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We Are In It Together: Why My 4 Year Old Has Chores


Besides the basic self-care tasks like brushing teeth and combing hair, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have regular chores at 4.

Fast-forward 30 years…

My daughter is sweet, smart, stubborn and sometimes defiant. Yup, a pretty normal preschooler! Sometimes she’s a little unwilling to clean up her stuff, although I get it, when you are in the middle of a LEGO creation, it’s hard to put on the brakes.

However, our house has four people living in it–not one. So up the LEGOS must go, or into my closet they go. It was when I was met with fierce resistance to the clean up time and again that I realized we needed more. It wasn’t enough just to request she pick up her toys, brush her teeth and hair and get herself dressed. She needed more structure, more responsibility. And so we gave it to her.

What Made Me Give My 4 Year Old Kiddo Chores?

Since she’s taken on a few age appropriate chores, her defiance has decreased. Stubbornness…not so much, but outright defiance? It’s not a problem any more. Yes, she doles out complaints with just the right amount of whine most of the time. Yes, it might take three times as long to get the silverware unloaded from the dishwasher. But she gets lots of encouragement, and lots of thank you’s once the task is completed.

She knows what jobs are her responsibility and she will tackle them, albeit, slowly as possible. Does she get paid for these tasks? Nope. It’s just part of what she does as a member of our little family. If it doesn’t get done when requested? Well, then there are consequences and lost privileges.

How Can Chores Help With Discipline?

In this day and age, no one person can manage a household. Combine that fact with the fact kids want to feel like they are a part of a group, and it’s a perfect chance to set the little ones up for long term success. According to research done by University of Minnesota professor Marty Rossman, giving kids chores at an early age will allow them the chance to become more empathetic, gain a sense of belonging and self-management, and lead them to make more responsible choices as young kids, tweens, teens all the way up through their 20’s.

Letting them contribute to the household work will show it takes more than one person to get stuff done; it’s a team effort, a family contribution. They will be active members of the one of the most important groups around, their own family. So parents will more than likely end up having to discipline less. And that’s what we all strive for, right?!

What Kind Of Chores Are Appropriate For Kids?

It’s important to choose age appropriate tasks for each kiddo. One super helpful tool is the chore chart created by Maria Montessori. Always remember to work with each child’s learning abilities and don’t forget, these are just suggestions. For example, having your four year old mop and dust the dining room? Probably a little too much.

Overloading a kid will not encourage self-management but may instead increase frustration and foster resentment instead of encourage cooperation with fellow family members. Kids want to feel as if they’ve accomplished something, not struggle time-and-again to complete a task. Start slow, with things such as helping with recycling, putting away groceries, stacking newspapers. Let the kids help pick out their chores for the week, or start a chore chart, to keep the work interesting. Break it down, make the task seem easier. Tackling a pile of toys seems easier when done piece by piece. It’s the effort put in time and again that will make a huge difference for kiddos.

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2 Responses to We Are In It Together: Why My 4 Year Old Has Chores

  1. kathryn August 7, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Kudos! I could not agree more with giving kids chores appropriately. My not-quite-three year old boys love doing chores with me. Everyone does their part around here. I hope my future daughters in law will appreciate this : )

  2. Gabrielle Cullen
    Gabrielle Cullen August 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm #


    I agree! It’s fun when we work on something together as well. It makes everything seem a lot easier when we are all helping. Cheers!

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