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The Benefits of Doing Chores Together as a Family

Chores. It’s the eternal struggle of every family.

And honestly, it’s probably not the most enjoyable topic, but I chose to write about it because it’s a major source of daily conflict in families. And if no one on your family team seems to be pulling their weight, it can lead to serious stress and resentment!

But I really do believe, deep down, that household chores just don’t have to be this hard.

Growing up in my house as a kid, doing chores was the source of a lot of arguing and strife, and I vowed that the same wouldn’t happen in my own house as an adult.

Umm, yeah. So, how’s that been going?

Two words. Hard. Work.

Very hard work.

Over time, though, and with a lot of communication and the establishment of a routine that made sense to us, we’re kind of in a rhythm now. We’ve learned the minimum number of things that absolutely need to be done on a weekly basis to keep us all sane.

So why should you and your partner and your children do chores together? And how on earth do you get the whole family on the same page?

Let me be clear, not everything has to be done together all the time, although the hardest work is probably best done in teams. What I’m talking about is a scenario where everyone pitches in somewhere, and everyone has a basic set of responsibilities.

The benefits of doing chores together as a family are not necessarily about getting tasks done in less time. It’s much bigger than that.

Read on to find out.

Part 1: The Benefits of Doing Chores as a Family

Isn’t it easier to just give up and do everything yourself? Too many cooks in the kitchen, right?

Sure, that’s easier in the short term. But you’ll eventually melt into a puddle on the floor from exhaustion or turn into a rage monster. No one wants that, right?

And once you see the benefits of bringing in your whole family as a team, you’ll never feel as though you have to go it alone it again.

1. Teamwork, and the realization that you’re all doing this crappy thing together.

Let’s be real. Chores, especially on the weekend, when all you want to do is veg on the couch, mixed drink in hand, aren’t that much fun.

But chores can actually “bond” a family in ways.

Think of it as introducing the “right” kind of stress. The insertion of a stressful or unpleasant activity really can bring people closer together. Adverse circumstances are used time and again in military and astronaut training in order to create more cohesive teams. Why? Because it works.

Now, this isn’t a war situation or landing on the moon. But completing something that kind of sucks, successfully, and together, really does glue you together a bit.

Next stop? The moon!

photo of astronauts helping each other climb a mountain
Doing challenging activities together can really bond your family. Just like astronauts!
Photo credit: Rodnae Productions on Pexels

3. You aren’t left with chaos if something bad happens.

This is kind of an unpleasant thought, but unexpected things do happen in life. What would happen if either you or your spouse remained hospitalized for a period? Who would take on certain roles temporarily? Does anyone in the household know how to handle certain tasks?

As much as we don’t want to think about these things, no family wants to be caught completely off guard when unexpected events happen.

Don’t know how to mow grass or shovel snow? Ask your partner to show you. If your preteen kids don’t know how to do laundry (correctly) yet, teach them! It’s the sharing or rotation of chores that creates this great opportunity to teach and learn, preparing you for any worst-case scenario.

3. It gets you all physically active.

This one probably goes without saying, but there are all kinds of household tasks that can get your heart rate up. For those of us on what seems like a steep downward decline of age, marathons and rough sports eventually become more of a young person’s game (hello, knee surgery!). Many of us eventually have to substitute in slower, gentler, but more constant movement.

photo of man mowing grass
Household chores can be a central part of an active lifestyle as you age.

Don’t underestimate the power of this kind of movement. You can’t brag about it to your friends like your race time, but the research shows that it counts! There is plenty of research now pointing out that household chores can stave off mental and physical decline as you get older, whether it’s greater protection against falls or overall better balance and strength.

And, it’s never bad idea to get the kids up and moving, too. Once they get moving, you’ll probably find it hard to keep up with them!

4. If you’re retired, doing household chores together may stave off cognitive decline.

Speaking of aging better, this podcast episode is certainly work checking out, but I’ll summarize it for you here, too.

Scientists have been trying to answer the question of why men show a faster cognitive decline after retirement. Though this is a very complex topic, and more research continues to be brought to the table, researchers so far have concluded that women may age slower due to more social connections built after retirement, and you guessed it….housework.

If preserving the brainpower for the both of you isn’t motivation to finish up those chores together, I don’t know what is!

Photo of older couple helping each other do dishes. Helping with household chores has benefits on slowing cognitive decline.
Research shows that performing household chores may stave off physical and cognitive decline in old age.
Photo credit: November27 on Shutterstock

5. You develop mutual appreciation for each other.

Something fundamentally shifts when working together, whether you’re trading tasks, or just assisting. It really helps you appreciate the other person for their work ethic and skill. Call it a shift in perspective, but it’s quite powerful.

I, for one, never realized how difficult it can be in 90-plus degree heat to mow our sloped yard with a push mower. But now that I’m out there handling at least part of the lawn maintenance, I appreciate now how much time and physical energy it takes.

On the flip side, my husband probably has a brand new gratitude for my laundry skills. Because we’ve each pitched in helping with these activities for each other, we have a new appreciation for what each of us brings to the table.

With kids, it’s the same concept, but maybe with an added spin. After swapping or filling in for a sibling, your kids may decide that their assigned routine chores aren’t so bad, and might complain about them less going forward!

photo of "thank you" written in child's blocks
Sharing or swapping chores as a family can bring new levels of appreciation for each other.
Photo credit: Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels

Part 2: How to Bring Your Family Together for Doing Chores

Teamwork, appreciation, learning, health benefits–that’s all good news. But how do you get full-on cooperation from your family or partner, especially when everyone is spread out in different directions?

1. Talk about your game plan beforehand.

Don’t expect your partner to automatically know that he can’t go golfing on Saturday morning or that your teen can’t visit friends because you had planned for everyone to clean out the garage together.

If you’re going to plan chores that take hours, you’ll have to communicate this to everyone, verbally, and in big, flashing bold letters if you can.

Yes, I mean literally.

photo of neon sign flashing "clean out your refrigerator day"
Photo credit: Sharafat Ali on Shutterstock

Well, not quite like that. But it is effective, eh?

A magnetic calendar on the fridge is where I post things like planned weekend projects and items needed for grocery runs. Folks have no choice but to read them when they open that door over and over…and over again.

I choose signs and lists, because, well, I just like ‘em, and I’m a nerd. But use whatever tool works best for you!

2. Make chores less intimidating, and reduce end-of-week pile-on.

I use the Rule of Three for a lot of things (see this post, where I talk about housework stress), as it’s a manageable, intuitive number for most anyone to remember.

photo of the number 3
Use the Rule of Three to make a chore list less overwhelming. Photo credit: Miguel A. Padrinan on Pexels

To apply the Rule of Three, you might ask your children to pick three chores from a list of options to complete. They can pick any three chores that they want, but they must be done by an agreed-upon time. If you want to add some fun and suspense, you can have them draw three random slips of paper with a chore written on each from a jar.

For control over daily messes, definitely try to institute some house rules. Don’t want dirty dishes in the sink before bedtime? Make it one of your 3 or 4 simple house rules that you follow every single day.

3. Pay attention to your partner.

Though no one is a mind reader, it’s important that you observe your partner closely, even when you are both incredibly tired and distracted.

Is she struggling to finish folding laundry because of the baby’s feeding time? Grab the basket and get folding.

Is he struggling with a fix-it project? Hold the ladder, assist with tools, or just be the second pair of (helpful) eyes.

It’s these small gestures, done without prompting, that let your partner know that you’re in their corner and supportive. The more support you offer, the more you’ll likely get in return.

photo of woman exhausted from being with children all day while working from home
Recognizing cues from your partner–and responding accordingly with help–can work wonders.
Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

4. Eliminate score-keeping.

“Chore equity” between men and women is certainly a topic that comes up more now, and it reached a peak during the 2020 pandemic when many couples were working from home and children were learning remotely.

A very exhausting time for parenting, it was.

But household chores are tricky in that they’ll just never be entirely equal all the time. They will ebb and flow with schedules and seasons. Someone, depending on the season, will always be doing a little bit more.

photo of a basketball scoreboard
Constant “keeping score” with chores is anything but productive.
Photo credit: Artistic Operations (F. Muhammed) on Pixabay

So I encourage you to avoid too much comparing or score-keeping, unless you have a very extreme situation.

Before coming to the conclusion you “do more,” try to look well beyond what you can actually see your partner doing in the moment.

I’ll use my own parents as an example. My father worked long, variable hours and because of this, my mother handled almost all of the housework. On the surface, it looked like my father was doing a lot less—almost nothing, actually. But behind the scenes, he was handling all the home repairs and car and lawn maintenance and caring for our barn full of animals. Because he worked such odd hours, we never saw it, because we were either sleeping or in school.

Because he wasn’t helping “around the house,” did that mean he wasn’t pulling his weight? No, he was just doing different things, all at the unseen edges of the day.

Does this all mean that it’s fair for your partner to play video games all day while you struggle with chores? Of course not. That’s an extreme situation that shouldn’t happen.

But if your situation isn’t like that one at all, maybe look just a little bit deeper–you may be surprised at what you find.

6. Make it fun!

For kids, I think the fun element for doing chores together is critical.

Turn on some silly music of their choice, have a dance or lip-syncing contest, or set a timer and make a competition out of it.

If you offer to let your kids put your absurd “Mom” or “Dad” dance moves on film, who knows? Chore time could probably change your life!

And those surly, unenthusiastic teens love nothing more than to put their dorky parents’ dancing on display.

Like this Dad right here.

photo of a dad performing air guitar with the broom
Photo credit: Rodnae Productions on Pexels

7. Say thank you every time and reward yourselves.

Kids appreciate a “thank you,” but they really respond to incentives. Giving them a little something to look forward to can keep their energy up.

And a “carrot” approach can be pretty effective, too: “The sooner we finish the garage cleanup, the sooner we can go out for ice cream.” Much more positive than nagging!

And showing thanks to your partner is gold. There’s no harm in rewarding yourselves at the end of some accomplished tasks with a nice dinner or a favorite movie.

Or just standing back, admiring your handiwork, and reminding each other that you’re an awesome team.

Like these two astronauts right here:

photo of astronauts holding hands after climbing mountain
Photo credit: Rodnae Productions on Pexels

Next stop? Maybe Mars!

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Themis

Friday 29th of April 2022

Greetings.

I could not disagree with you on the subject of children and chores more. There is not any study to the effect that chores really help kids [not even the Harvard Study, which I have examined]. In fact, the only study I found that came close to testing this idea was a 2003 study by the University of Amsterdam​. In this study, researchers found,“A direct (negative) path was found between the number of chores assigned and school success (GPA)” … that negative correlation was likely because “too many chores and responsibilities interfere with schoolwork.” Again, there is no evidence that doing chores contributes to a child’s success. The Minnesota research was not peer-reviewed and thus unreliable.

Kids should NOT be made to do chores. The housework is NOT the child's responsibility. The parents are the carers and providers. The children are NOT the help. Kids should PLAY not WORK. Schoolwork including home school academic work is plenty enough. Chores are not difficult to learn anyone can in MINUTES. Its not the child's role to contribute to the family. As for self-confidence, deep relationship, pride, etc. can be gained via many other ways. These include play, art, sports, family time, etc.

Absolutely EVERYTHING can and is taught without chores thus making them redundant. The only reason any parent would insist on making kids do chores is so the parents have less work which is a bad reason and amounts to taking advantage of kids. By chores I mean tasks such as doing the laundry, mopping / sweeping floors, washing the family dishes, loading / unloading dishwashers, cleaning toilets / bathrooms, etc. obviously a parent can teach a child how to do anything WITHOUT making it the child's job / responsibility.

I am thankful that my parents did not require regular chores from my sister and me growing up in the 1980's. I am grateful we had true parents who respected our childhood. And I NEVER had problems with performing any chore. Both my sister, me and EVERYONE I grew up with are living proof that regular chores for kids are worthless... well maybe just take a load off lazy parents. Do you know how long it took me to learn for example laundry? 10 minutes! I had the cleanest room at Seminary or everyone said so. So the nonsense doesn't stick with me.

Sincerely,

Themistoklis J. Papaioannou

PS: Even the phrase "we are not raising children, we are raising adults" is wrong. No, you are raising CHILDREN who will GROW INTO adults. RESPECT CHILDHOOD.

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