Delegating the workload at home not only creates a happy household, it also helps turn kids into independent adults. So, how do you get the family on board without cracking the whip?
It’s the subject of many academic studies and it certainly rings true anecdotally: when men and women share chores with fairness around the house, everyone is happier. What’s more, children who are expected to pitch in at home tend to be more successful adults later on.
While there’s a temptation to slip into retro ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ roles at home — and also to allow children to be picked up after, waited on and more (because, let’s face it, sometimes it’s just easier that way, isn’t it?) — it’s important to learn to delegate chores, not just for you and your sanity, but also for those around you. Aside from the obvious benefits of relieving the burden for that one person who usually does everything (ahem, you), when you share the workload, everyone feels like they are contributing.
“When one person does everything, they ‘own’ the household organisation and activities,” says Sydney-based psychologist . “It means that other family members might not feel like they have a meaningful role in the house.”
This applies to men and women, but also to children of all ages. “It’s important to teach kids to help out,” Brewer adds. Chores should be age-appropriate — for example, clearing their own dinner plate as preschoolers, or helping dry dishes at primary school — but they should be non-negotiable. “Teaching kids to do their own chores also plays an important role in shifting gender expectations,” explains Brewer. “We don’t want kids thinking that Mum ‘magically’ does all
of the things that the rest of the family enjoy.”
As for carrots and sticks, Brewer recommends that kids have two types of chores: basic activities that have no reward attached (like making their bed), and more complicated, or less appealing, jobs that do get rewarded (with a small amount of money, screentime or a special activity). “There should be some basic expectations,” she says, “but also jobs that motivate and challenge.”
Of course, the biggest issue in delegating chores is often not the delegation at all — it’s sticking to the plan. “So much of the chore completion is about efficiency and effectiveness, and it’s easy to get caught up in folding socks the ‘right’ way rather than focusing on the principle being taught — whether to partners or children,” says Brewer.
The important thing is to have some perspective. “Think about your priorities, and where you would like your focus to be,” she says. “Sometimes we need to let go of some of the very specific and highly prescriptive systems we are used to in order to have more freedom to share the workload.” In other words, sit back and relax. They’ve got this.