On a scale of 1 to 10, how capable are your kids when it comes to house chores? Do you assign chores for kids? Can your kids tidy up their bedroom? Wash their clothes? Sweep and mop the floor? Clean dishes?
Many Parents give several excuses when asked why they give little responsibilities to their kids at home. Such excuses include “it’s faster when I do the job myself”, “The kids won’t do the job to my satisfaction”, “I will end up expending more energy yelling and shouting over getting the job done”, “The kids complain that the job is too much for them”, “It’s not yet time for them to start helping with house chores” and many more.
Kids doing chores is one of the ways we prepare them for the future. One thing we need to know is that when we do all the work for them, we are saying they are not capable of doing it themselves, and we are not carrying out our responsibilities as parents; which is to teach them to be able to survive and thrive when they leave our nests and go out into the real world. Chores for kids are assigned based on their age, and so, there are chores every age group can do.
Reports from a research show that kids doing chores result into many benefits, academically, emotionally and even professionally. Children who began helping with household chores as early as 3-4years old grew up to be more self-sufficient, successful in academics and career and have better relationships as adults when compared to other children who started doing chores later in life.
We can begin raising responsible, capable adults by giving our kids responsibility for their actions, their belongings and their home. When we hold them accountable for things (even if it is painful or uncomfortable for us and the kids), It is then we are truly raising responsible children. Doing this will take an intentional effort and patience on our part as parents.
Parents use various styles to get kids to help around the house. Two very common ones are:
- The authoritative style: in which the parent lists out or dictates what the kids are expected to do within a timeframe and enforce it strictly by either withholding privileges, threatening or punishing the kids if the chores are undone.
- The Teamwork style: In which the parents work as a team with the kids to get the chores done.
Though both of these styles have their pros and cons in getting kids to do house chores, the authoritative style carries along with it a sense of oppression and could lead to mutiny brewing.
The teamwork style, on the other hand, factors a sense of harmony and connection. Though there may be some arguing and quarrelling, but it is mostly merry and fun. Highlighted below are five interesting ways we can put the teamwork style to play in assigning chores for kids in our homes.
1. Do the daily chores for kids together with the kids
This can be achieved in several ways. For example, ask the kids to fill their water bottles while you pack their lunch, ask them to set the table while you get dinner ready, ask them to sort the cutleries into the cutlery rack/stand while you wash the dishes, ask them to put washed clothes into their wardrobes or drawers while you fold them. The goal here is to do things together rather than assigning or ordering them to do a chore. However, you must ensure that the task assigned is appropriate with the age of the child and should not endanger their lives. See some examples of age-appropriate chores for children below:
- Pack all toys and items away
- Wipe a spill with towel
- Fold and place clothes into correct drawers
- Carry dishes into the kitchen sink after eating
- Start using utensils correctly.
- Set the table
- Tidy up the room
- Wash the dishes, standing on a stool
- Make their beds
- Dress themselves
- Sweep or vacuum
- Help in the kitchen
- Be responsible for homework
- Sort clothes in the laundry
- Clean or polish
- Clean the toilet
- Cook simple meals
- Wash/dry clothes
- Mop floors
- Supervise younger children’s chores
- Make full meals
- Clean fridge/freezer
- Babysit sibling
- Iron clothes
- Wash car
- Run errands outside the home
Take note to set the bar high for the kids. When you do this, the kids will reach for it and most of them will make it. If you set the bar at a reasonable height, they will meet it too, but then you’ll never know what they were really capable of doing.
Some of these challenges may seem like they are too much for your kids. Challenge them to master these tasks anyway, and you will be shocked they will achieve it. See below for an infographic on age-appropriate chores for children.
2. Refrain from “Nagging” to get the task done
Rather than use the authoritative style of threatening and punishing to get tasks done, find interesting ways to make kids take responsibility for the tasks. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Make it fun: You may decide to play games with your kids while you do the chores. For example, as my kids and I sort the clothes in the laundry, the person with the most sorted clothes becomes the “Super helper” of the day and assigns the next task to everyone. With this, the kids happily join me in the laundry.
- Sneak it in: While you are having a discussion that interests your kid, sneak the chore in. Like arranging the washed dishes on the rack. Do this a few times until the child associates the chore to the time to talk about interesting things.
- Use your voice effectively: This can be achieved by stating clearly what you want your kids to achieve. For example, If you want their room cleaned, you may say “you need to fold your clean clothes into your wardrobe, pick up all toys and trash from the floor and lay your bed”. Also, you may humorously remind them that they need to perform chores or use short simple one-word reminders like “tidy” to remind them to tidy up their room.
3. Avoid power struggle
Note that kids will always be kids, and so many times may refuse to do what they are asked to do. Rather than losing your cool, you can use the following approach from the book “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” by Faber and Mazlish. If you want your child to help with setting the table, you can:
- Describe what you see or the problem: So, instead of ordering your child to set the table, you may simply say “Mike, the table needs to be set” or “Oh! its dinner time and the table isn’t set yet”. This will get the job done faster than an order.
- Give Information: You could say “I’m tired after a long day and looking forward to a nice dinner. I don’t mind some help in setting the table” or you could take it a step further and add in a playful tone “where are my super helpers that always help me with setting the table?” Giving them the identity of a “helper” makes them more likely to get involved.
- Say it with a word: Kids hate when we rant and rave or lecture them over what should be done. Instead, use single word reminders like “table” for setting the table, “dishes” for washing the dishes, “Lights” for switching on/off the lights. This can sometimes be fun for the kids.
4. Praise kids when they take responsibility
When you praise/acknowledge kids for doing one task, they will be motivated to be your super-helpers on the next task. They may even surprise you at times by doing chores you didn’t ask them to do. To do this, however,
- Avoid praises like “Good job”: Dr Kohn explains in this article that it can cause more harm than good and result in raising praise junkies.
- Use descriptive praise instead: like “I love the way you arranged those boxes, it makes the room lot lighter” or “Don’t you observe the room is a lot lighter after you arranged those boxes?
- Share your feelings: Let them know why you appreciate their help. For example, “I always have a busy day. Your help with setting the dinner table makes dinner more enjoyable and less of a chore to me.
- Learn to say “Thank you”: Sometimes, that’s all that is needed.
- Resist the urge to immediately correct what they completed: This may make them feel that whatever they do is never good enough for you.
5. Use Chore Chart for kids
Having chore charts for kids in the home makes you nag/yell less as the kids will have a go-to guide for what is expected of them each day. Get a free chore chart for kids here and use points to motivate them to do their chores. Assign points for each chore and as your kids complete a chore, sit with them to enter the date and the point earned on the chart.
At the end of the week, your kids can exchange their points for simple rewards that you all have agreed upon together. There must be a minimum total weekly point to earn a reward.
Kids benefit from using chore charts because they provide a consistent reminder of the chores, responsibilities and tasks that they need to complete each day. Children enjoy marking chores on the chart as they complete them and are motivated by the rewards they can receive with the points they earn. I use the chart below for my kids.
You can download/print your free blank chore chart for kids here and fill to suit your home kids chores.
Something noteworthy however is that some days, our kids don’t just want to do things. Kindly give room for them to be themselves. On such days, please understand. Try your best to see if you can get them to do it.
However, if nothing works, do the task yourself. If you can’t, then let it slide. It’s O.k. On such days, you need to tell yourself that “it’s O.K. to have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles and “Happy kids”.
What ways have worked for you in getting kids to do house chores? How do you assign chores for kids? what good/bad results have evolved from techniques you applied in getting your kids to do chores? Which of these tactics appeal most to you? Kindly share with other parents in the comments section.