My kids do chores, but I’ll admit it: They’re not always happy about it. It’s a matter of habit for my son to unload the dishwasher, for my daughter to take out the recycling and for each of them to take turns cleaning their bathroom and taking care of the kitty’s litter box, but they still complain. I think that part of the blame lies on me; I didn’t get them started with chores when they were little enough to want to actually help, because it was easier to do it all myself. If I had it to do over again, my little two- and three-year-olds would have been put to work!
All hope is not lost, though; I’ve noticed that as they get older, the complaints come less and less frequently. I’ve also implemented a few strategies in order to inspire them a bit. Here are a few to try:
- Make a Visual
Kids don’t think abstractly, and it can be overwhelming for them to think about and remember all that they need to do. Make younger kids a picture graph of the chores they need to complete. One of my friends took photos of her kids doing all of their morning jobs: eating breakfast, rinsing off their plates, brushing their teeth, making their beds. She glued these to a sheet of cardstock for each child and hung them on the refrigerator. This served as a great physical reminder, and her little ones were able to do all of their chores without her nagging them. For older kids, a list works well. When my daughter was just learning to read, she was delighted whenever she could recognize words, so I wrote her list in large block letters, using sight words whenever possible. Pre-teens and teenagers might enjoy using a “to do” list app on their phones, or getting texted reminders. Be creative!
- Join ‘Em
I’ve noticed that when I expect my kids to do their chores while I’m busily working or involved in something else, they’re more likely to kvetch, complain and procrastinate. If I’m actively cleaning or picking up as well, though, then they see it as a team effort and usually get it done without any hassle. For preschoolers, this might mean working alongside them as you accomplish one thing: Help her make her bed, have him hold the dustpan while you sweep dust into it, or set the timer for 5 minutes while each of you pick up as many toys as possible. For older kids, you can sweep and mop the kitchen while they vacuum the living room, or you can each agree to spend 10 minutes swishing and wiping your respective bathrooms.
- Reward Them
I know that this can be a touchy topic in some families. Kids should, in theory, do their chores simply because they’re part of the family. In my house, the intangible reward of having a clean house really doesn’t matter much to the kids, so we’ve had to impose some artificial rewards. Right now, my son is into Pokemon, so as long as all of his chores are done each week, he receives a small pack of cards. My daughter gets to pick out a toy for our cat (this is actually what she chooses as her reward!). If you don’t want to buy them something, consider a weekly or monthly family activity, such as movie-and-pizza night or a picnic lunch at a park.
What are some ways that you’ve inspired your kids to do their chores without whining on their parts or nagging on your part?