Do you want to teach your kids to do chores?
In theory, kids who do chores sounds amazing. In reality, most moms could do without all the whining and complaining that tends to come with the territory. Then there’s the the quality issue. We’ve all been tempted to go back and re-do a child’s chore that was done well-enough but just wasn’t quite up to our standards.
The good news is, you CAN raise kids who do chores and do them well. The bad news is, it does require a bit of work in the beginning to train them.
As the mother of 6, including a 13 year old who will not only clean his own room (seriously. The kid used a label maker to organize his drawers), but also babysit, cook dinner, and clean the kitchen without being asked, I’m now seeing the benefits of working with kids on household skills while they are young.
So how do you get your kids to do chores?
Start them young.
Kids who do chores from an early age don’t know any different. They understand that chores are simply a necessary part of living in a home. This definitely takes an extra dose of patience. Young kids do not do chores quickly or perfectly. I promise though, a little extra patience now will mean huge rewards for you (and your kids) as they grow.
My kids start doing “chores” as soon as they can crawl. We keep things simple at first. They need to put their own toys away. This starts as a game. If you get in the habit of giving your crawling or toddling baby a few toys to put away after playing, it will become second nature.
We’ve done this with all my kids and now my 2 year old twins unload the dishwasher almost completely on their own. If there are things that go higher than they can reach, they put them on the counter. My 4 year old daughter helps but most of the time they like to do it on their own. No, my silverware drawer is not perfectly organized (they go with more of the scoop and dump method of unloading dishes), but everything is where it needs to be and they are learning important skills.
Watch my toddlers in action unloading the dishwasher in this video:
Kids are smart. They know when they can get away with doing things (or not doing them). If you are in the habit of giving in when your kids complain about doing chores, your kids are going to make every task you ask them to do as difficult as possible until you stop asking. A little consistency will save you a lot of stress later. Your kids will benefit too. They need to learn how to work while they are young. It’s much easier to learn life skills while kids are small than when they are young adults.
I once had a college roommate who genuinely didn’t realize she needed to clean up after herself. After living in our apartment for several months we started to notice an interesting smell coming from her private bathroom. We asked her when she had cleaned it last and she said, “Oh, I didn’t know I needed to clean it. Don’t we have someone who does that?”
Save your kids the stress of having to learn important life skills as young adults and be consistent with them now.
Set clear expectations.
Kids get frustrated when they don’t know what is expected of them. If you want them to do chores, let them know exactly what chores you’d like them to do and teach them how you expect them to be done.
If you need a place to start, check out our Printable Cleaning Checklist for Kids or our printable chore chart. If your kids know what you expect and they know you are going to be consistent they are much more likely to follow through and do chores without complaining.
Decide on a reward.
I have mixed feelings about paying kids for chores. I do want my kids to know how to manage money, but I also don’t want them to expect to be paid for every task that needs to be done. Some household chores are just part of living in a home.
The other day my 4 year old daughter dumped her dolls all over her bedroom floor. When I asked her to clean them up her eyes lit up and she said, “Will you pay me to clean them?”
I refused and so did she so the toys ended up in a box in the garage. Cleaning up toys is simply the cost of owning toys. If they don’t take care of them, they don’t get to keep them.
Other chores that go above and beyond, I do pay for. My teenager gets paid for babysitting when my husband and I go out on a date. That’s beyond his normal responsibilities. He enjoys it because he can earn some spending money and we enjoy it because we have a built-in babysitter who doesn’t complain when we ask him to help out.
The reward you offer for chores can be money or another reward. Maybe your kids want to go bowling as a family if they finish all their chores for the week. Whatever reward you decide on, be sure you are clear about what the reward is and what chores are expected to be done.
We use a hybrid chore system. My kids don’t get paid for basic household chores but if they finish their chores they are able to do extra chores for money. You can see our chore system here.
Work with your kids.
I don’t do my kids’ chores for them but I do let them see me working along side them. My kids are used to seeing me work. I try hard to set an example of hard work and doing my best. They don’t hesitate when I ask them to clear the kitchen table because they know I’ve already cooked dinner and cleaned most of the kitchen. There are times when I scale back because I have other responsibilities but my kids always know that I’m working hard to help our family.
With my younger kids, I do try and work with them (not do the job for them) when they are struggling with a chore or feeling frustrated. When my kids are o overwhelmed I’ll walk them through the process. They still have to do the work but they don’t have to do it alone. By doing that, they learn the process and they are less likely to be frustrated the next time it’s their turn to do that job.
Make chores a positive experience. If chores make your kids think about you nagging them, it probably isn’t going to be their favorite thing to do. Turn on some upbeat music. Turn chores into a game. Have fun together while making your home a nice place to be.
We have a bit of fun with this sometimes. If my kids complain we switch the music to “It’s a hard knock life” from Annie. They aren’t usually amused but it gets us laughing and that’s contagious. By the end, everyone has a sense of humor.
How do you encourage your kids to do chores without complaining?
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