As a mother, I carry a world of guilt on my shoulders. I generally feel its pull over everything from letting my kids have too much screen time (when I need some peace and quiet) to feeling like a big fat meany pants for constantly nagging at them to pick up their socks off the floor and put their dishes in the sink.
Well, guilt no more! Moms and dads everywhere can finally REJOICE, because science now says that giving kids chores is actually good for them. That’s right, apparently making them clean up their room is not torture after all; it’s literally character building.
Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to do an impromptu happy dance …
… aaaaand I’m back.
The research actually came out of a well-known 75-year-long Harvard study, which is really two studies being held simultaneously. Harvard researchers followed two groups of people: One group, which is part of the Grant Study, is comprised of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939 through 1944; whereas the other group, which is part of the Glueck Study, is comprised of 465 men who grew up in poor inner-city neighborhoods of Boston. The total body of subjects were closely watched over the course of 75 years to see “what psychosocial variables and biological processes from earlier in life predict health and well-being in late life.”
One of the many highlights of the researcher’s findings is that subjects who were given chores as kids grew up to be adults who were more independent, better able to work in collaborative groups, and better equipped to understand that even though doing chores or hard work may feel unpleasant, it means being a valuable part of a community. Basically, it gives kids the fundamental building blocks toward developing a “can do” attitude, which is what will fuel success in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships.
So, how does Harvard track information on subjects in order to paint a complete image of what happiness and success look like? Well, according to Robert Waldinger, who is the director of the study:
“To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children. We videotape them talking with their wives about their deepest concerns. And when, about a decade ago, we finally asked the wives if they would join us as members of the study, many of the women said, ‘You know, it’s about time.'”
While the aim of the project is to better understand what a happy relationship looks like, this new findings about chores are certainly a pleasant surprise. Especially for parents. (Y’all, I’ve never been so happy to create a chore chart in my life!)
Here’s to picking up dirty socks and demanding fully made beds tomorrow the morning!