When they are 30. . .

You’ve heard great ideas on the value of chores and what’s appropriate for different ages. I’d like to take a life review look at the value of teaching kids responsibility at home. This quote stuck with me while I was raising my children. . “Don’t do for your children what they can do for themselves.” I’m sorry to say I can’t remember where I got this bit of wisdom, but it guided my parenting and will continue to guide my grandparenting.

You may know a 30 year old who still brings his laundry home to mom (in her 60’s) to do his laundry. Its’ not because he doesn’t have the money or the time. It’s because Mom doesn’t think he can do it right and will do it for him. . . forever. Or the college graduate who claims she doesn’t know how to fill out a dry cleaning form, saying “My mom will do it’. I remember a teenager who didn’t have her favorite jeans for a particular occasion. She had experience washing clothes.  Laundry was on the ‘chore list’.

Teen (in a shrill tone of voice): MOOOOM, my jeans aren’t clean! I have to wear them today!
Mom (calmly in an even tone of voice): Do you remember how the washing machine works?
Teen: (with an eye roll and ever so slight affirmative head nod.)
Mom: “What are you going to do about not having your jeans?”

It was painful. For her. For me. But we survived and she’s particular about her own laundry now (20 something).

Doing chores builds skills and self esteem, creates confidence and problem solving skills. Doing chores helps a child develop a work ethic, persistence or ‘grit’, and a sense of accomplishment. Don’t deny your children that opportunity to build their character. When they are adults, their peers will be amazed, their employers impressed and their own children capable. When they are 6-8 years look at what children can do!

So when my granddaughter makes a mess, I’ll teach her how to clean it up. And be patient with imperfection. And think of how she will be when she’s 30.


Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

More Posts

Chores Teach Responsibility


“It’s not fair”; “I don’t have time”; “It’s not my job”; Words often expressed by children who are asked to complete some household task!

Taking responsibility for a household task can assist children learn essential life skills, including taking responsibility, and expressing generosity. Families who work together to make decisions, keep the house clean, and care for one another, can use that energy to tackle even tougher issues! Don’t give up parents! Teaching your children to accept responsibility through assignments at home will create strong children!

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Teaching Responsibility to Teens

Parents want their children to become more responsible with age, but this is not an easy skill to teach. Ideally, teaching responsibility does not just start when your child becomes a teenage, but rather, it’s something you work to instill throughout the child’s life. From infancy to leaving the house, parents should work to gradually let children take on more responsibility. This can often be seen in extended curfews, more chores, and more decision-making opportunities as children get older.

With teenagers in particular, we see parents get frustrated as they often attempt to give children more responsibility, like chores around the house, but are disappointed when the chores don’t get finished. Don’t despair. These unfinished chores can actually be a great learning opportunity.

When chores go unfinished, the first task is to get yourself in the right mindset. As humans, it’s a natural inclination to become upset. You might start nagging the child, insist that things be done your way, or even punish the teen. However, as parents, you need to remember your long-terms goals in this situation. You don’t want to have to nag or punish in order to get the child to complete the tasks he/she has agreed to. Instead, you want your child to become more responsible, to complete tasks on his/her own, and to learn from mistakes.

When situations involving unfinished responsibilities arise, try the five step process of joint problem solving. This involves sitting down to talk with the teen about the situation and generate potential solution.

1. Describe the situation. “I don’t like it when you don’t vacuum the house like you said you would because the carpet is dirty.”

2. Both you and the teen tell how you feel about the situation. Parent – “I feel upset.” Teen – “I don’t think it’s fair that I have to vacuum the house.”

3. Brainstorm possible solutions. List any and all ideas that could solve the problem. Do not criticize any ideas.

4. Try a solution. Choose a solution to try for a specific length of time.

5. Select a time to check back. State a time with your teenager when you will be checking back in to see if the solution is working. If not, select another option from the list.

Even though teens intend to stick to the solution, they often fall short on their end of the agreement. To help avoid this, give the teen reminders. For example, if your child is going to meet friends, you might say, “Remember we agreed that the house would be vacuumed by noon.” If reminders aren’t helpful, then the solution is not working, and it is time to try another solution.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

More Posts