How to get your kids to do their chores (without bribery or allowance). Bonus tips to help YOU win!
It’s been a struggle since the beginning of time, kids doing their chores. The fighting, whining, complaining, and half ass jobs are not fun to deal with. It’s easier if we (parents) do it ourselves.
But what does that teach our kids?
Nothing. Except that Mom and Dad will just do it for them.
Growing up, I remember having chores and absolutely hating them. I would get so pissed off that I had to help (sorry Mom and Dad, I was kind of a jerk about doing the dishes). It would usually result in an argument between my parents and I. I was pretty entitled; I didn’t understand why I needed to help around the house, so thought it unfair. I was a kid, why did it need to be MY job to clean up?
My parents tried using an allowance, but it didn’t work. Money didn’t motivate me for very long, and my parents usually just gave up on it. As a parent, I see why it doesn't work, who has cash on them anymore?!
I also didn’t feel like overly appreciated when I contributed. My mom has a certain way of doing things (which was definitely passed down to me, just a tad bit OCD), and I had a hard time meeting those expectations. I can honestly say that as an adult, I definitely picked up on them; my husband can attest to how OCD and anal I can be to the littlest details.
The biggest thing I’ve realized, is that I didn’t understand why I needed to help out and that my contribution wasn't appreciated.
Without that why and appreciation, I wasn’t inclined to stick to it (happily or not).
Now that I’m a parent, I reflect back on my childhood and utilize things that my parents did well, while being aware and minimizing things that didn’t mesh well with me.
Steven contributes a fair amount to the household chores. His on-going chores include: emptying the dishwasher, doing his laundry, taking out the garbage/compost, keeping his room clean, and tidying up his things. He also helps out with dinner, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming, and dusting.
I’ll admit, he doesn’t always do his chores happily, but he does them. It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point too; a lot of trial and error. Some days are easier than others, and we've gone through our fair share of fights, but I always remind myself that I'm doing this out of love. He'll need these skills when he's an adult.
Here’s a few things that we’ve done to make the experience better for everyone.
We’ve explained why he needs to help around the house.
When we gave Steven his first chores, taking out the garbage and unloading the dishwasher, we explained to him why he needs to help. We explained that we (Andrew and I) go to work to provide for the family, that’s our job; Steven’s job is going to school. Since we all live in this house, and we all have our jobs, it’s only fair that we all help out at home. Keeping our house tidy makes us feel good, and it’s everyone’s responsibility.
We started and stuck with it.
We’ve been giving Steven little things to do around the house since a young age. Inviting him to help us tidy up, wash dishes, sweep, take dishes into the kitchen after dinner, and keep his room clean. It’s been apart of his life from a young age. We did things with him and kept it fun, as he got older we encouraged him to do things on his own, again, keeping it fun. When he didn’t want to do things we had a conversation about it and offered to help. I don’t often let him off the hook for his chores, even if that means one of us helping.
We give him choices.
We went through a phase when he really, really, didn’t want to unload the dishwasher. Every night was a struggle, but I stuck to my guns because he needs to understand that this is apart of life. During that phase, we had the step 1 conversation about why it was important that he help out every day. We brainstormed things that had to get done every day, and he tried them out for the week. One of the alternatives was loading the dishwasher, so I walked him through the process one night: putting away leftovers, rinsing dishes, loading the dishwasher, washing leftover dishes, and wiping the counters.
As you can imagine, he only did that once. By giving him the choice and allowing him to try different things, it allowed him to have control over his contribution. We’re more likely to do something we decide to do, than if we’re told.
I also do this with random chores I need help with; dusting or vacuuming?
We do it with him.
Most of the time. When we’re doing our weekly clean, we’re usually all cleaning together. I’m not one to quietly clean while they play video games, it’s not my responsibility to clean up after everyone! So, we all do our chores together- which makes the job go by a lot faster. We’ll put some music on and get to work.
Now, I say most of the time, because I think it’s important that sometimes the parents don’t help. This usually happens with the dishwasher or cleaning his room; he's old enough and it’s apart of our routine now, which means that he just does it when it needs to be done.
We don’t do allowance.
I don’t believe we should get paid to help our around the house- I sure as hell don’t get paid to do it! Instead, we rarely say no to things, because we don’t need to. Steven is really good about doing what he needs to do with little fuss, so he’s rewarded with appreciation and doing what he wants to do. We talk about this with him a lot; reminding him that his actions have consequences and following through with those consequences.
We’ve set clear expectations.
While we don’t have a set routine for doing chores, we have set a clear expectation that they need to get done when asked- even if that means taking a break from his games or shows to do so. I have a rule where if I need to ask for something to be done more than two times, I turn devices off without question. I’ve made it clear that I don’t enjoy repeating myself, so if I need to do so more than two times, I’m not going to be happy, and no one is happy if mom isn’t.
All in all, I think it comes down to keeping the communication open with our kids. They're smarter than we think and can understand a lot; by explaining expectations, consequences, giving choices, and sticking to the boundaries that we put into place, our kids can do almost anything.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this list and anything else that you might add. What has worked for you, what hasn't? Let me know in the comments below!
Side note: As I’m going through editing this, I’m realizing the correlations between getting our kids to do something and following through with our own goals.
Setting up a clear why.
Starting and sticking to it.
Support and accountability.
Rewarding with gratitude and appreciation.
Setting clear expectations.
All of these aspects go into achieving any goals you may have. Sometimes, we need to treat ourselves like children, and that’s okay! We need to show ourselves compassion and patience- nothing great comes easy, and amazing things take time (cliche, I know, but it’s true!).
So, the next time you parent your child, be aware of the tactics you’re using and ask yourself if they will work on yourself; especially if you’re struggling to get to the gym, eat healthy, or achieve a big goal. It’s okay, and important, to take baby steps and treat yourself with love.