I think most of us remember household chores as a dreaded thing we had to do, even from a young age. I know I sure didn’t enjoy doing dishes at night or cleaning my room every day.
So when I became a mom, I kinda dreaded getting our girls involved with chores. I definitely wanted them to have some, but I didn’t want the struggle that came with it.
Much to my surprise, from the time our firstborn could walk, she wanted to help with whatever I was doing. She loved putting away her toys, her clothes, any simple chore I gave her to do. She would get so excited, like it was a game, or something.
I wasn’t sure this would last and kinda held my breath a bit hoping I wasn’t just lucking out on this parenting gig. Then I realized there might actually be something to this.
It dawned on me that this kid thought regular chores were fun because mommy was always doing them and she looked up to me. Which taught me the valuable lesson that if I made chores out to be awful, she would think they’re awful, too.
So from the time our girls were little, we made daily chores out to be big deals and as they grew and took on extra chores, we made the transition a big deal, too.
Our girls couldn’t wait until they were old enough to do dishes or some of the other “big girl” chores that mommy got to do. (My youngest child is always begging her sisters to let her clean the bathrooms for them.)
Now they are in their teens, they still see to their chore list without my constantly having to nag them about it. Each routine has had to evolve some as they grew older, but the results are still the same.
We are certainly no parenting experts, but we have adopted some great parenting tips that help us get our kids to do their chores with minimal reminders.
1. Chores are expected
From the time our girls could crawl, we were teaching them simple tasks. For example, after playtime, we would hand them a toy and instruct them to put it away in the toy box.
Doing this every day eventually instilled in them the connection that every playtime had a clean-up time. As they got older, they also realized the more toys they got out meant more toys to put away.
After a diaper change, they would throw away their diaper. When they changed clothes, they put their dirty clothes in the hamper.
Even as little ones, they understood that some form of a chore was nearly always part of every equation.
Now that they are older kids, things have reversed a little. They now do chores BEFORE fun.
I don’t have a lot of rules when it comes to chores, but our girls know that if they do their assigned chores for the day, they are free to spend the rest of the day doing what they want.
For them, finished chores equals freedom. So they get them out of the way first thing and everyone’s happy. 🙂
2. Chores are done together
I had plenty of chores growing up, but I always preferred cleaning by myself. There were many days when I would do my sister’s chores, too, just so I didn’t have to deal with anyone else while I cleaned.
But when my girls were old enough to help with chores, I had to make a decision: deal with the frustration of doing chores with a young child or do all the chores by myself forever.
I chose to be responsible and teach my children to be responsible, too. It wasn’t easy, as any parent can testify, but the rewards of teaching our children life skills FAR outweigh the negatives.
In our family, everyone does their own household tasks at times convenient for their particular schedule, but Saturdays are our reset days and we all work together to get the house back in shape from the long week.
Getting in the trenches with our children makes them feel like they are a part of something, not slaves to the house. And they’re is just something motivating when someone is helping you to pull the weight.
They also see that what they do is important and worthy. If all I ever did was assign chores and never did my share around the house, I could never expect my children to, either.
Sometimes, if I see that my girls are having a particularly rough day and struggling to get through their list, I will often pitch in to help or give them a break and finish for them. This isn’t often, but when it happens, there is a comradery that forms and I have the joy of seeing them do the same for others in the house.
Which leads to my next point:
3. Chores are Important
It takes work for a house to run smoothly. We tried to instill in our girls from an early age the importance of helping around the house and doing their part.
There are so many moms who are running themselves into the ground trying to do it all when their kids are more than capable of helping. And in most cases, they want to help!
We are only hurting our children when we do not teach them a solid work ethic. There is satisfaction to be had in a job well down. Not to mention, when we exclude our child from chores, we are depriving them of valuable life skills and setting them up for embarrassment later in life.
Also, an important thing to remember is to praise each child for their hard work, tailoring the praise to their specific skill set. Or if they are struggling in a particular chore, point out the effort they are putting in.
This builds confidence and lets them know you see their hard work and their contribution to the family. This also builds a sense of community that I feel is so important.
4. Chores are age-appropriate
Do you ever wonder at what age a child should start doing chores? We decided that if they were mobile; they were old enough to learn.
We tried to give them age-appropriate chores and added bigger tasks as they mastered each one. But keep in mind, things might differ for each child.
When our youngest was born, our oldest was six, and she thrived on responsibility. She could do more as a six-year-old than a lot of kids twice her age. And we let her try whatever she felt capable of doing.
But our other two daughters are more laid back, so I didn’t stretch them as much as I did our oldest. And that worked for them. We have always tried to give our girls what we felt they can handle and if they wanted to try harder chores, more power to them!
5. Chores are Chosen
Because we didn’t want our girls to hate chores, we wanted them to have a say in which ones they had.
We made a list of house chores that needed doing each day as well as weekly chores and allowed the girls to decide which ones they would like to do. This works so well! If your child is doing a chore she doesn’t mind doing, chances are, you won’t need to follow up too often.
And don’t worry if they shuffle the chore system around a bit after trying them out for a few days/weeks. Our girls did that a little and once they found their groove, it was smooth sailing.
After implementing this method, we found that our youngest does an impressive job on laundry where the other two weren’t as enthusiastic. Our middle child has practically taken over my kitchen, but she cleans so well, I don’t mind one bit. And our oldest loves to be outside helping daddy, so she mows more than the others.
With that said, we do want our girls to be well-rounded, so everyone has to learn how to do everything at some point in time. And they have to do some things they’d rather not, like taking turns cleaning the big bathroom. But for the most part, they do what they enjoy and are good at.
6. Chores are Flexible
During the school year, I take over a lot of the chores. It’s our busiest part of the year, but I still want the girls to have some free time when they get home. So they mainly have some laundry and dishes after dinner.
On Saturday, it’s our normal reset day and they deep clean the bathrooms and we usually do food prep for the week and a few other family chores that need done.
But during the summer they take over all the M-F chores and I do most of the dinners. This works best for everyone’s schedule and keeps our home running efficiently.
Of course, your home will run differently as factors for each family are different. But you get the idea.
7. Chores are rewarded
When our girls were younger, we came across an app that kept track of our kid’s chores and with every completed task they would earn points that could be cashed in for rewards that we set up.
It was such a great idea and our girls were so crazy about this system they were spending all their free time doing chores. It was awesome!
When that app discontinued, we made chore charts for their rooms and came up with a reward system that allowed them to earn some goodies. (Get a FREE printable chore chart here!)
These rewards varied from playing a game with dad to earning spending cash at the store. The girls worked hard and even learned to save their points for more “expensive” rewards.
It’s easy to motivate children to do chores, you just need to try a few things out to see what works.
8. Chores are fun
In our house, we like to listen to music while we work. The happier the music, the better. There’s just something about singing while we work that keeps us going and before we know it, it stops feeling like work.
But there are countless ways to make chores fun. My girls enjoy competing with each other, or we work hard for something fun afterwards, like an ice cream treat or popcorn and a movie.
Chores ARE work. There’s really no way around that. But they can be fun if performed in the right mindset and with the right motivation.
Whether you have younger kids or older ones, it doesn’t take much to make them happy or get them in a party mode. It just takes some creativity and an example to set the mood. 😉
I hope this gives you some ideas that you can implement with your own family or encourages you to try something new with chores.
Just remember to be clear about what you expect and try to find some ways to make it less tedious.
It’s much harder work in the beginning with young kids, but remember, the rewards are more than worth it!
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About the author
Kimberly McGraw is the founder of Life Worth the Living, a blog focused on helping mothers live their best life. Her desire is to help moms find purpose in who they are as a person, not just as a mom. Life Worth the Living has been featured in Making Sense of Cents, Outwit Trade and Believe and Create.