What Chores Do You Require of a 12 Year Old?

Updated on February 24, 2016
S.L. asks from Arvada, CO
23 answers

My dd is busy outside of school with sports practice 3 days/week and we are usually gone on the weekends. I haven't required a whole lot of chores of my kids because I'm a stay at home mom and I actually prefer to do most myself (I'm pretty picky about laundry and I have lots of breakables when cleaning). But, it probably would be good to give my 12 yo some chores just so she's trained to do certain things. What do you give your pre-teen for chorse?

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answers from Phoenix on

My 13 yo son knows how to do the following: clean his room, wash, dry and put away his laundry, change his sheets, vacuum, clean the bathroom, dust. He also knows how to do some basic cooking, gets his own breakfast and makes his lunch. One week he’ll take out the trash while his sister loads/unloads the dishwasher and each do one more of the things listed above each day, then they switch the next week.

I think it’s important that kids know these things need to be done and how to do them. Just because they are in sports or after school activities and busy on the weekends doesn’t mean they don’t help out. That’s like expecting the woman to do everything even tho she works outside of the house. If you all live in the house then you all need to help keep up with it. JMO. Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

My 10 YO is very involved in her sport as well. I ask her to work hard at her sport and bring home A's.

The other day she asked how to clean the toilet. I instructed her and she ran off to clean the other two.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Binghamton on

I have to take issue with everyone saying you have to make your kids do chores or they won't be prepared to be adults. It's not what you asked but people are saying that so I will take the other side. I didn't do many chores as a kid. Somehow I learned to do laundry before or when I went to college. It's pretty easy. I also learned to cook some along the way. And I learned to clean. Again. Is it hard to sweep or dust? Physically it can be but it's not hard mentally to understand what it takes. Many of my friends grew up the same. And we all went on to do well in college and have very successful careers and keep our houses very neat. The friends whose mothers made them do everything were resentful and now put it on their kids. Kids mimic what they grow up with. My mother worked hard to keep a nice house and cook and all so I grew up with that as my expectation of what adults do. Same for my sister. Neither of us can relax now until chores are done. So it's fine for your 12 year old to do some things but I disagree if she doesn't do lots of chores that she'll grow up and not know how to do laundry and be an incapable adult.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You have lots of good suggestions for chores but I just wanted to say that when our children are babies, it is our job/responsibility/obligation to do everything for them. As they get older, it is out job/responsibility/obligation to teach them to do for themselves. I know you think doing everything for them is your job and you probably love it, but you are shirking your responsibility/obligation as a parent by not requiring them to learn how to do for themselves. You have to change your mindset. You are not shirking your responsibilities off onto them; you are owning up to your responsibilities to teach them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Savannah on

You need to teach her how to do basic chores. If not, she will be lost as an adult in her own place. I am training my boys to run their lives. That's part of parenting !

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

At 12 our son started doing his own laundry (he's 17 now).
I don't want him going off to college and still be a laundry virgin.
He takes out trash and recycling and takes bins to curb and back on collection day.
He puts dirty dishes in dishwasher and puts clean dishes away.
He helps with yard work, washes our cars (inside and out).
He pretty much helps with what ever we ask him to do - and he's always been like that - thank goodness!

The goal is to gradually get to a point where the child is an independent adult.
It certainly doesn't happen over night.
So you start young and slowly add more responsibilities.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

this site is always full of people who insist that kids shouldn't do chores because their job is school, or they don't do the chores right, or it's mean to expect kids to contribute, or they're 'picky.'
i consider it abdication of parenting. if kids are never taught or expected to help run a household, how are they supposed to learn it when they're in college or starting a trade as young adults?
i mean, yeah, they'll figure it out, but i don't see how deliberately handicapping kids is a good thing.
by 12 my kids were doing dishes, fixing dinner occasionally, doing their own laundry, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms (they never did get good at this, to my sorrow), and doing lots and lots of animal and outside chores.
unless your 12 year old is incapable of following directions (which you can write down for her) or so ham-handed that she can't touch a piece of china without shattering it, she can be 'trained' to do her own laundry or dust a shelf.
but what makes the most logical sense is to 'train' her to do the logical sensible basic chores that need to be done. is the trash full? surely she can be trained to take it out, clean the can if it needs it, and put a new liner in. is the toilet hairy? a 12 year old is mature enough to look at it, spray your cleaner of choice on it, and be 'trained' to swab out the nooks and crannies. a 12 year old can probably figure out how to sweep a floor. and mop it. or vacuum it.
you can do a chore list or a job jar (that's what we did, and rotated it every week or so) or be a REALLY good parent and 'train' your kids to simply be good citizens and do what needs to be done when they notice it needs doing.
i tell you true, i wasn't that effective a parent. but i should have been.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I had my son doing laundry because I found that less clean stuff wound up on the floor after he tried it on and decided not to wear it, or after he dug into the clean laundry basket and up-ended clean stuff looking for "the perfect shirt." Everyone cleared the table and put stuff in the dishwasher or stacked it to be soaked if needed. He was in charge of putting stuff on the grocery list if we were running low. If he shopped with me, he helped bring in and put away. My neighbors go food shopping together on Saturdays, leaving the 3 kids at home (3rd grade through 8th). When they get home, they head inside with one armload of stuff, and send the kids out (including the 3rd grader), to bring stuff in the house. If they don't bring it in, it doesn't get purchased again. Trash and recycling go out as needed, especially the day before pick-up. With the exception of laundry, these things take very little time - just a few minutes.

I agree with the poster who said that kids who don't do chores can grow up to be able to - BUT I don't think they grow up to appreciate the work of the SAHM who did it all those years! They don't grow up with a concept of a SAHM working 7 days a week with no vacation and no sick days. I think it sets them up for unrealistic expectations as adults - and if you look at the posts on Mamapedia that say things like "My husband is tired after work and so he lounges on the couch while I run myself ragged," you'll see that too many of us women do too much and too many kids (girls and boys) grow up expecting that someone else will get it done for them! So for me, it's not just about the skill required (to dust breakables or to do laundry just so), but the expectation that SAHMs don't "work" and therefore don't get down time.

I do think you will find you will be happier if you relinquish some control and give kids some freedom to do things their way. Otherwise, they may feel that they will never do something as well as you do, so they won't do it at all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Our kids alternate weeks of taking trash out (including emptying out all the wastebaskets in the house)/unloading the dishwasher. Our just-turned 13-year-old also puts away his laundry, makes his meals occasionally (when wants something else) and has to clean up any messes he makes. Going to start teaching him more cooking skills and how to use the washer/dryer soon so he has basic life skills when he goes to college.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My take is that teaching kids to sew on a button, mend a hem, cook marinara sauce, train a puppy, wash laundry properly, make meals, use cleaning products responsibly (no spraying glass cleaner on the mahogany coffee table, no mixing bleach and ammonia, for examples), set a table, and how to clean a toilet and sink so they're sanitary is just basic parenting. It's teaching. Yes, it prepares them for life on their own someday.

However, chores don't necessarily equal training for the future. In my opinion, chores mean "you live here, you eat here, you have a roof over your head and a bathroom to use and a kitchen and a bed, so you'll pitch in like everybody else." Chores mean instructing the child to hang up a wet towel, check to see that the bikes are put away in the evening, feeding and walking the dog, clearing the table, setting the table, putting dishes away or washing them, keeping dirty clothes in a hamper and clean clothes in the closet or dresser, making the bed. Teach the kids how to do it, then require that they do it. Living in a house costs money (rent, mortgage, electric and water and trash), and the kids should know that it takes time and effort and money and cooperation to run a household.

It's ok if you want to dust because you have breakable things on display. You can do the laundry your way as long as it's not a deep dark secret and your dd will never ever know that the red clothes can't be washed with the delicate white blouses, etc.

But she should be learning responsibility for things she uses and does, respect for her home and family (by leaving the bathroom tidy, by not strewing things all over the entry way floor when she comes home, etc), and she should participate in the necessary tasks that come with having a house. Even if she studies hard and practices sports a lot, she can still clear dishes if she ate something, still keep her clothes picked up, still keep a clean bathroom, still bring her own laundry to the hamper or the laundry room basket (whatever system you have set up), clear her snacks and drinks after doing homework, help clean up after a family meal, things like that. She shouldn't just be sailing through the house leaving a mess in her wake because she's on the way to practice or has a math test to study for. Everyone participates in basic housekeeping, some to a deeper degree than others (your cleaning preferences, her schedule and age, will factor in), but teaching her to pitch in will make her a better roommate, friend, and wife and mom some day.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My 10 year old and 13 year old clean their own room, they put away their own laundry, they take out the garbage, the compost and the recycling, they feed the cat and clean the litter box, they rake leaves and shovel snow (as needed), they unload the dishwasher, clean the toilets and they set the table and clear the table. They are both very busy with outside activities, so we work chores around activities and homework.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I have a 12 year old daughter that has very few chores due to heavy workload at school and 2 late nights with sports. I do require her to straighten up her room, clear the dinner table, put dishes in dishwasher and clean up after pups outside (not every day). She is also a straight A student. Study time and homework time after school can sometimes be hours. If she does have free time, I find it extremely important for her to play (trampoline or other activity). Times have changed. When I was a kid, there was not much homework and after school activities were not as demanding. She is extremely aware of what is done for her and is willing and able to help when I ask her. I am very confident that when it is time for her to leave for college, she will have learned how to take care of herself. We still have time to "teach" these skills :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I've been getting mine to help since they were little. So even though I'm home during the day, once everyone is home - everyone helps out. Husband and kids. My work day ends at 5 pm too :) So everyone pitches in.

So when we make meals, my preteen is making salad, peeling potatoes, etc. They learn how to cook too.

At this age, they help with laundry, do their bedding, clean a bathroom, sweep, vacuum, garbage, dishwasher, pots and pans, etc. They change it up and if one is busy (activity) the other does it that day.

My young teens do additional bigger chores to earn their cell phones. So at 12-13 mine started mowing lawns, shoveling snow, raking, and babysitting younger siblings.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

IMO, you need to let go a little. Your 12 yr old needs to learn to be careful and she can do her own laundry, or sort yours.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

My 11 and 14 year olds do laundry, dishes, some cooking, bathrooms (admittedly not very well yet, but how else are they going to learn?), take care of our dogs, take care of our chickens, shovel snow, rake, weed, and water the garden.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My 12 year old daughter is required to take the trash to the bins outside, put the cans out/bring them in on trash day, do her/her brother's laundry(they share a hamper), put away all clean dishes, keep her room cleaned this includes any vacuuming, sweeping, dusting & mopping needed, clean the bathroom sink and toilet top, sweep the dining room & clean their dining room table. There are other times she is asked to help in various areas as needed and she is expected to do so. Her chores do not take up much of her time, at most 20 minutes a night and that's if she had been lacking previously.

All her chores and grades must be kept on top of in order for her to continue to do her sporting events. She has done a pretty great job.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

All 3 of my kids are busy at least 3 nights a week with sports, the 12 year old a bit more and normally 4 hours during the week at least and she is in the STEM program.

Each week they rotate chores. Vacuuming the living room and mopping the rest of the downstairs, cleaning the toilets and wiping the counters, and wiping the counters/table. No chores takes more than 15 minutes and the floors and bathrooms are only done once per week. The kitchen counters and table are daily - that's why it's so much easier. All 3 do their own laundry, but we still fold for the 8 year old. They all also keep their rooms and basement (basically their big play room) tidy. Not perfect, but tidy.

We expect them to do well in school also.

Basically, because we are so busy as a family, if they don't help, nothing will get done. So everyone has to help in order for us to all be able to support everything else.

My kids are 8, 10, and 12...they all started doing their own laundry 3 years ago. All 3 also know how to cook, bake, and grill. Our goal is to turn them into productive adults. My 10 year old actually told me a few nights ago that if he had to run his own house, he could do a decent job at it. And he's right. That makes me proud.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I agree with Elena. A parent should teach housekeeping skills and I think some cooking but that is different than constant or regular chores. I also find my kids want to learn some of this on their own but I'm not sure they want to take responsibility for doing the chore constantly... I wasn't allowed to be a slob or just leave dishes all over but it was also a matter of respect to my parents. I put my laundry in the basket but I didn't actually wash and fold it. My mother said that was her job and mine was to do well in school. I appreciated it. I think if I'd been an obnoxious brat about it, she would have taken a different approach. I also helped with the dinner dishes and raking and shoveling snow. But I helped when I didn't have a big school report or a sports practice. Even with the dishes, if I had a lot of homework, my mother would say to go and skip helping that night. Once kids are older, I think SAHM's get some down time. Now that my kids are older even working almost full time I get down time. I think my kids are entitled to some too. So I take the approach that they need to tend to themselves in terms of hanging up jackets and keeping their rooms neat and if they've been playing video games for too long, I will have them help with yard work or something. But I don't think kids need to do heavy regular chores in order to be capable adults. Most household chores are repetitive and pretty self explanatory.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I think it is very important, at the very least, for them to know how to keep their own bedroom and bathroom clean, as well as the importance of helping out with either dinner or cleanup after dinner. I also have my kids wash their own laundry on occasion because these are simply life skills people need to know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My boys just turned 10 and 13, my daughter will be 7 on Friday... I am a sahm, the kids attend a college prep public school virtually, so we are all home a LOT! They are involved with athletics three nights a week.

7yo - cleans up her messes in bedroom/playroom/media room daily, makes bed each morning, brings her dirty clothes to the laundry room(they each have a hamper in their closets) 3 nights a week(I wash clothes early the following three mornings), carries her clean clothes upstairs and puts in dresser or hangs in closet 3 days a week, feeds the dog his dinner, fills the dogs pill box with the appropriate pills once a week, carries her dishes to the sink after each meal, puts her dirty clothes in hamper after changing/bath, as well as anything else I may ask her to do

10yo - basically same as 7yo, except he does the dog breakfast

13yo - same as others, but he's responsible for taking the trash and recycling to the curb weekly in place of being in the dog feeding rotation

Also, during warm months, I have them pull weeds from lava rock beds by our pool/spa, and the large flower beds in the front... This is done mwf, so they each get a day.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I just recently gave my almost 10 year old loading the dishwasher after dinner as one of his chores. I clear the table while he does it to field questions (he's still learning). So far it's going well.

Otherwise, for a while now he:
gets his clothes into the hamper
wipes out the sink when he's done before bed, and wipes the counter if he spills toothpaste (my 5 year old also does this)
Sort socks from the laundry
5 year old unloads the silverware basket
9 year old used to unload the dishwasher (anything that goes down low), but I traded that for loading the dishwasher
9 year old knows how to do laundry, but only actually does it sporadically
They both help set the table for dinner



answers from Oklahoma City on

The chores she has are litter box, trash helper, picking up after herself, putting her dirty clothes in the right hamper, putting dirty dishes in the sink instead of leaving them on the counter, stuff like that. She specifically has care of the cats and trash helper as her designated chores though.

I wash a LOT of delicate clothing. Leos, tights, Lycra/Spandex garments, and more. So I do not wash towels and jeans with sports bras and eighty dollar leos and twenty four dollar shorts.

I separate my laundry. I wash light weight delicate items in warm water and dry on delicate. If it's dry clean only but it washes okay then I wash it then hang it to dry. But that's only 2 or 3 garments in my whole house.

If she wants jeans washed she better put her jeans in the hamper for denim and heavy work clothes. If she wants towels washed she better be putting her dirty towels in the towel hamper. Same with bed linens that get washed in hot and delicate items that get washed on cold.

She has a full time job, that's getting an education and going to school each day. Her chores are small so she can do her school work and then come home to have down time and do activities.


answers from Santa Fe on

My 11 year old son makes his bed, cleans his room, clears off the table after dinner and loads the dishwasher, rakes leaves, shovels snow, and vacuums the living room. He hates doing chores and puts them off as much as he can. It's annoying because I don't think we ask that much of him. In middle school my brother and I were required to do my own laundry, clean up after dinner, clean bathrooms, dust, sweep, mop, vacuum, and do yard work.

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