Chores and Children: 7 Tips to Put the Two Together

Chores and children can seem to go together as well as peanut butter and spinach. In other words, they don't go together at all! But research shows what parents know instinctively: Getting kids to do chores is valuable to their development. Kids who grow up doing chores end up with a better sense of responsibility, ability to work in a team, and self-confidence. So, don't wait! Read our tips on getting your child to do his chores in and around the house.

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By Keren Perles

It’s a parent’s dream: Your kid walks the dog, sets the table, makes her bed, does her laundry, vacuums the floors and gardens on weekends. As kids say … yeah right.

So what can you do with a child who refuses to do chores? Use these seven tips to make your kid more likely to roll up her sleeves and pitch in.

Start Young

If you wait until your child is old enough to “really help,” you may miss a crucial window. “As soon as a child can carry his own cup or plate, he is old enough to be asked to help,” says social psychologist Susan Newman, Ph.D. That might mean helping you unload the spoons from the dishwasher, tear lettuce for a salad or set the table. The best part is that very young children actually enjoy helping.

Encourage Teamthink

It’s normal to have to remind a child to do her chores, and it’s also normal for kids to gripe about it. Make a point of talking to her about how she’s part of a family, and each member contributes to everyone’s wellbeing. With time, this message will (hopefully!) sink in, and your child will start to view chores as a way to contribute, rather than as a punishment or a worthless job.

Let Your Child Choose

A child who chooses from various chores may be more agreeable than one who’s forced it. Mowing the lawn probably sounds great compared to cleaning toilets. And what about the chores that no one volunteers for? Parenting expert Amy McCready of suggests letting kids pick the unwanted chores out of a hat. “You can make it extra fun by letting them trade picks like an NFL draft,” she says.

Consider Allowance

Some experts suggest paying kids for chores. “Chores connected to allowance can be viewed as preparation for the real world in which one works for what one earns,” says Newman. Others disagree. McCready says, “Tying chores to allowance undermines the paradigm, ‘We all help out around here because we’re part of this family.’ Mom and Dad may have paying jobs outside of the home, but they don’t get paid to cook, clean, drive kids to and from their activities.”

Take Over Only if Necessary

It can be tempting to offer to do your child’s chores for her before a big test or during a very stressful time in her life. Newman suggests using this as a negotiating tool: “I’m doing your job this time, but next time I expect you to plan ahead,” or, “I’ll wash the dishes tonight, but I expect you to help me with the garden over the weekend.” Don’t do this too often, or your child may start to take advantage of your kindness.

Make Peace With Imperfection

So your child folded the towels but didn’t put the washcloths in the right place. Unless she’s very young, it might be best not to correct her right away. Instead, thank and praise her for folding the towels. When the next load of towels comes out of the laundry, make an offhand comment about where the washcloths go.

Set Reasonable Deadlines

Decide on a time for each chore to be done, and stick to it. For example, the garbage should be taken out in the morning before leaving for school, or the lawn should be mown Sunday morning before noon. Give your child space within that time limit to choose when to complete the chore, but make sure she knows that a deadline is a deadline.

The first few times you try to get your child to put her bowl in the sink, it will probably be a struggle, but it eventually becomes second nature. Push through those first few weeks, and you’ll reap the rewards later!

Would you like your kid to ramp up the responsibility? It starts with you. Read, “7 Things to Never Do for Your Kid.”

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