Getting Children to Help Around the House

If your kids whine about chores – know you’re in good company! Though no child naturally loves to clean, parents recognize chores as an important tool for teaching solid work ethic. So how can you get your child to want to help around the house?

It’s a battle author Connie Sokol knows well! She shares some insight and advice.

It’s summer, so if you’re kids are whining about cleaning, you’re in good company. Though no child naturally jumps for joy at the statement, “It’s your turn to vacuum,” you can help your kids develop a better attitude to daily cleaning.

Establish “The Norm”. Teach children that daily chores are part of being a family—no stickers necessary. And don’t worry about the whining. Author Merilee Boyack says that if children are complaining about chores, you’re doing something right. You choose which chores are for free and daily doing, and others that are for extra money.

Having kids do housework first thing in the morning is a good idea because they learn to prioritize necessity over novelty. One woman said that as a child this process taught her to work quickly and well so that she could play as soon as she finished. This routine successfully transferred into her future work ethic.

And predictable routines help children when they’re young. Clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham is the author of “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids,” and shares that routines are essential to giving children a sense of security and develop self-discipline. These routines not only make children feel safer but also teach them how to positively control themselves and situations.

DO make them aware of how good they have it. Have a family pow wow and say, “Dad and I were thinking we needed to do a big family project every day, Monday through Friday…(wait for it—the sounds of complaint)…BUT, after thinking it through, we felt you could all be responsible with your time and energy enough to do one big project a week” (hear the sigh of relief)…A while ago we even volunteered our boys to work on a dairy farm for a day just so they could come home and feel the comparative joy of cleaning a fairly tidy bathroom.

Make it a “family” plan. Let kids help plan the chores or projects, brainstorming what needs to be done with an Inside/Outside list. Then break it into projects (cluster inside chores into main groups—zones, bedrooms, daily chores; then cluster outside chores—weeding, mowing, tidying the garage, etc.)

Create mini and max rewards. Choose various rewards, either free or ones that cost a little, but only to encourage EXTRA good behavior (not for doing the basics). Try a Summer Fun Box—I LOVE THESE! Get dollar store items up to bigger ticket items that kids can choose from once a week. Those who worked hard, did their chores, and/or were extra milers can choose a bigger ticket item. Let the kids choose fun places to go or events to attend as a family. These are great rewards as you would do them anyway.

Another woman told about how her family did special “theme days” during the week like “Nature Day” for hikes, “Education Day” for something cool and instructive, or “Field Trip” to go somewhere new. Kids can help plan these and learn key life skills as they organize the event, never mind look forward to it.

One last thought: don’t expect kids to necessarily or initially “want” to do chores. Most children haven’t reached that level on the emotional hierarchy (nor adults!) But as they get in a regular routine, they learn to like the feeling of finishing, as well as doing something fun after. They get the work done while increasing their self-confidence. That’s nothing to whine about.

Connie Sokol is the mother of seven, a local and national presenter, and a former TV host, radio host, and columnist for Deseret News. She is the author of Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Motherhood Matters, Life is Too Short for One Hair Color, Life is Too Short for Sensible Shoes, Caribbean Crossroads, and Create a Powerful Life Plan! 3 Simple Steps to Your Ideal Life as well as numerous talk CDs. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time with her family and eating decadent treats.

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