Getting your kids to do chores seems to be a chore itself, for many parents. The studies all show that kids who do chores are more successful adults. And we all know that we could use the help! But sometimes it can seem that to get your kids to do chores is more hassle than it’s worth.
My kids do chores, regularly, consistently and (usually) without complaint. How do I get my kids to do their chores with minimal fuss, and so that they’re actually helpful? Here are ten tips to get your kids to do chores.
1. Model it.
One of the best ways to get your kids to help out around the house is to model the behaviour you want to see. Kids copy what their parents do. That’s why we make toy mops and brooms, play kitchen sets and pretend washing machines. Because our kids want to do what they see their moms and dads do.
So if you want your kids to put their plates in the sink after dinner, get up and put your own plate there first. Do it consistently and frequently. Your son will follow you, with his plate, pretty quickly.
2. Invite them to join you.
Kids love spending time with us. They want us to play with them, all the time. Just like you spend time with them doing what they want, you can spend time with them, and do what you want. Invite your daughter to join you while you’re tackling a cleaning job.
Sometimes we don’t want to have our kids along while we’re cleaning, because it can make the job harder or take longer. And that’s true. But if you focus on the real goal of the time (hint: it’s not getting the bathtub clean!), that is, spending time with your kid, you’ll not worry as much about the quality of the job, but on the quality of the time with your daughter.
My girls love “helping” me with dishes or laundry. When they were too little to wash or dry safely, I’d stand them on a stool so they could watch me, while I did the job. We’d chat about all kinds of things that were important to them, while I was washing. Now that they’re older, my girls know that if they want to talk to me, come help me with a chore, and they’ll have my undivided attention!
3. Actively teach them
Sometimes we get frustrated with our kids not doing chores, or not doing them well. And sometimes its because we’ve forgotten an important step! We forgot to teach them how to do it.
When I was a first time mom, I lived in a group home with other first time moms. And we were required to do chores as part of our living arrangements. While I had learned to cook and do laundry, I’d never really cleaned a bathroom. So the first time I was told to clean the bathroom, I stood there wondering what exactly I was supposed to do. Thankfully, a patient staff member stayed with me and walked me through it step by step, from using cleaning products to the order of doing things the most efficiently.
Since then, I’ve made sure to actively teach my kids how to do certain chores before assigning them. It’s not fair to expect a job to be done to a set standard without explaining what you want them to do and showing them how to do it.
4. Pair up your children
The old saying is “many hands make light work“. And doing chores can be easier when you aren’t doing it alone. So I will pair up my kids to do some of the more tedious or bigger jobs.
Depending on the job, sometimes I’ll ask an older child to take along a younger child with them. While I know the younger child won’t be as big a help, I also know that the modeling, quality time, and active teaching will pay off big time! My older children catch on pretty quick to training their younger siblings to do the jobs too, because it means that they won’t have to do that job as often.
Sometimes I’ll pair up my girls on a chore with the goal of having them spend time together. This works well if they haven’t been getting along lately, because it forces them to focus on working together instead of fighting. Often, before the job is over, they’ll be giggling and having fun instead of squabbling.
5. Leave room for chores
If you want your kids to do chores consistently, you have to make room for it. So if your kids are over-scheduled and super busy with sports, lessons, homework, and maybe even part-time jobs, they don’t have room for chores as well. Is having your kids do chores a priority for you? Then you have to leave room in their day for chores.
The same goes for us adults by the way. If you’re frustrated because it feels like the house is a mess, check your time. Did you leave enough time in your day to do the chores? Or is it that between school, work, the kids’ activities, making dinner and sleep, there’s no room to sweep the floor or put away the shoes?
We can get so busy and forget that, while chores don’t have to take a lot of time, they do take some time, and you need to leave some room in your day for daily chores.
6. Make it part of your routine
Kids do chores easily when it’s just part of their daily routines. Children thrive on predictability. So if making their bed and putting away their clothes is just part of waking up and getting ready for the day, it will get done almost every day — without you even having to remind them.
Put chores in your daily routines to make it easy for your kids to do them without complaint.
7. Expect them to do it
If you want your kids to do their chores, you need to expect them to do it. It can’t just be a “maybe” or “if you want to”. It has to be part of your family’s rules that everyone helps out, everyone does their part.
Kids know what they are expected to do. But if you don’t expect them to do it, they’ll live down to that. Don’t make doing chores a big deal. Rather keep them as part of the regular expectations of your family. So taking out their garbage is just part of your kids’ lives, along with minding their manners and treating others with respect.
8. Remind them without frustration.
It’s natural and normal for children, who are still just learning, to need frequent reminders. It’s our job as parents to give them reminders, patiently, and without being irritated or frustrated.
If you’re getting frustrated consistently by your child’s failure to do their chores, go back and check the list.
Have you been modeling consistent work? Sometimes the problem starts with us.
Have you made sure they know what to do and what the expectations are? Sometimes the problem is that they get overwhelmed and they don’t know what to do, so they don’t do anything at all.
Did they have enough time to do it? Or did your routine change? Sometimes we get mad that the chores weren’t done, when we didn’t leave enough time for them to be done in our day. Life happens, and interruptions can change things.
And sometimes, they just need a reminder. It’s ok to just take a deep breath and remind them. We all forget occasionally.
9. Require them to do their chores, consistently.
You’ve modeled and taught them how to do their chores. You’ve made it part of their routines. And you’ve reminded them about what you expect. But sometimes, you just gotta make them do it.
No one likes chores. Most of the time we don’t mind doing them, at least not much anyway. But most of us can’t say we actually enjoy doing housework or cleaning up after ourselves. It’s not our favorite thing to do generally.
The same goes for our kids. But just like we need to get up every day when we’d rather sleep in, or we need to cook dinner when we’d rather eat out, chores are a requirement. Someone needs to do them.
Since you have the expectation that your children will do chores too, you need to require it. And that means that there has to be some kind of consequence if the chores don’t get done.
For us adults, if the chores don’t get done, we get bugs, stinky clothes, ruined outfits, mold, illness and, if it’s really bad, even more severe consequences.
Come up with natural consequences for your kids, if the chores don’t get done. For mine, they lose their free time if they don’t do the minimum chores I require, in order to help out more. My reasoning? If they are forgetting or procrastinating, then they need more training, so we’ll spend more time on chores than usual. They’re usually happy to go back to the regular amount after that.
10. Praise them for doing it without being asked.
When your kids get it right, notice it and reward them. Maybe it’s with cash, or time, or just a “Good job, buddy!”. But everyone likes to be appreciated. So go ahead and show them a little appreciation.
Chores may be part of your regular household rules, and that means that your kids should just be doing your chores without looking for rewards. I don’t get paid to do the dishes, and my kids don’t get paid to make their beds. It’s part of our every day lives.
But every once in a while, my daughters will surprise me and go beyond the minimum. My oldest will clean the entire kitchen, when I only asked her to do the dishes. My middle child will sweep the hallway, on her own time, without being asked. Even my little one will occasionally just go and put laundry away. And they do it because they know that I love it when they do. And they get the reward of one proud, grateful mama.
Do you get your kids to do chores?
The benefits to parents when kids to chores is obvious. We don’t have to do all the work! For kids, they learn life skills, the value of hard work, and the great feeling of contributing to their family. But as a family, doing chores has it’s own benefit. It’s a bonding experience, especially when you do them together.
So go ahead and get your kids to do chores. Invite them to do it with you, and make it part of your routines. And enjoy the extra family time together.
Do you get your kids to do chores? How many chores do they do?
For more on home management, check out this post on Busy Mom Cleaning Hacks!