How to Get the Kids to Help Around the House

When trying to get my kids to help around the house I’ve always followed the motto that household chores aren’t punishment, they are a basic life skill required to keep the house running, and are therefore essential for every member of the family.

My husband is good around the house and I’ve never given him any special praise for this. I’m thankful obviously, but I don’t think it is something to be celebrated as out of the ordinary. He lives here, I live here, we both keep the place functioning. I can thank my mother-in-law for the fabulous example she set in raising my husband to be suitably house trained, and I intend to do the same for my boys.

When it comes to household chores, it is definitely better to set the standard from the beginning and start when they are young. But if you’ve got teenagers on your hands who think that mum is some kind of housekeeper/cleaner/cook/slave then there are still ways to change the situation.

1. Start with a family meeting. Unless your kids are all under three, chances are you’re going to need some kind of family meeting to discuss the new expectations. If they don’t know what to expect or what is required of them, they aren’t going to be on board.

Start with a list of things that need to be done daily and weekly. If there are certain chores that are already outsourced leave these off the list. Get the kids to provide input on the list and make sure you’ve covered all the major jobs like taking bins out, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, preparing lunches, cleaning, tidying various rooms each day, laundry, making beds and changing sheets.

Make sure you include the jobs that you do without really thinking about it because it is important that the kids get an idea of what is involved in running a house. Food doesn’t just magically appear in the fridge… someone does the grocery shopping each week…

2. Play to their strengths. Over time we naturally fall into jobs that we each prefer or are better at. I personally have never mown the lawn. I have zero interest in starting, and my husband is quite happy to do this job. On the flip side, I don’t think he’s ever cleaned the bathroom. I’m actually fairly happy to do this so it has just naturally fallen to me.

Find out what jobs the kids would actually enjoy doing. Just because you think a job sucks doesn’t mean your 8-year-old will. Obviously there will be some jobs that no one wants and probably a few everyone is happy to take on. You’ll need to set up a system to balance these out.

3. Work out a schedule. Whilst everyone may not personally share my love of lists, a schedule for chores really will make your life easier. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just a list of jobs that each person needs to do and when they need to do them. If you change jobs around between family members each week, try sticking them to magnets and using a magnetic board to show who is on what job each week. Alternatively, a simple excel chart will do the trick!

4. Use logical consequences. When it comes to getting the kids to actually do their jobs, I like to use logical consequences. In our house, the rules are that work comes before play. The quicker you get your jobs done, the more play time you’ll have. The same goes for getting ready in the morning.

If there is a job unfinished then the logical consequence is that you don’t get privileges like playing or screen time. I don’t use ongoing punishment such as if you don’t do this job now you won’t get to have TV for a week, it’s just a simple do “this” before you can do “that”. If they do the job straight away, they get to go on with their day, if they procrastinate and whinge then it will be longer before they get to do what they want.

Another tactic I intend to use when my boys get a little older is the “chores box”. This basically is a box to combat kids that leave junk everywhere and don’t tidy up. If they leave their stuff out and mum or dad pick it up for them then they have to do an extra chore before they get their stuff back. It all goes in the “chore box” and they choose a chore to complete from an envelope stuck to the side.

5. Lower your expectations. This point is especially relevant for those will younger children. The reality is that many kids won’t clean, fold or tidy up to the standard you would. Sometimes they are being lazy but often they just haven’t had as much practice as you. If you constantly correct them or do it yourself instead of letting them learn then you create a self fulfilling prophecy where they can’t or won’t do the job because they’ve either never been given the chance or were constantly criticised.

I refold clothes from the line whenever my son helps in this area. I never let him see me do it and I praise his efforts because he is four and is only learning. Sure, it would be easier and quicker to do it myself but I am teaching him a life lesson and when he gets older he will become more capable. You can always redirect a child to a different task if you really need something done a certain way but try not to create a household where no one bothers to help because mum will just redo it anyway.

You’ll find a helpful list of household jobs kids of various ages can do here to get you started if you are looking for ideas.

6. Expect resistance. Little kids love to help. Teenagers not so much! Expect resistance and whinging. Be consistent and keep going. Use logical consequences, don’t let it become emotional. Stay calm and explain simply that the chores get done before play time. With time they will become an everyday part of living in a home. Remember you are teaching them life skills, not punishing them!

How do you get your kids to help around the house? Any pearls of wisdom to share?

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