Most parents have engaged in a battle with their children at one time or another to get them to do their chores.
Now, new information has emerged that parents can use to convince the young ones that doing their chores is going to be good for them.
A recent study, led by PhD candidate Deanna Tepper and published in Australian Occupational Therapy, found that regular chores were associated with better executive functions—planning, self-regulation, switching between tasks and remembering instructions.
The study also showed that in addition to keeping the rooms tidy and the house running smoothly, children who do chores experience improvements in executive function and their self-regulatory skills as they switch between tasks and recall what instructions they’ve been given.
Before this study, there weren’t many studies on how executive functions can develop in children and how they are improved in children who are doing household tasks. This particular study involved children aged between 5 and 13. Their parents were asked to answer questions about how their children engaged with household chores and their executive functions.
The term executive function is an umbrella term that embraces many cognitive processes associated with goal-directed and self-regulatory behaviour such as:
Working memory: This is the ability to manipulate and monitor temporary information—something every parent would love in their youngster!
Inhibition: This is the ability to control an automatic response or ignore any irrelevant information so they can concentrate on what they’re doing—sounds a bit of a tall order!
Shifting: This is the ability to move from one task to another—multi-tasking in the pre-teens would be something worth seeing!
The chores assessed in this study mostly involved self-care. This included things like making themselves or somebody else a meal, showing significant working memory as well as inhibition after controls were applied for gender age and disability status.
Parents of children who had pets in their household reported no significant connection between a child engaging in pet care chores and their executive functioning skills.
Both the children and the adults who took part in this study were given a wide range of tasks to do including cleaning and preparing food. The study found that completing these types of chores in the house had benefits other than achieving managing simple day-to-day living.
It seems that children who are given chores appropriate to their age benefit by feeling greater control, which in turn, will improve their social behaviour and give them greater life satisfaction—all from taking the rubbish out and boiling the odd egg!
This study did take into account the fact that parents taking part would very likely have different expectations of their children, which could influence the results of their reports.
The study concluded that more research needed to be done to establish the exact link between executive function and chores in children in the age group tested. Parents were told that they might be able to help their children develop their executive function by encouraging them to participate in household chores.
For a lot of parents, this would be a no-brainer and something that they had been trying to achieve for a long time with their youngsters. Now they have science on their side!