Encouraging Children to Participate in Household Chores

Encouraging Children to Participate in Household Chores

Is encouraging your child to help around the house a battle or a breeze?  Can you relate to what these parents had to say about family jobs?positive parenting child

My children love to help with jobs. -Cynthia, mother to three

My children will do anything to get out of chores, making excuses from belly aches, headaches, to just plain crying and back talking about it. -Simon, father to two boys

One of my children helps me a lot with chores, my other child hates chores! -Josephine mom to two girls

Why do some children love to help and others not so much? Is it important to get children on board with doing family jobs?

Chores and family jobs are a great way to invite children to feel capable, and teach many life skills. Chores can also become the center of many power struggles, which reduces motivation and cooperation.

The most common road blocks when it comes to chores or family jobs are:

  • having out of sync expectations
  • relaying on rewards, bribes and consequences
  • hurrying the child
  • forgetting to focus on your individual child’s interests and abilities
  • focusing on outcome instead of effort

Let’s look at how we can overcome these common road blocks to getting children on board with chores:

Expectations

The trouble with motivating children to help with chores tends to begin when expectations from parents and the abilities from the child are out of synch.  Set your child up for success by

  • thinking about when you are asking jobs to be completed and don’t wait until your child is out of steam
  • breaking jobs into smaller, actionable steps
  • allowing enough time for the job to get done (children tend to need longer than we think, my son calls this the adult time vs kid time clash)

Bribes, Rewards & Consequences

There are  loads of chore systems out there that are reward based.  Turning to bribes and consequences can also be tempting.  In the short term, such motivators usually work. The problem is,  in the long run, children are not doing the work because they are capable, part of the family and live in the house, but because of the reward, annoyance or fear. Relying on bribes also invites more power struggles and conflicts, such as “If I take the trash out, what do I get?” or “I’m only cleaning my room if I can get an ice cream after.”

Focus on Your Unique Child

Instead of bribes, and consequences discover what jobs really interest your child. Maybe they like water? Let them do the dishes. They like to make things orderly? Ask them to sort things. When chores or jobs are fun, interesting, and done together,  children are much more likely to want to participate and help.

My four year old daughter loves to wipe the table, wash the kitchen floor and rinse dishes. Anything that involves water, a spray bottle and pretty clean up rags is her job for the taking. Ask her to set a few glasses on the table and suddenly she has pain from her finger tips to her toes. Our solution? Offer her more jobs that she loves and work with her, and accept she will dislike it (i.e. validate her complaints) when she has to do those jobs that she doesn’t like.

Effort over Outcome

Lastly, take the pressure off by focusing on effort more and accomplishment less. Maybe a few dishes will need a bit of  re-washing or the dishwasher needs a bit of re-arranging. Let it be, or if truly needed, point this out with kindness, and with the intent to teach, not criticize.

Be mindful of  too many “Hurry Ups.” If  you notice you say hurry and move it often, you may want to consider allowing yourself and your child extra time to get started on chores or change the time you are asking them to be done.

Related Reading: List of Family Jobs for Children by Age

Putting this into practice

Go Clean up your room becomes some actionable items:  “It’s time to put all the blocks in the box. After that, please put your dolls on the bed. I’ll be back in a bit to see how it’s going.”

Why is this place such a mess? becomes helpful information:  “I noticed books are on the floor, it’s time to put them on the shelf. Would you like me to help you get started? I’ll do these three books, you can do start with those three.”

How many times do I have to ask you to set the table becomes a request with an invitation to connect and cooperate:  “Let’s find the place mats and silverware” “Now that we did that, let’s find the plates and then the glasses.”

What is your child’s favorite chore or family job?

Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and "bluey" the fish.

5 Responses to Encouraging Children to Participate in Household Chores

  1. Great article! I particularly love the reframe of how we can choose our words to encourage our children’s choice making abilities. Powerful stuff.

  2. Hi! Thanks for another post full of practical suggestions. I often use the phrase, “We need to find the floor of this room” or “Let’s find the table!” It sounds silly, but it has worked well for our kids, giving them a vision of what it means to clean up the room or clear the table.

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