The children’s housework is a perennial favorite for parents.
If you ask any of us about our experiences in getting children to help around the house, you might get the answer that getting them to help is often not worth the effort.
Whether the effort is constantly nagging them until the chores are done, or having to do it with them to make sure it’s done to a halfway decent standard, or having to repeat the chores after their efforts to make them done properly, many parents skip the effort and just do the work themselves.
Perhaps this explains why there is consistent research that children do fewer tasks today than they used to.
For example, a German study of about 3,000 children found a significant decrease in the time spent on housework from 1991/92 to 2012/13. A current analysis of Growing up in Ireland Data for about 5,000 children showed a similar decrease in time spent on household chores across the entire group aged 9 to 13, although girls by age 13 were doing more household chores.
Researchers who have looked at the role and effects of children’s housework have shown that there are positive and negative aspects associated with their involvement in household chores.
Participating in housework is good for developing children’s responsibility and self-discipline. They learn important life skills like cooking, caring for others and so on. It also usually buys them more time with their parents, since their parents are likely to be similarly engaged in household chores at the same time.
However, household chores take up the time children have for their academic training, and some research suggests that children who do more household chores have lower grades.
But if we come back to the finding from the Growing up in Ireland data that girls do more housework at age 13 than at age 9, then the overall decrease is due to boys of the same age doing significantly less housework.
This points to another very important factor in childhood domestic work, namely that participation in domestic work tends to follow very gender-specific patterns.
First, girls spend more time doing housework than boys. Second, the chores girls usually do are cooking, cleaning, caring for relatives or younger children, or vacuuming. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to mow the lawn, clean the car or put out the garbage can.
The study authors highlight the inequalities of this typically gendered approach to housework, which showed up in their results. It continues the commonly accepted assumption that girls and women will take on more ‘domestic’ chores in a household.
This can also be proven worldwide and thus restricts the “free” time for women, while men are given more time for leisure, sports and hobbies.
All of this should set alarm bells ringing for parents. I have already written that so many of the problematic gender stereotypes in life tend to be socialized in children at a young age.
These insights about girls not only doing certain types of household chores, but doing more than boys, are a classic example of the implicit messages we convey to children through the way we interact with them.
There is a real opportunity for fathers and mothers to try to even out these gender inequalities in domestic chores by making sure they set the example in task sharing and include all your children in all the different types of chores that are out there.
Getting boys to cook, clean and take care of others must be part of the accepted structure of your family. Freaking them out with these kinds of tasks can simply teach them the same gender stereotypes that will carry them into adolescence and into adulthood.
If we do not challenge the stereotypes internalized from childhood, we will perpetuate those stereotypes in future generations, restrict women’s freedoms, or burden them with an unnecessary burden of duties and responsibilities for jobs that are fairly distributed and shared within the family need with their partner.
While it may seem like more effort than it’s worth, I would strongly recommend getting your kids involved in household chores and instilling the habits of helping the family into their minds as early as possible.
When children are younger, they want to help. They want to be actively involved in the “work” of the parents and we can benefit from that.
By allowing them to help at our side, we have the opportunities we need to connect with them, teach them, talk to them, and support their physical, social, and emotional development.
They may even learn that housework is everyone’s business.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/david-coleman-break-gender-stereotypes-when-it-comes-to-chores-and-make-your-boys-cook-and-clean-41886066.html David Coleman: Break gender stereotypes when it comes to housework and let your boys cook and clean