Getting kids to do chores can be a pain in the neck. It can become a power struggle even when dealing with the most compliant of kids. Sometimes, it becomes so frustrating that we just throw in the towel and take care of whatever the chore was ourselves. Of course, that last strategy totally defeats the purpose of chores.
There are lots of reasons why parents ask kids to do chores. One of the most important is teaching children that they have a responsibility to take care of the spaces that they live in. This might mean cleaning up their room, unloading the dishwasher, or vacuuming the kitchen after dinner.
Another positive impact of chores is that it reinforces the value that we need to help each other out. I’m not asking my kids to set the table because I don’t want to do it (honestly, of all the jobs that I could delegate, it’s low on the list). Rather, it’s because setting the table or dragging the trash cans in from the street is a simple task that helps out their family.
One aspect of chores can play a longer-term benefit – chores that are connected to life skills that your kids will need later on in life. Living independently means knowing how to wash and fold laundry and even prepare simple meals. Incorporating life skills into chores gives your children a leg up on their friends in college who don’t know the difference between the washing machine and the dryer.
What Chores for Which Kid?
Picking out what chores make sense for your kids requires a little bit of thought. There are a few simple rules that you should follow:
Does my child have the skills to do this chore without assistance or supervision?
Most chores, particularly for kids older than about five, should be completed on their own with minimal support from an adult. This doesn’t mean that you can’t give them unfamiliar tasks to do; just recognize that the initial few attempts will require teaching and guidance.
Does my child have sufficient time to do this chore when needed?
Many of our kids are heavily programmed which means that some nights the schedule is just tight. After-school activities, sports practices, and playdates shouldn’t be an excuse for not having your child do chores, though. It just means that you may need to schedule chores to take place on emptier nights or the weekend.
Depending upon the age of the child. chores should also be relatively quick. As your children get older, the length of time that a chore takes can get longer, but it shouldn’t take hours.
Does my child need support knowing when and what to do?
I can’t do my job as a psychologist without checklists. They help me remember the nuances of complicated tasks and nudge me to do mundane things that I might want to ignore. Our kids aren’t any different. Chore charts can help them know when to do a chore and they might even get a little bit of reinforcement from marking off an item. If your child is a non-reader, use clipart to create a chore chart that provides visual prompts.
If needed, you can also create checklists for chores. This could be a post-it note attached to the washing machine with instructions on how to run their laundry or an index card in the cleaning supplies with steps on how clean a toilet.
Resources for Helping Kids with Chores
Here are a few resources from my blog and around the web to help you tackle choirs at home.