One of the things I enjoy doing with my kids is teaching them basic life skills. It seems like a lot of parents skip some of the basics with their kids these days, because it’s easier to do it yourself than to teach it.

Suckers. Teaching it is hard, but eventually the kids know how to do it for you. Then it starts paying off… aside from hearing the kids complain about having to do whatever chores you assign them.

My intent is to have both of my daughters and my son learn the basics of running a household. Not just cooking and cleaning, but basic repairs and dealing with technology too.

My intent is to have both of my daughters and my son learn the basics of running a household.

This incompetence in basic skills is something I remember seeing in my fellow students when I lived in the dorms in college. It was amazing how many had never done a single load of laundry.

You want to teach chores at appropriate ages. My oldest can cook a little bit on the stove, and will be learning more soon. She’s finally tall enough to deal with the controls on the washer and dryer, so more laundry is about to be added to her list.

My son does some basic food heating in the microwave. He’s also puzzling out how to make PB&J sandwiches – the thickness of the peanut butter still gives him trouble.

The oldest two both do chores that involve sweeping, mopping and scrubbing. It takes a lot of supervision still, to make sure they don’t do a sloppy job then give up. But they do them.

The youngest is still too young for chores.

Division of Labor

In some ways, my husband and I have a pretty traditional division in labor, mostly because I work at home so I’m there to get things done all day. But any chore I ask him to do he can do well enough, and I’ve learned to not criticize when he loads the dishwasher differently from how I would do it unless there’s a genuine problem that would keep the dishes from getting clean. We go nontraditional in other ways.

I want my kids to know that they can handle whatever jobs around the house need doing, whether it’s traditionally “men’s work” or “women’s work”.

I want my kids to know that they can handle whatever jobs around the house need doing, whether it’s traditionally “men’s work” or “women’s work”. They can all be competent.

That’s why I make sure that while I’m more likely to do some chores, sometimes my husband does them, and vice versa. Who does which has much to do with preferences and who can get a particular job done better or faster, rather than traditional gender roles. I handle just about all the technology stuff, for example.

Important Skills

There are a lot of skills I want my kids to have by their mid-teens at the latest, so they’re well practiced by adulthood. They include cooking a variety of foods, following a recipe, basic repair sewing, using a hammer, using a screwdriver, painting a wall, emptying the trash, sweeping, mopping, knowing when basic car maintenance needs to be done, mowing a lawn, doing the laundry, living on a budget, and more.

You can’t assume that kids will go from living with you to living with a spouse who has all of these skills, so I call them necessary. Just think about time spent living in college dorms or apartments where they’re going to have to handle many of these things on their own.

Don’t Let Them Feign Incompetence

Learning that you have to do your share even when you aren’t in the mood is a great lesson.

Kids are great at pretending that they can’t handle various chores. They’ll call them too hard when they really just aren’t in the mood to do the work, even on chores they do regularly. They’ll also try to claim a new chore is too difficult when they aren’t in the mood to learn a new skill.

Don’t let them get away with it. Learning that you have to do your share even when you aren’t in the mood is a great lesson.

Don’t let them get away with doing a sloppy job on a chore you know they’re usually better at. Wanting to head out to play with friends or to play on the computer isn’t an excuse for sloppy work. I usually remind my kids that I don’t have to let them do fun things until their work is done. They don’t like that, but it usually gets them moving.

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