The case for bringing back chores

Imagine your parents hiring someone to teach you to ride a bike.

A hedge-fund manager I knew once did that.

He’d calculated his time was worth $3,205/hr.

So this optimization made sense.

It turns out that something else is being optimized these days: chores.

82% of you did them as kids.

But only 28% of your kids do them.

“Kids these days?”

They’re entitled and lazy, right?

It’s actually quite the opposite. In the book Never Enough: When achievement culture becomes toxic – and what we can do about it by Jennifer Breheny Wallace, she describes that parents are taking one for the team here.

“I’d rather my daughter know Mandarin than how to make her bed.”

In the world of college prep, competitive sports and Mandarin Mastery – chores are just a mere obstacle.

Optimize them away.

And I get it. My parents (who didn’t have the funds to hire a bike coach) were lax on the chores.

So that we could do our homework.

Chances are, you’re part of the 82% that’s passing that along.

But what does the research say?

Make your bed, do less drugs?

A study by Marty Rossman from the University of Minnesota (albeit n = 24) revealed that young adults who had chores were more likely to achieve in school, have career success and be self-sufficient.

They were also less likely to use drugs.

The famous Harvard Study on happiness, researchers showed that a “strong work ethic in the teen years, such as one developed by chores, was an important predictor of midlife happiness.”

But what if chores had a secondary benefit – beyond teaching work ethic (and freeing up some parenting time)?

Breheny Wallace argues that chores “cement our place in our immediate community, our family.” She continues:

They can be used to communicate to our children that they have a place in a world that needs them, and that their contribution can have an impact. Chores make children feel depended on. [They] bolster a child’s sense of mattering.

A parent interviewed in the book took it a step further, adding:

We didn’t really talk about it as chores. It’s more like, how am I going to contribute to the family today and make our home a little happier?

Does everything need an outcome?

Long-time readers will know that I’m a big advocate of taking a walk without AirPods.

And while I have nothing against Andrew Huberman or Emma Chamberlain – culturally we push ourselves to make everything in life productive.

And that’s a problem. Not only because it forces us to always live in the future (where we reap the results of our productivity).

But because some of life’s best moments – reading a book, chit-chatting with a friend, taking a hike – do not have outcomes.

And when we swap making your bed with learning Mandarin, we’re giving our malleable kids a very strong message:

Everything needs an outcome.
Everything in service of bettering yourself.

And that’s a recipe for loving yourself conditionally.

It’s a recipe for misery.

Want to give it a try?

Here’s a list of chores for kids based on age-appropriateness:


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