We could all use some help with the piles and piles of laundry and dishes that accumulate and, luckily, kids who do chores have success as adults, according to Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult. She also bases her stance on research from the Harvard Grant Study, the longest longitudinal study ever.
Lythcott-Haims' ideas make sense. It stands to reason that kids who grow up doing chores learn responsibility. They figure out how to get tasks done. They realize that messes don't clean themselves, literally and figuratively. And they develop a work ethic early on in life.
But simple as it may seem, we may be so consumed with all the other pressures of parenting that we're underestimating the importance of asking kids to help out at home.
Lythcott-Haims opens up about this connection in a TED Talk on how parents can raise successful kids without resorting to over-parenting. "The Harvard Grant Study [finds] that professional success in life...comes from having done chores as a kid," she says. "And the earlier you start it the better...If kids aren't doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them. And so they're absolved of not only the work, but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole."
How to raise successful kids -- without over-parenting | Julie Lythcott-Haims
She spoke out about our tendency as modern day parents to over-protect and over-direct kids, which she believes impedes self-efficacy. Lythcott-Haims also believes chores instill a certain mindset in kids: The one that tells them certain things must be done, and they ought to be the ones to roll up their sleeves and do the work. She also recommends that parents re-think and expand their definitions of success: It's not just about getting into a specific college, earning certain test scores, or assuming a certain career path.
The study's findings could act as a catalyst for encouraging us to look at our own families and examine areas where we could change how we think. They suggest that maybe we should focus less on enrolling our kids in every activity, in helping them over prepare for every test, in removing every roadblock from their path and instead let them get their hands a little dirty. Because something as simple as mopping the floor may yield greater benefit than spending an extra hour doing math drills or practicing the piano.
Of course, there's a balance to be found; we want to teach kids responsibility while still allowing them to be kids. And, to be perfectly frank, sometimes asking kids to help around the house just makes getting through your to-do list that much more difficult. But this advice is definitely worth considering.