There’s no need to feel guilty for making even the littlest kids do chores. A child can help around the house as soon as he’s able to walk, and studies actually show that doing chores during childhood has a positive impact on both happiness and productivity in adulthood. The question is, how do you get your kids to do chores? Do you really need to resort to bribery or yelling?
No matter how old a child is, the chances are that he or she will either refuse to do chores or just slack at one point or another. How do you get your kids to do chores routinely, well and without whining? The answer depends on whom you ask. There are plenty of parents who believe there is nothing wrong with paying a child to do chores, or bribing them with stickers or chocolate. One blogger suggested that you may get your kid to complete their chores by offering to take them out for pizza afterwards. Wow, that would add up rather quickly — wouldn’t it?
If you’re anything like me, and like the majority of parents, you believe that children have a duty to participate in household chores just as much as the adults in the family do. And you want the chores you assigned to your child or children to be done consistently, without a constant barrage of whining and complaints.
How do you get there? There may be days on which that seems impossible. My four-year old son, who has had chores since he was a tiny toddler, has become a sassy fellow lately. Today, he refused to do his chores, and said he was going to play on the computer instead. All day long. And he wasn’t going to eat what I had cooked for him either; he wanted me to order a pizza. Blah. I can’t wait for him to become a teenager. If a kid is generally oppositional and grumpy, it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll do chores while whistling and smiling.
There are, however, some great ways to get kids to participate in chores normally. These tips do not involve bribing your kids or giving them a salary for normal household work. They don’t involve yelling either, and though you may do that (I do, sometimes, because I’m just as human and therefore imperfect as my kids are) it will not work anyway. So, here you go:
- Make sure you have a chore schedule. For you. We’ll get to chore charts for kids in a minute, but it is really important that children see their parents engage in chores around the house on a consistent basis. You could tell your kids things like, “I really don’t feel like ironing right now, but it is on my chore list. I will feel much better once it’s done — that laundry basket with clothes will be gone, and freshly ironed outfits will be waiting for us when we need them.” By having a chore list and keeping up with it consistently, you model the right behavior. If you are a good role model, your kids are much more likely to follow. Remember they do as you do, not as you say. (Yep, I need to stick that on my fridge too.)
- You do need to make very sure that the chores you assign are age appropriate in order to get kids to participate. Most of our readers here at Trying To Conceive don’t have teens yet. For the preschool crowd, great chores include picking up toys, putting their own clothes away, helping you to make their beds, and watering plants.
- Once you have picked the right chores, don’t expect your preschooler to just get on with the job by himself. He’ll need supervision, but he will work much better if you are actually there working alongside him. Let’s say that your preschooler has made a huge mess of his room, and you want him to pick his toys up. He’ll be more motivated if you help, but instead you could also be doing another chore in the same space. I might dust the kids’ playroom while they pick up their toys, for instance. They see I am working too, and not just yelling instructions, and are more willing to do as they’re told.
- Some kids love to have a chore chart so they know what you expect from them on a daily basis. A chart can send a clear message that everyone in your family has their own jobs to do. Make sure, as mentioned above, that you have a chore chart of your own too. That way, a kid is less likely to see you as a dictator .
- Never expect kids to know how to carry chores out instinctively. Give them very clear instructions. “Put the Legos in this blue box here” is much better than “Clean up!”. And when children are learning to do more complex things like sorting laundry or doing the washing up, they definitely need very clear instructions. Show them, and remember they really don’t know what they are doing yet.