Ok, I've never actually said that to my kids, but I do kind of look forward to the day when I can. I mean that's why we have kids, right? Free child labor. No? Just me?
I am obviously joking about the child labor, but it is important to remember that there is a lot of value in giving children chores. According to psychologists, when kids are given the chance to help with household duties, they feel like fully-fledged members of the family. They learn independence and develop a sense of self-confidence and pride upon completion of their work.
While all of that may have you ready to throw your kids to the laundry wolves, it is important to remember that to be successful, chores need to be age appropriate. Our 3 year old and 4 year old make their own beds, feed the dog, pick up their toys, clear their dishes and put dirty clothes in the laundry room.
They certainly didn't come out of the womb knowing how to do these things. Instead, when we realized they were old enough for some responsibilities, we spent a couple of minutes going over expectations, taught them how to properly complete the tasks and then reinforced, reinforced, reinforced.
Not sure what chores are age appropriate for your child? That's ok. Bright Side put together this super helpful guide that breaks down chores you can offer to kids age 3 to 17. The key to doing this and not losing your sanity...or coming to the conclusion that it is easier if you do it yourself, is this: let go of perfection. It will not be perfect. It will likely be far from perfect. Beds will not have hospital corners or pass military inspection. You may find dirty underwear in random places. You will definitely find a stray piece of pet food under the china cabinet. But you are establishing a sense of self-worth for each child. Everyday they see you doing things for the household. Going to work, doing laundry, washing dishes, making breakfast/lunch/dinner. They know your worth. Having them complete some of these things demonstrates to them that they also have worth within the house and if that means that occasionally you will need to (secretly) go behind them and fish out that stray piece of pet food, that's ok.
And here's the other thing: you don't need to reward completion of chores (gasp!). At least not in the sense of a physical reward or treat. I mean, you can, but you certainly don't have to. A simple acknowledgment that the task was completed and a bit of appropriate praise goes a long way. My kids love checking off each chore on our Sarah and Abraham Chore Chart.
Let them make the check mark, give them a couple of words of praise and they are set. Add a high-five to that and they are stoked. Again, the "reward" is the sense of self-worth, anything beyond that is just icing on the cake.
Note: If your child is ready for chores that are a bit more advanced check out this chore chart from The Montessori Notebook.