The EASY Way to Get Your Kids Started Doing Chores

The EASY Way to Get Your Kids Started Doing Chores

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If you are on the internet, social media, Pinterest, or talk to people at all who have kids, you've probably heard or taken part in a discussion about chores. Most people range somewhere from "I don't give my kids chores, because I had to do way too many as a kid" or "I don't give my kids chores because it's too much work for me" to the extreme opposite of "My kids clean my WHOLE house!"

One of the best arguments that I've encountered for why kids should do chores is from the book The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber.  I'm paraphrasing, but the idea is this: there's work to be done, that your kids can do, so they should.  And they'll be happier for it (sense of accomplishment/purpose).
Here are some links that back up the WHY: here, here, here, here, here

The goal is for kids to help within their abilities and learn to do their work well and with a good attitude. 

Chores don't have to be an All-The-Time thing. You can be flexible with the needs and seasons of your family. But the reality is that you WANT your kids to grow up to be kind, helpful, resourceful adults, and the sooner they learn to pitch in where they can, with good attitudes, the happier your family life with be.

Below, I'm including a BIG list of different chores that I came up with that I pick and choose from to assign (and sometimes, let them choose from).

But here's HOW to come up with YOUR list:

  • Write down all the chores you/your spouse currently do (make it REALLY specific, like Empty Bathroom Trash, not Clean Bathroom)
  • It can be helpful to go room by room to find all the chores that can be done. Even the really simple chores can be a GREAT way for little kids to get involved (like, Put All Throw Pillows Back on Couch, Find All Dirty Clothes in Playroom and Put in Laundry OR Pick Up All the Trash).
  • If you're someone who's been able to be consistent about your cleaning schedule, break that down, task by task, to figure out what can be delegated (I have a kid who scrubs bathroom sinks with a bathroom-designated dishwand. She can do that, but not toilets yet, so she scrubs the sink!)
  • Nothing on your list should take more than 5 minutes (preferably less than 2!). And they need to be really easy to understand. And physically reachable (none of my kids can dust blinds more than halfway up and I'm totally cool with them just doing the lower half!).
  • These tasks can TOTALLY be stuff that you honestly wouldn't care if they get done at all. That's a good starting place for finding things that don't cause you additional work or headaches (or frustration if they're done poorly).
  • You need to realize that your kids will do crappy job of a lot of tasks the first MANY times they do them. They will sweep the floor and leave all kinds of stuff on the floor. They will unload silverware (yes, I break it down into silverware and non-silverware!) and touch EVERY SINGLE PIECE while you cringe. They will "dust the blinds", only touch 4 of them, then proudly proclaim them clean. Like everything else in childhood, it's a learning process. Encourage them, gently correct them where you must and as time goes on, and don't give up. Teach them how to do this work well. Keep in mind their little abilities, their hearts, and that you LOVE them.

But what about all the WHINING??????

A few things to consider:

  • It's been my experience that when unpleasant things like eating vegetables, brushing teeth, and doing chores become expected routines, there's less whining.  No one likes unhappy surprises.  Will they still sometimes whine?  Absolutely.  But the more they do it, the easier it will get.  I pinky-swear!
  • When you make it clear that the job isn't done unless it's done well and with a good attitude, it makes a big difference.
  • Keep the chores short and sweet.  I limit it to 4 per kid per day (not including folding their own clothes--yes, that's a real crowd-pleaser!).  Their work should be less than 30 minutes.  Encourage them to do it quickly, but well, and then it will be done.
  • Everyone likes rewards!  I'm currently rewarding my kids with screentime, because they LOVE it and don't get it very often.  So I'm willing to give a little in this area and think Win-Win.

Here's my list (yes, it's an image--i did NOT want to type all that):

Another way to introduce chores is through We As a Family Have to Accomplish This Thing. A good example is Stripping Beds. I tell my kids "Hey, we have to wash your bedding today. Go pull your sheets and your pillowcases off." Will it take them several minutes? Yep. But they can do it. They CANNOT make their own beds. So I'm in charge of that (I liken it to wrestling an alligator--bunkbeds: I HATE you).

I keep seeing all of these CUTE and PERFECT ways to display the chores and let the kids check them off with magnets or stickers or whatever. Let me free you: a sticky note or paper works just fine. Or if you have non-readers, draw a picture (even if you're a terrible artist like me) on the piece of paper if they aren't jiving with you just TELLING them their chores.

For more on issues like this, check out our Parenting Hacks board.

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