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How to Get Kids to Do Chores... Really.

Updated on July 26, 2016

With so many parents working two jobs - or more - and kids involved in so many activities, families are often pulled in many directions. Simply getting the household chores done can be difficult, especially if you have young children or children who don't always want to do chores or help Mom and Dad (and really, what kid does?). With a few key strategies, this can be a lot easier.

Make a schedule and stick to it

This is probably the single most important thing you can do to help your household run smoothly. Children feel much more secure when they know what is coming each day and you as the parent will often find that you get more done. Even if you already have a schedule, it never hurts to refine it and re-evaluate your time. If you finish anything ahead of schedule, do something fun with your kids until it's time for the next thing. Breaking things down (such as chores and playtime) into blocks of about two hours each ensures that everyone has ample time to do what they are required to do while at the same time keeping things from getting too boring. If your days are taken up with work and school, you can still schedule the time you are at home to make sure that everything gets done. That way, you can ensure you have time for what is really important.

Use Visual Success Tools

Children learn and perform better when they have a visual aid and can see their success. Making jars with their names on them and adding stones, marbles, large colorful buttons or anything fun when they have achieved a goal is a great way to show their progress and keep them motivated. They really respond to the immediate reward of placing a stone in their jar and it is a great way to teach them about long-term consequences for their behavior. So for instance, if they have done all their chores and followed the schedule all day with minimal issues, they have earned a stone for that day. If they have earned a stone or marble at the end of every day for a week (for younger kids, maybe just four stones for the week; this can be difficult for younger children and you want it to be something to motivate them, not set them up to fail), they can go out for ice cream on Sunday or have a pancake party as their reward. It is important to explain to them very clearly why they are being rewarded and it is just as important to explain why they are not being rewarded.

Implement A Warning System

The "three strikes and you're out" rule works well, no matter what style of discipline you use. Reinforcement and consistency are the keys to successful discipline. Letting a child know absolutely what is coming next is a great tool when trying to curb a problem behavior. If you can say to your child, "One more warning and you will be going to bed early tonight" and your child knows you mean it, you have a much better chance of them taking you seriously. You must back up the warnings, though. They are warnings, not threats, because you are telling the child what will happen if they do not stop their behavior. If they go the entire day without more than two warnings, they can get a stone in their jar.

Create A "Points Store"

A great way to add incentive for your child to follow the schedule and do their chores is to add a points system. This can be set up any way you choose: you can award points for doing chores, or for behavior above and beyond what is expected, or for kindness and responsible behavior... the list is really endless. The points are tallied up at the end of the week and the child can use them to "buy" things in the point store. These can be things like candy, chips, DVDs or video games or anything at all that they like. Even if you don't have a lot of money to spend on stocking your kids' points store, you can put coupons for things in the store, such as "One extra hour of computer time" and "One chore-free day." This teaches children about earning things. It can also teach them about saving, if there is a big-ticket item they must save their over a few weeks points to get.

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

Consistency is the number one most important thing when it comes to children. Inconsistency creates confusion. If they know every single day what is expected from them, they will eventually get with the program. It's hard but if you give in just once, if you do not correct them immediately or if you do not follow through with what you have said even one time, you are creating a recipe for failure. It sounds cliché but children truly do crave structure and rules and they depend on their parents to give these things to them. Children's thinking is very black and white and they feel more secure when the rules are simple, too. When they can see that there is a very clear difference between what is OK and what is not OK, they are happier and better-behaved.

Children often act out because of confusion or frustration; they may be confused about concepts and expectations that you think you have explained very clearly. You can cut down on their frustration or confusion (and yours!) by making things very clear and simple. You can print out your schedule, make a chore chart, create a points spreadsheet and do many other things to help your kids feel involved. When the family works together, it works better.

Need more information? This free pamphlet created by the author has basic outlines of ideas that you can tailor to your family’s needs.


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    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 12 months ago

      SinDelle....I don't know if you are still active on HP, nevertheless, I wish to compliment you on a job well done. It was very generous of you to provide a pdf as well. I know a young mother who has a heck of a time getting her little ones to do chores. Perhaps this well help her.

      My son is now a young man, but I was luckier than most----or more likely, I was extremely consistent, so I didn't have any issues with getting him to help clean. That being said, I was old-school. I said to do something, nicely, and I expected it to be done. End of story. Lol.

      Nonetheless, these tips are lovely.