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Tuesdays with Jane: Can You Handle Chores?

The verdict is in. The best predictor of success in young adults is whether they were responsible for household chores as children—more important, in fact, than IQ or motivation, according to Marty Rossmann, associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota. However, this research—and the information on Kidtelligent, adds a few key points of wisdom to consider before you put your children in charge of the trash or dishes or the garden.

• Start young. Adding chores to busy teen or even tween schedules can build resentment instead of teaching responsibility.

• Gear for success. It’s better for a three-year-old to successfully complete simple tasks like filling your napkin holder or collecting newspapers than to struggle with tasks where they’ll need help, such as watering plants they can barely reach.

• Match learning style. Some children learn by watching, some by experimenting, some by dreaming up their own methods, and some by collaborating and teaching. If you aren’t sure about your own child, observe, ask how they’d like to learn to do the job—or check their Kidtelligent profile!

• Give choices. Instead of assigning chores outright, providing options increases children’s sense of control and motivation to follow through.

As you work to ensure that chores are completed, consider whether your child’s style is “work before play” or “work + play”. Decades of research show that people, including children, actually do their best work when allowed to approach it in their own style. Having children whose style is opposite your own can be frustrating, but allowing them to learn how to get the best out of their style is key to lifelong success. Here’s a summary of how it applies to chores:

Children with a “Work before Play” style need to know what’s happening. They may ask about plans for the day and be irritated when those plans change. They may even make lists, set goals, and finish tasks right when they are assigned. They do best with a regular schedule for chores.

Children with a “Work + Play” style tend to turn room-cleaning into fort-building, dishwashing into bubble-blowing, and lawn-mowing into frog-counting. They need a break after school before they can dig into homework and flexibility in when they do chores if they’re truly to do their best work. Give them a time window. I used to post chores on the bathroom mirror (with wet-erase markers or self-stick notes) with the heading, “By tomorrow at 6 PM, please….” They never failed to follow through when given 24-36 hours.

Done right, chores help children feel a part of the family. If you avoid the chore wars by paying attention to your child’s style, the benefits could be huge.

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is