they can get if they complete a certain number of things [chores].”

Moreover, the way chores are assigned has evolved over time.

“There was a time when they were younger when I would call the names with all the duties listed, and I would have a time for check off. They used to earn rewards, they use to earn money, all kinds of things… but right now the easiest way for us is that there is a standard list of things they have to do and there are three slots on that list that involve routines and housework. So there is category called 'chores' and there is a category called 'mom reserves 1' and 'mom reserves 2'. So there is a set chores they have to do and then mom reserves is literally whatever I reserve that I want done in that slot and that can be housework or something else. And then each week I hand write a list for the three of them and the three slots,” the super organised homeschooling mom described, noting that her mantra is that “in families, we help each other”.


Nahima, another homeschooling mom of four girls, ranging from 18 years to four years, who also works to support her husband's tech business in Jamaica, provides a different perspective on how chores can be assigned.

“We have gone through many iterations of chores schedules over the years — currently what we are doing is having a cycle. So I focus on a few main areas — those areas are the washroom, the kitchen, the patio and the dog (which are combined), the living room, the dining room and hallway (which are combined) and so what we do each week is that someone gets one of those areas to take care of. So, for example, I am on kitchen duty this week — that means washing all dishes, wiping down the counters, sweeping the kitchen, wiping off the stovetop, etc,” she outlines.

But Nahima being on kitchen duty doesn't mean that others don't help out. “We try to encourage each other to be considerate, so that if you use something you wash up the thing that you use. But there is always stuff that gets left behind from cooking, or if somebody uses something and they end up going out for whatever reason then their stuff gets left behind and so on, and that's fine. But we try to make sure we wash what we use and the person on duty washes up everything else,” Nahima shares.

“I clean the bathroom that my husband and I use. The girls are responsible for theirs. I am a little pickier about bathrooms, so they are asked to clean their bathroom at least twice a week because it's very heavy-duty usage.”

The experienced mom adds that, “I used to give the girls rewards for chores, but the main thing I want to emphasise now is that chores are part of being good stewards of the spaces that they occupy. It's preparation for them when they leave the house to become room-mates in college or if they are going to get married — just learning how to take care of a space that you share with somebody else and learning how to manage your time and resources, I am trying to emphasise that.”

Shelly-Ann Harris is the author of several titles, including her latest, God's Woman. Connect with her on Twitter @harrisshellyann. Send comments or

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