Top 5 Ways to Get Kids to Do Their Chores
I stared down at my mom's written instructions, breaking a sweat. Hot water for light clothes? Or cold water? How much detergent do I need? I checked and double-checked, nervous that I was about to ruin my clothes.
18 years old, a freshman in college... and I still didn't know how to do laundry.
Completing more chores as a kid probably could have done me some good--including the laundry, which I should have given a go in high school. Unfortunately, even as my parents attempted to get my sister and I to do chores, we had a low success rate. Without a chart or schedule we forgot who was supposed to do what, which often led to fights. In fact, the household duties became something like a competition between my sister and I--a competition to see who could make the other work while the other got out of the job.
Not exactly efficient.
So how do you get your kids excited and on-track to do their chores?
1) Efficient Early
You've got to train them young. Have confidence in your kids--even toddlers are capable of accomplishing a few chores around the house. Encouraging them now will get them into a routine that will be familiar for years to come. Even if the chore doesn't save you a lot of time or effort, it will still get the kids accustomed to helping out, which will benefit the family in the future.
But what's a youngster to do? Toddlers can pick up their own toys, match socks, bring laundry to the appropriate rooms, and put trash in the wastebasket. Preschoolers can help set and clear the table, water the garden, dry dishes, and carry the laundry basket. More "advanced" chores can be set aside for when they get older.
As you teach your kids from a young age, make sure your instructions are specific. For example, "clean up your bedroom" should be "put your clothes in the drawers, books on the bookshelf, and toys in the basket." That way you won't come into a "clean room" only to find everything stuffed in the closet or under the bed.
2) Allow an Allowance?
"This is called an allowance," my dad said, holding a one-dollar bill before my eyes. My sister stared at in wonder as she sat beside me on the bed.
A whole dollar.
"Now, this is very important business," he said.
My sister and I giggled. Important? Our dad was acting way too serious for this. As kids we didn't see the importance of money, especially at the ages of four and five. According to the parenting experts, an allowance for chores is a no-no--at least for the youngsters.
After my experience, I'd have to agree. Household duties should be a demonstration of responsibility and a way to show support for the family. The money was not enough to motivate me to clear off the table after dinner each night. My parents brought us up great, but the chores arrangement was weak. Unfortunately, because of it, my poor mom scrambled around the house everyday trying to get the chores done--chores we could have easily helped out with. As we grew older the dollar-per-chore became more enticing and we began helping out a lot more--but only at our own convenience.
3) Push Away Perfection
No need to get the job done perfectly. Show your kids how to do the job, watch them do it themselves, and be patient as they learn to adjust to the chore over time. They may forget to do it once in a while, so be lenient at first. It's best to create a chore schedule to get everyone on board. Make a list of all the chores that need to be completed, create a chart, and post it where everyone can see it once the chores are established.
4) Family Fun
What is a parent to do when the word that rhymes with "chore" is "bore"? Creativity is the key here. It might be good to set aside a certain time of the day for everyone to do chores at once. Crank up the kids' favorite tunes, and dance around the house while you all complete the tasks. Or, the kids could act out certain animals or characters as they clean up their rooms or fold laundry. It may seem like the job won't get done as fast, but if a kid is forced to do the job with their arms folded and a frown on their face, it probably takes the same amount of time, if not more.
5) Challenging Chores
Keep moving your kids up on the chore ladder; they don't have to be stuck with the same chore for life. What makes a chore that much more satisfying is an element of a challenge. Show your kids step-by-step how to complete a more difficult task. For example, throwing scraps into the trash could advance to taking out the garbage. Watering the flowers can turn into pulling the weeds out of the garden.
Before you know it, they'll be out of the house and take the responsibility they've developed into college. Keep encouraging your kids, give them praise, and make sure you can keep track of the chores being done on time.
And please, show them how to do their own laundry before they leave.