Getting Your Kids to Do Chores Without Losing Your Mind‎

What did you think when you read this title?

Guilty? Hopeful? Full of Dread? Anticipation?

Help is on the way!

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10

I love this verse. The Bible says that everyone works and contributes, unless they are truly unable to. This is also true for our kids and chores. We are not there to serve them. They need to become skilled in running a household, working together as a team, and persevering through tasks.

When children aren’t involved in doing chores, they may think that food, clean clothes and a (somewhat) clean house just happen.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a system set up yet. You can start a little at a time.

Here’s what to expect:

It’s normal to face resistance 

It is typical for kids to not want to do chores. I don’t really like to do them either. Allow them to struggle with not wanting to do their chores, while still doing them.

Let them know you understand

Don’t be surprised when they don’t want to do their chores. Let them know you get it.

“I know you don’t want to take out the trash. I get it. This morning I didn’t want to do the laundry, but I did because I knew you needed your baseball uniform for the game today. It really is hard to do chores when you don’t want to. Go ahead and get that done and then you can go outside and play.” 

Empathizing with them doesn’t mean they don’t have to do what is expected. Instead, it helps them know you understand and care.

Expect a learning curve 

Kids have to be taught how to do everything. They need to have the freedom to fail and learn from their mistakes.

Don’t pass judgment or criticize their performance as they learn. There is a steep learning curve for anyone when learning to master a chore.

Comment on the positives

“Wow, you folded all those clothes,” rather than pointing out what’s wrong, like putting the clothes in the wrong piles. Being criticized while learning can be very discouraging, and will stop them from wanting to help and learn.

Imagine this: your six-year-old wants to help you sweep the floor. Now the honest truth is that kids are horrible when they first learn to sweep the floor. All they really do is push the dirt, fish crackers, and who knows what else from one side of the room to the other!

We need to keep in mind that this is not really about teaching sweeping.

It’s more about giving them the message that they:

  • are a good worker;
  • are able to learn new things;
  • have a wonderful desire to help; and
  • are making a good effort.
These learning experiences contributes to their overall self-esteem of being a valuable and capable person. #chores #parenting Click To Tweet

This is actually what teaching them to do new things is about…not whether they missed a spot or not.

Talk to yourself with compassion 

Children begin doing “chores” by imitating us. They rarely decrease our workload, and usually increase it! We want to encourage their desire to help, and compliment them for their efforts. With time, they will master the skills.

If you get frustrated, talk to yourself compassionately the way I do.

“I’m going to have to do this all over. Okay, take a deep breath, this isn’t about Suzy helping me make cookies. It’s about giving her messages that she is capable, can learn new things, is a good helper, and feels encouraged by me. Hang in there, remember the big picture.” 

Talk to your children with compassion 

Explain that mistakes are normal. We don’t want them to be burdened with feeling they have to be perfect.

How to get started

  • Frame chores as each of us “doing our fair share” as opposed to “helping” Mom and Dad. They need to see these chores as a normal part of contributing to the household.
  • Make a list of all the chores that need to be done. Include everything, like working to earn money, paying the bills, driving family members to school and errands, grocery shopping, etc. Post your list on the refrigerator.
  • A few days later, have a family meeting to decide how to divide up the chores. Give your kids input into which chores they do. Assign appropriate to age and difficulty, and make sure each child get the same amount of easy and hard chores to do.
  • You’ll need to decide if you’d like your children to do daily chores and/or weekly chores. Make it clear when their chores need to be completed.Give them a reasonable period of time, rather than demand they do them right now.
  • Put a list on the refrigerator with each person’s chores and when they need to be completed.

          “You’ll need to have your chores done by Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

  • When they don’t do their chores, ask if they would like to do them, or pay out of their allowance to have someone else do them. If they have no money, you can either deduct the amount from next week’s allowance or buy one of their toys to pay to have the chore done by someone else. Let them know they can buy it back later. This is what happens in the real world. If you don’t have money, you sell some of your belongings.

So, what do you think?

  • Do your children do chores regularly?
  • What is already going well?
  • What is working, and what needs adjusting?
  • Where do you want to start?

You can do it! You don’t need to do it perfectly, just start. For more help, check out chapter 11, Family Skill Building: Chores, Allowance, and Family Meetings, in my book: Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children

I’d Love to Hear from You

Are you tempted to give up on getting your kids to do chores? What are some tips you use to get your kids to do their chores? How has doing chores benefited your children?

Please leave a comment below and share with those who could benefit via e-mail or on social media.

If you resonated with my article, please subscribe to my blog. You will get a free copy of Top Ten Ways to Parent with Compassion, which will help you build a strong relationship with your children.

5 thoughts on “Getting Your Kids to Do Chores Without Losing Your Mind

  1. This really takes me back decades! My own experience as a child was mixed. My dad had me do things with and for him and was always encouraging. But, he was away at work during the week. My mother, on the other hand, gave me a few chores, but she always came behind me to re-do them to her standards. The one thing that I did well was iron my dad’s handkerchiefs. Maybe I took more time to do them well was because I knew he would appreciate my “work”.
    It was tempting at times to just do things instead of having our children do them when they were younger. But, I persisted and focused on things that I felt they truly needed to learn and made certain that they did those chores.
    I will always remember the “rule” that dirty clothes were to be put into the hamper in the laundry room. One Little League game day, our son’s t-shirt was not in his closet. Instead, he found it under his bed. He wore a dirty shirt to his game that day, but he always remembered to put his shirt in the hamper as soon as he got home from each game after that! I think the only person that even said anything to him about it was his older sister. I have to admit that I had not even realized that his shirt had not been put in the wash that week. That was during the beginning of his first year in Little League.
    Thank you for your ministry. You provide useful and practical information reinforced by relevant scriptures.
    Blessings to you and Dave.

    1. Dear Ann,
      I just realized I never replied to your wonderful comment. I love you sharing your experience of being both the child and the parent in tackling chores. Love the story of your son wearing a dirty shirt to the game! He learned!!! Appreciate you sharing your wisdom with us 🙂

  2. The best way I’ve found to motivate kids to do chores is to have them first watch the video “Chore Day” by Three Beat Slide (available for free on YouTube). The video covers most common household tasks such as doing the laundry, dusting shelves, putting toys away, vacuuming, doing the dishes, etc., and is guaranteed to put a smile on their face (and yours too)!

  3. Hi Angie – By doing chores, kids learn vital life skills that help them live independently in adult life. Without learning how to do chores (by getting involved at a young age), then they will always rely on others to help them, or live in a dirty and messy home. Hope this helps!

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