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Pediatrician shares No. 1 secret to raising happy, successful kids

Parenting isn't easy. But one pediatrician's top advice for raising children to become happier, more successful adults is surprisingly simple.
/ Source: TODAY

Parenting is no walk in the park. There's an abundance of child-rearing advice out there, which may feel more overwhelming than helpful at times. But one expert's top tip for raising happier, healthier children is surprisingly simple.

Dr. Williams is a board-certified pediatrician based in Utah who goes by @tiktokkiddoc on TikTok, where he posts videos about children's health and parenting. In a recent video which has gotten nearly 1 million views, he shares his "unexpected secret" to raising happy kids who grow into successful adults.

Williams, who is also a father of five, draws on both his clinical and personal experience, as well as decades of research, to explain why all parents should implement this one thing to improve their children's lives. What is it? Chores.

“Parents are always looking for quick, easy ways to help their kids grow up happy and well-rounded, and having your child help around the house could be a perfect place to start,” Williams tells

"The idea is that when children feel involved in shared responsibilities, they realize they're contributing to part of a larger ecosystem, and there's a real sense of self-worth that comes from that," he explains. 

As a result, children become more willing and able to help others. "Kids that are expected to help out around the house start to naturally see the needs of people around them, and they become less self-centered," he adds.

Children aren't born with empathy, and it can take time to develop. In the meantime, they may view themselves as the center of the universe, Williams says, as evidenced by the terrible twos and "threenager" phases. Most toddlers aren't leaping to clean up their toys, but this selfish, stubborn phase is a normal part of early childhood development, previously reported.

As a child's cognitive abilities develop, they start to realize people have different thoughts, experiences and needs. Chores can help foster this realization earlier and make it stronger over time, Williams notes, adding, “The advantage of chores is seeing you’re not just a silo that the world revolves around.”

In addition to building more empathy, chores help instill a better work ethic and foster a “pitch-in mindset," explains Williams.

"Obviously, a better work ethic is going to translate into school and career success," says Williams. Helping out around the house also teaches children about responsibility and teamwork, which they can apply in the classroom, on the field or in the office.

"When there’s a sense of 'we’re all in this together' as a family, whatever that family looks like, there’s some real magic to it," says Williams, adding that chores can strengthen family bonds.

“It’s something parents can do for free that’s going to have obvious long-term benefits to their kid,” Williams emphasizes.

Research on chores during childhood

The impact of chores on childhood development has been studied for decades — and the connection between household tasks, happiness and success is not new.

In fact, it's demonstrated in the findings of an 85-year-old study from researchers at Harvard University. In his video, Williams notes that the study found that people who did more chores at a younger age often had more professional success and happiness later in life.

Formerly called the Grant study, the Harvard Study of Adult Development at Massachusetts General Hospital is the longest longitudinal study in history, Dr. Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the study, tells

Researchers have followed a group of men since the late 1930s — one-third are Harvard graduates and two-thirds are inner city youths from Boston — to understand which psychosocial aspects of childhood can predict health and well-being in late life.

"What they were looking at is how did these kids stay out of trouble and stay on good developmental paths?" says Waldinger, adding that in their home evaluations, researchers looked at chores.

"It gives children a sense of community, so you are pitching into the family because your participation matters," says Waldinger. "We know concern for others and focus beyond the self are good developmental principles, and that the people who are more self-centered are usually less happy."

Children also love to feel useful, Waldinger explains, and chores can help foster this, as well as a sense of purpose. Feeling useful and having a sense of purpose continue throughout life all the way into retirement, Waldinger adds, and empirical studies have shown that it may contribute to living a longer life.

Another key finding of the study is relationships make us happier and keep us healthier, says Waldinger. Underpinning William’s advice is the relationship aspect of chores, Waldinger notes — that they can strengthen familial bonds and teach qualities that are important for healthy relationships, such as a marriages.

How can parents get kids to do chores?

“Our house is in a constant state of controlled chaos, but every child has chores, from our 14-year-old to our 5-year-old,” says Williams. These include regularly picking up their own bedrooms and shared bathrooms, he explains, plus one inside chore and one outside chore every day. "Once they check off all those things, the rest of the day is theirs," he adds.

Williams emphasizes the importance of giving children tasks that affect the entire home or family, not just their own space. “They (realize), I’m helping unload the groceries because this affects everyone, not just taking care of my own stuff,” says Williams.

Examples include cleaning up the living room, sweeping the floors, unloading the dishwasher, or watering and weeding the garden. “It’s definitely not perfect. There are still weeds and an entire pepper plant went missing once, but I care a lot more about raising kids than I do raising vegetables,” Williams quips.

Giving children chores means mistakes will happen, and the task may not get done right every time, he adds, but this can also help children learn from their mistakes.

It’s also important not to give children tasks that are too difficult, the experts note. “What you want is for kids to feel effective, so they need to have the resources, or they need to have someone to teach them,” says Waldinger.

Ultimately, the appropriate amount and type of chores will vary depending on the child, their age and other factors — such as their intellectual ability and what works best for the family overall, Williams adds. 

If you’re having trouble getting your kid to do chores — which will undoubtedly happen to every parent — Williams has some tips.

Younger kids and toddlers can be very motivated by games, he says. “Maybe when you’re putting away groceries together, you put away all of the blue stuff first or everything that feels cold. ... You can even make putting away socks fun,” Williams adds.

“A lot of school-aged children crave responsibility and they want to do things that older kids and adults do so give them chores that will help them feel more grown up,” says William.

Examples include using a vacuum, walking or feeding pets and helping prepare meals. Often this involves reframing the chore as a cool responsibility or privilege children earn as they get older.

Consistency is key, says Williams. A child might initially refuse to do a chore or complain, and that's OK. But over time, if a parent is consistent with tasking them that chore, they should get used to it.

Some parents do oppose chores, Williams notes, often because they feel their child is too busy or they need to focus on other demands, like school and sports.

"We don't want to overload kids," he says. However, he maintains that every child should have at least some chores, even if it's one or two simple tasks to help around the house.

Finally, for parents who feel like chores are an uphill battle, you're not alone. "Most people are doing better than they think ... so I think parents can cut themselves some slack if they’re trying, because we're all just doing the best we can," Williams says.