8 Tasks Kids Should Do for Themselves

Learn the dangers of helicopter parenting and eight tasks you shouldn't be doing for your child.

Click on an item in the set below to see more info.

By Lauren Katulka

Our children are born helpless, completely dependent on us for food, shelter and love. As they grow, it can be tempting to continue satisfying their every whim. But this pattern can lead to “helicopter parenting,” a parenting style that can do more harm than good, says Holly Schiffrin, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

According to Schiffrin’s research, published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, over-parented teens show less autonomy, competence and relatedness to others, resulting in symptoms of depression and decreased satisfaction with life.

This parenting style, while well-intentioned, denies kids the opportunity to practice independent problem solving skills. Help build your child's confidence by requiring him to complete these tasks for himself.

Take Responsibility for Clothes

By age 3, your child should be able to dress himself. He may need help with buttons and zippers, but these motor skills will improve in time. Give your kid a small number of weather-appropriate outfits to select from, and gradually widen the scope.

Take Responsibility for Clothes (continued)

Toddlers can put their clean clothes into drawers and dirty ones into a hamper, preschoolers can match socks, and 6- to 8-year-olds can fold clothes when they’re dry. By late elementary school, kids should be capable of washing their own clothes.

Care for Toys

Resist the urge to clean up after your kid when he makes a mess in the playroom. Resist the urge to replace toys that are broken or lost due to carelessness; these accidents can become teaching moments.

Care for Toys (continued)

Kids as young as 2 years old can put away their own toys. Once a child reaches preschool age, she should learn that she's responsible for any items taken out of the house.

Care for a Pet

Caring for a pet is a great way to instill responsibility in your child from an early age. Bonus: As your child learns how to care for an animal, you get more free time and a cute pet!

Care for a Pet (continued)

You should trust a preschool-aged child to feed a pet regularly. If you live in a safe neighborhood, an older child can take a dog on a walk. As children have a greater risk of infection, however, they should not clean litter boxes and other pet waste until their teenage years.

Set Their Bedtime

Very young children rely on the structure of a set bedtime. But by age 12, allow your child to negotiate this.

Set Their Bedtime (continued)

You can help your child make an appropriate decision about when to go to bed by setting restrictions on nighttime activities. Try cutting off phone, Internet, and TV usage after 9PM. Chances are, your child will choose to go to bed shortly after.

Eat Responsibly

Your toddler can happily feed himself, and by age 5 he should be attempting to cut up his own meals. Help him hone skills with soft foods like cooked vegetables before transitioning to more challenging meats and fruits.

Eat Responsibly (continued)

In early elementary school, kids can complete basic tasks like washing fresh produce and preparing some ingredients. After spending time with you in the kitchen, your child should have enough skill to create basic meals.

Set Their Allowance

Kids can be surprisingly thoughtful when it comes to money matters. Sit down with your kids and talk to them about what an allowance means and how it might be spent.

Set Their Allowance (continued)

Guide your kids through the process of setting an allowance rate. Have them come up with a breakdown of how much they think they should be earning each week and how they will be using the money.

Clean the House

Your child lives in your home, so he should take some responsibility for keeping it clean. When a kid is young, it may seem like it's faster just to clean on your own. However,teaching your child how to perform simple cleaning tasks from a young age will ultimately save you time and mess in the long run.

Clean the House (continued)

A toddler can start making beds and wiping down surfaces. With supervision, a preschooler can begin washing dishes and cleaning windows. In elementary school, add sweeping, vacuuming and mopping to your child's list of chores.

Fight Their Battles

It can be tempting to step in when you see your child struggling, but it’s important to let him fight his own battles. When you get down to it, there’s little difference between a mother stepping in when children squabble over a favorite toy and a father speaking to a college professor about his child’s “unfair” grade.

Fight Their Battles (continued)

No matter the age, your child should be trusted to solve his own personal problems. You may guide the process by suggesting solutions, but you shouldn’t take control of the resolution.

Of course, it’s up to you to decide if your child is mature enough to be trusted with particular tasks. It can be difficult to judge what your child is ready for, but by following your kid's cues and asking your child if he wants help with any unfamiliar tasks you can nudge him just enough to strike a balance between dependence and self-reliance.

Add to collection

Create new collection

Create new collection

New Collection>

0 items

How likely are you to recommend Education.com to your friends and colleagues?

Not at all likely
Extremely likely

What could we do to improve Education.com?

Please note: Use the Contact Us link at the bottom of our website for account-specific questions or issues.

What would make you love Education.com?

What is your favorite part about Education.com?