Most of us have great intentions when it comes to involving our kids in chores, and goodness knows we could use the help. But how do you know which chores are best for your kids and how do you implement a system that won’t result in more work for you? And how do you message the importance of chores to your child in a way that instills responsibility, discipline and teamwork? We’ve got a game plan!
Parents, Learn First
- How kids benefit from chores: There are so many benefits: responsibility, discipline, and an understanding that being part of a family or community means pitching-in to get things done – for the “betterment of the whole” – to name a few. Plus, the research is clear that children who do chores have a better chance of growing up to be successful adults.
- When? We’ve found one effective way to implement a chore system is to use a weekly schedule. Assign different chores to different days of the week.
- Which chores? Children as young as two are capable of chores, and are often very eager helpers. Leverage that enthusiasm, and build it in reluctant older children by focusing on their readiness for adult tasks. Refer to this chart to determine which chores might work for your child, based on age.
What to Do & How to Get Started
Emphasize that chores are exciting because they mean the child is ready to start learning how to be a grown-up, vs. characterizing them as a burden or a bore. Frame chores as jobs that have to be done and that are unpaid. You can add in other “money jobs” beyond chores if your child wants to earn some money. Keep allowance independent of chores. Read more about allowance here.
Make a Game Plan for Introducing Chores
Announce the plan at a family meeting: “Kids, we have some exciting news. We have noticed lately that you are really growing up and are able to do so many things—we think you’re ready to start with your own chores! Chores are jobs around our house that need to get done so that we have time to play together as a family. Now that you can do chores, you can practice to be a grown-up and you are helping our family at the same time.”
- Present your child with a chore schedule. When designing your schedule, think about what’s realistic for your family. Things to consider:
- What chores can you ensure will happen with minimal support from you?
- What are chores that need to be done weekly? (We recommend starting small.)
- What time of day is easiest for you to monitor chores? For example, grand visions of kids helping prep dinner, set and clear the table may not come to fruition given that this can be a challenging time of day, so consider using breakfast time instead.
Here’s an example schedule to kickstart things for a 4-5 year old. Keep it simple. Be consistent.
- Monday – Strip bedding; put in laundry hamper
- Tuesday – Tidy up bedroom and bathroom
- Wednesday – Tidy up playroom and living room
- Thursday – Gather all garbage; tidy up yard
- Friday – Vacuum or sweep (kids love doing this!)
- Saturday – Put clean laundry away
- If your child is motivated by checking off tasks on a checklist, laminate your schedule and they can mark an item complete with a dry erase marker.
- Expect to remind your kids of their daily tasks and cut everyone some slack if not everything gets done at the beginning (no one needs extra things to add to their mental checklist).
- Praise your children for completing their chores, and point out the impact.
- “Wow, you are working so hard at getting your chores done and I really appreciate how helpful you are to our family. It makes me so happy to see you learning how to be a grown-up, you can do so many things already!”
- Celebrate small victories and keep your eye on the long-term prize: a self-sufficient, responsible child who recognizes the value of teamwork.
If Your Child Resists Doing Chores
- Expect some level of initial resistance.
- Kids are typically egocentric; they don’t usually appreciate how much work it takes to run a household, and may not inherently demonstrate interest in your need for help.
- Chores also require some level of delayed gratification and a child may struggle to complete a job that is not immediately gratifying to them.
- If your child resists chores, try implementing the rule “Must-Do’s before Want-To-Do’s” so that your child understands that if they want to do something (play, go on a scooter ride, have a story read to them, etc.), their Must-Do’s, which include chores, must be done first. Reassure them that they have time for both.