How to get your kids to do chores

“Annie” was the first movie I showed our daughter and by two-and-a-half years old, our little girl was cleaning walls while she sang about the hardships of life. She thought it was hilarious. I thought I was laying the foundation for a child who understood that “these floors better shine like the top of the Chrysler building.”

It was short-lived, my friends. Today, we are constantly asking if the dog has been fed, have you cleaned the mirrors, can you run the robo-vac, etc. Where did I go wrong? I’ve tried lists, Nanny McPhee marathons and yes, even screaming. What happened to that British nanny who would come into your home and train your kid? Here are some tips to convince your kids to do their chores. 

Cut off the Wi-Fi. 

There are a few memes floating about that suggest cutting off the Wi-Fi to essentially barter with your children to get them to do chores. This sounds perfect for parents who aren’t bartering tablet time for veggie consumption. Of course, if this is age appropriate for your tweens/teens, give it a go. Just keep the level of chores consistent over time, so that you don’t have to combat “last time I just had to wash dishes.” Maybe they’ll get into a routine and you can stop changing the code … maybe.

Create a sticker chart. 

If you’re the crafty type, you can just Pinterest a few fun ideas for the chore chart and stock up on stickers. Whenever the kiddo completes a chore, they get a new sticker added to the chart. This concept actually helped us potty train so it’s appropriate for the younger kiddos.  

I’ve also seen magnet boards where a magnet just gets moved to the “done” section when chores have been completed. It’s a great accountability measure for the 6-10 age range, especially if it’s a common space where a sibling may be able to yell, “Tommy hasn’t mowed the lawn!”

Set up an allowance system.

Likely the most controversial suggestion, imagine paying freeloaders to clean up after themselves. All jokes aside, this will likely be the most successful of the strategies and the most universal across age groups. It also helps children understand and practice the concept of earning and saving.

It would be great to tell you that these strategies have been proven in a scientific study of 25,000 children who then went on to be highly functioning adults, but sadly I couldn’t find one that promised those results. There isn’t actually a guaranteed method of getting children to help out around the house. For those of you, who have mastered this, congratulations. For the rest of us…

It’s a chore to manage chores.

You’ve stepped over that same flip-flop so many times that you just pick it up because the number of times you have to yell up the stairs to even get a response is exhausting. Sometimes, you get in from work and every member of your family and maybe even some friends have left a dish in the kitchen sink. My six-year-old drops every towel in the bathroom on the floor, every single time she washes her hands. Why does she even use the towel on the top rack? Just to drop it on the floor!

Don’t give up!

They want to wear us down. Yes, on some days, you are going to lose the fight but don’t lose the war. Teaching your children to pick up after themselves will make them better roommates one day. You do not want your kid to be the slob roommate, no one wants that.

Make a plan.

For parents with young children, start with simple tasks such as putting toys away. As they get older, help to clear the table, wash dishes and sort laundry. Sorting laundry is an early math skill so start as early as 3. If your kids are older and you haven’t established a routine, it isn’t too late.  

Start by assigning tasks.

Consider taking into account which chores your kids dislike and seeing which other family member doesn’t despise it, as much. That exercise establishes that “we’re all in this together” and “we’re willing to compromise.” Excellent skills for living with roommates later in life.

Be positive. 

Turn up some music and have fun. If schedules don’t allow for “all in cleaning” then notice when chores are done. Positive reinforcement will encourage the kids to keep up with their chores. Simple statements such as, “thanks for keeping the sink clear of dishes” sends the message that you notice and you appreciate.

Consistency is everything.

Like forming any new habit, you have to stick with it. You’ll fall off like its a fad diet but don’t fret, the sun will come out tomorrow and you get another chance.

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