Kids with Chores
 

How to Get Kids to Do Chores Without Nagging

7 steps to a cleaner home

By Sue-Anne Wu | 22 August, 2019

The prevailing wisdom of the day seems to be: Children should do chores. Just consider these news headlines: Kids who do housework from a young age (Straits Times, 1 Jan 2017) and Happy Children Do Chores (New York Times, 18 Aug 2018). But is it really worth it or even feasible?

Many of us have domestic helpers whose main task is to take care of the household. Even without the benefit of such help, it seems more efficient for an adult to do the housework. Surely our children don’t need to be equipped with the “life skills” of doing housework – they can learn whatever skills they need from the army or YouTube when they start to live on their own.

Yet the results of the Harvard Grant Study, which followed a group of teenage boys for more than 70 years, reveal that the greatest predictors of midlife happiness and success at work were love and a strong work ethic.

We want to help our children develop what Julie Lythcott-Haims calls a “pitch-in” mindset, a mindset that says, “I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole, even if the work is not pleasant.” This can be done by giving our children simple everyday chores. Our kids are not too young or busy to help with packing up the toys or tidying up their study table.

Here are some examples of age-appropriate chores we can assign to our children.

If you’re like me, you may have wanted to get the kids involved in household chores but only managed to do so haphazardly.

You may find these tips handy:

1. Set clear expectations

Every family will look different. Discuss with your spouse how you would like to engage your children at home. Sit the children down to talk through with them and set the expectations. Don’t be too ambitious. Set maybe one or two tasks for a start – we want to set them up for success and not overwhelm them.

2. Show them what to do

You may have to demonstrate to your child how to complete each task and show them where to get the necessary items and remind them to put things back. (Warning: You may have to do it more than once!) You may also complete the chores as a family – do it together with them.

Remember the goal is to allow the kids to contribute in real ways to the family, thus it is important we don’t clean up after them or excuse them from their roles.

3. Don’t do the chore for them

Remember the goal is to allow the kids to contribute in real ways to the family, thus it is important we don’t clean up after them or excuse them from their roles.

We need to be persistent so that our children can develop a sense of responsibility. You may wish to think of some consequences if they fail to do the chore. For example, “If the toys are not packed up at the end of the day, we will have to keep them away for 1 week”.

4. Help them develop their own reminders

Once we have set the expectations for our children to help out at home, we can also hold them accountable not just for doing the chores but for remembering to do them. Help our kids develop reminder techniques by creating various cues to trigger their memory, such as using a daily alarm or placing a visual schedule of household chores in a prominent place. Feel free to brainstorm ideas with your children!

5. When they forget, point to the cue instead of the task

“Didn’t I hear the alarm go off?” or “Go check the time table – what are you supposed to do after you’ve had your snack?” Describe the surroundings instead of nagging, “The floor is full of toys but we need to leave the house soon.”

Cleaning up can feel like a tireless and thankless task. All the more we need to acknowledge the efforts our children have made.

6. Make it fun

To be fair, chores can be mundane. Introduce some fun by playing some high-energy music such as Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling or their favourite cartoon theme song. Find a printable chore chart that your child can place stickers on after completing the chore. Or you can try giving promotions – One 7-year-old was excited and proud to have been “promoted” from just loading the dishwasher to emptying it too!

7. Encourage our children

Cleaning up can feel like a tireless and thankless task. All the more we need to acknowledge the efforts our children have made.

Make keen observations when they’ve done something well, especially if they used their own initiative. For example, “I saw that you packed up the toys after you finished with them.” Or “Thank you for putting the book back on the shelf, the room looks neat.” Give them a high-five or a hug to recognise their effort.

It takes a lot of effort on our part to be consistent, especially when it seems easier not to involve the children at all. Nevertheless, it is worth it. Our children can develop confidence and learn responsibility by being a contributing member of the family.

As Ann Landers puts it: “It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.”

Sue-Anne Wu is a coffee lover and nature seeker. An avid reader, books are her lifeline in the choppy waters of life, marriage and parenting. She lives with 4 rambunctious boys aged 3, 6, 8 and 38.

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