Build Your Child's Independence and Self-Esteem Through Chores

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Why Are Chores Important? Your Child Will Feel Good About Helping Mommy and Themselves

SAN DIEGO - Jan. 10, 2019 - Rezul -- A key component of the Montessori Method is teaching children to become independent and self-reliant. As a result, Montessori teachers encourage students to do for themselves at a very early age and then progress to helping others. Chores for children becomes a vital part of their training—especially when the family is home.

"I can't imagine a household where kids are not doing for themselves and then others," Kristin Edwards, M.Ed., and Director of Lifetime Montessori School, a private elementary school in San Diego, says.

"We start our students on the path to caring for themselves and others through chores as early as three years old. First, they are responsible for working for themselves…like getting dressed. As they become engaged, the child sees how all his family does chores: from mommy making dinner; daddy doing the dishes; and the children setting and cleaning the table. Everyone in the family is connected to and through chores for children. And chores build happy children."

What Are Age Specific Chores for Children?

Mom and Dad, surely you remember the chart on your wall with stars for all the things you did as a child—brushing your teeth, washing your hands, combing your hair and the like. Today's chores have not changed much.

What has changed is the attitude that chores are part of everyday life and we are responsible for our actions, and later, helping others. For example:

• Age 2-3 chores include putting toys in the toy box; placing dirty clothes in the laundry hamper; putting trash away; setting the table—even fetching diapers and wipes

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• Age 4-5 chores include feeding the pets, making their own bed, clearing the kitchen table, drying and putting away dishes
• Age 6-7 chores include emptying the dishwasher, raking, making a salad or preparing food for meals
• Age 8-9 chores include putting groceries away, learning to cook, walking the dog, loading the dishwasher and folding clean clothes.

In other words, at every junction of your child's growth, the Montessori Method is focused on allowing kids to do for themselves followed by letting them do for others.  As a result, chores become more like life skills than everyday humdrum 'to do' items.

"It's not a parent's job to be accountable for all the things a family does," Edwards says.

"If you are not setting standards for things your child needs to do for himself and those around him early on, then you are creating an adolescent problem to start them doing chores when they lose interest in helping the family."

Maybe Not As Good As Mommy But Good Enough for Thanks

Our objective is establishing expectations that kids contribute to the workings of the household.

So, let's understand this: our kids are not going to have the level of acumen we parents have.

Yup, they'll spill water; drop food or utensils; feed the dog cat food and vice-versa.

The key is thanking the child for helping! We may follow them around with a sponge but the core message is: "Thank you for helping Mommy. Now, I have more time to spend with you because you took the time to help me!"

The Allowance Question

Many parents have used money as an incentive for their children to do chores. Certainly, it starts another set of philosophical questions.

For example, if we're teaching our children that they share in the responsibility of our home and family, paying them for routine chores may not be the right message. Certainly, no one will ever pay the child as an adult for unloading the dishwasher. Still, there are other incentives.

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"In our house, instead of money we focus on working for things and getting something in return—like expanded iPad or TV time," Edwards says. "It's about privilege and working for things to get what you want."


Household chores for children may seem like a small thing but how we handle them has big implications. By starting children early, they learn to do for themselves. Ultimately, they learn to do for others. As a result, they become wired to help because it makes them feel good. And for parents, we create a stronger internal family bond because we're all in it together.

This story was edited and expanded upon by Kristin Edwards, M.Ed., from  the article entitled "Happy Children Do Chores," by KJ Dell'Antonia, which was published in The New York Times on August 8, 2018. Additional back-up materials include: "Age Appropriate Chores for Children," copyright 2013 by

Lifetime Montessori School teaches 200 children aged 18 months to nine years from its campus in mid San Diego County. Celebrating its 11th year, LMS has received awards and acclaim for its ability to teach today's children in such a way as to become independent and  empathetic adults.

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Robert Gavin

Source: Lifetime Montessori school
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