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Chores and Your Child’s Development

“My kids talk back when I ask them to do their chores!”

“I feel like all I ever do is nag my kids!”

“My kids take too much time doing their chores.  It would be faster if I did them myself, and at least then they would be done right!”

If you are tired of trying to motivate your kids to do their chores, you are not alone.  Many kids have a hard time understanding why it matters to do their chores.  You want them to be able to take care of their own messes, but your kids feel like chores are boring.  You want them to make a meaningful contribution to the family, but your kids just want to play or rest. They might think a chore is too big to finish all at once and avoid doing it.  They might feel overwhelmed or confused about what it means to clean their room, or how to do it. 

Childhood is when we learn how to become an adult, and kids feel smart when they do smart things.    Learning how to take ownership of household responsibilities is a life skill.  Being responsible for chores and tasks helps children learn how to be good citizens.

You can help motivate your kids to get their chores done. 

First, start a conversation with your child about having more responsibilities around the house.  Let them speak freely about their feelings, complaints, and objections that get in the way of being motivated.  Take time to listen and empathize with them, and acknowledge why they might feel that way.  Talking about feelings helps children be more sensitive to others and manage their own emotions.

Second, describe the direct benefits your child enjoys when their chores are finished.  Cleaning is a way to contribute to the whole family.  It is easier to find toys when they are organized.  Cleaning up the kitchen table after a craft project makes it available for another activity.  Folding your laundry keeps it from getting wrinkled.  Taking care of the family pet can make the animal happier to be around you.  Being a good helper is a very grown-up thing to do.

Next, pick out rewards you can give when they complete their chores.   Some parents offer a weekly or monthly allowance for getting the task list done on time, but anything your child wants could be used as a reward for finishing their chores, including play time with friends, television or computer time, or 1:1 time with you.  Ask your child what they are excited about, then agree on reasonable rewards.

Last, make a chore plan that fits your child’s age and skills.  Start with a simple chore list of manageable, age-appropriate tasks, and decide when they need to be done.  Break down big jobs into little tasks, and talk about the steps involved in each task.  Small steps are easier than big ones.  Especially for young children, giving praise for finishing tasks is more important than the quality of the job done.  Show them how to do the task, be patient, and give lots of positive feedback.  Remind your child of the reward they’ll get for finishing their chores.

This chore plan can help you set new rules and routines.  Be consistent to make them habits.  For example, clean-up should be a normal part of every play session.  Establish that nothing new can be taken out until the last toys are put away.  In the morning, young children can make their bed by pulling the sheets and covers up to their noses.  During meal times, the whole family can practice staying at the table together until the end of the meal, then cleaning up together. 

When things turn sour, let the child talk about their feelings and help them process them.  Avoid using punishments or threats, as this can trigger “fight or flight” responses that make it more difficult for your child to process their feelings.  Instead, express your disappointment, explain how the action affects others, and recommend how the child can fix things or problem-solve a solution together.  Ask questions to help them make their own choices about when and how to do their chores.

At all times, nurture your relationships with your children.  Model a can-do attitude, and keep the tone of your conversations positive.  Research has shown that children who have a routine set of chores tend to have higher self-esteem, behave more responsibly, and handle their emotions better.


Take a look at these resources for more information

The Purposeful Mom: 3 Reasons Kids Don’t Want Chores
https://thepurposefulmom.com/2016/03/3-reasons-kids-dont-want-chores.html

Empowering Parents: 6 Days to Get Kids to Do Chores Now
https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/ill-do-it-later6-ways-to-get-kids-to-do-chores-now/

Ask the Parent Coach: 8 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Clean Up
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-stiffelman/kids-and-chores_b_1940984.html

Center for Parenting Education: Benefits of Chores
https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/responsibility-and-chores/part-i-benefits-of-chores/

Psychology Today: Kids Who Do Chores Flourish
Temma Ehrenfelt | February 24, 2015
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/open-gently/201502/kids-who-do-chores-flourish

Psychology Today: Age Appropriate Chores for Children          
Rebecca Jackson; Robert M. Pressman, Ph.D.; Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, LICSW | November 13, 2014
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/school-thought/201411/age-appropriate-chores-children


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