Do chores bring you excitement? Glee? Happy anticipation?
So how can we expect our kids to jump up and down at the thought of doing chores if, like them, we’d also rather plop down in front of the TV and let the laundry pile up?
Getting kids to do chores is tricky for so many reasons:
Kids fight when pushed to do chores
Kids can be sloppy and do a bad job with their chores (Lift the knickknacks when you dust, for cryin’ out loud!)
We know we could do our kids’ chores in one-tenth the time it takes kids to do them -- and so we often just do them instead
We forget the chores we assigned (and our kids aren’t about to remind us!)
But the reasons for teaching kids to do chores are monumental:
- Chores help kids learn to be less impulsive. If they can do something that isn’t immediately gratifying (or fun), they’ll learn the adult truth -- some things just have to be done.
Chores help kids learn gratitude. When kids see what’s involved in running a household, they have more appreciation for those who are keeping the household running.
Chores help kids step outside themselves. Kids are self-absorbed, and will often remain that way if nobody helps them see they aren’t the center of the world.
Chores help kids increase their self-esteem. This is especially important for kids with extra challenges, like ADHD or autism. Colleen Alexander-Roberts, author of The ADHD Parenting Handbook: Practical Advice for Parents from Parents, said:
"Household tasks help the ADHD child feel like an important member of the family. Because he may experience more disappointments, failures, and frustrations than the average child, it is imperative that he knows he is needed at home. Choose chores that you know he can complete successfully. This will build self-esteem.”
OK, so we’re convinced we need to teach our kids to do chores. But how do we do that, and more importantly -- how do we make chore routines stick?
Decide What Needs to be Done in Your House
You can find plenty of lists online that break down the chores kids can do by their age. These are incredibly helpful when you’re starting your plan. But don’t just take someone else’s plan and make it your own. First, think:
- What are you already handling?
What can your child take over?
Look at your regular day, and everything you do for your kids. If someone could take something off your plate, what would it be? Is there a way to turn that into one of your kids’ chores?
For example, are you doing everything from cooking to setting the table to dinner cleanup? If so, give your kids cleanup duty. Older kids can handle it all on their own, while younger kids may only be able to bring the dishes to the counter.
How does bathroom cleaning go in your house? Can your young child straighten the bath toys? Can your grade schooler take out the trash? Can your middle schooler handle the entire thing?
Break the Chore into Small Tasks
Whatever chore you decide, first break it down. You’ll see your child’s eyes start to glaze over if you list every step of setting the table in one go.
Instead, tell her to pull the plates down. Then, tell her to put a plate in each place. Now, have her do that with the forks. Next, the glasses. And so on. It will only take a few times before you can simply tell her to “Set the table,” and she’ll know what to do on her own.
We promise: “Clean your room” means something entirely different to your child than it does to you.
Tell him specifically what you expect. Better yet, write it out in bullet point form. Ask him check in with you when he thinks he’s done.
You can even show your child a photo you took of the room after the last tidying so he has a visual sense of what success looks like.
Your child will dawdle away her time. Then, when her friend comes knocking at the door, she’ll be angry at YOU for not letting her play. She won’t realize it’s her fault for not finishing her chore “on time.” Tell her what “on time” is. Set a timer to make it clear.
Make Chores a Part of Your Daily Routine
For the best success, make chores a part of your daily routine. When your children come to expect that sweeping the kitchen, taking out the trash, and cleaning bedrooms is just as routine as brushing teeth, the complaints and dawdling will become less disruptive (for the most part -- nobody’s kid is perfect).
Work chores into your Brili routine to not only enjoy the benefits of getting out the door on time, but to also have a clean house and happy kids!