My older sister and I learned to do dishes at ages five and seven, respectively. Even from the early days, resentment of chores burned in my heart. Not only was I now an indentured servant of my parents after dinner, but my older sister got to live two whole years longer than I before she had to do dishes! Every night became a game of who could do the easier part of loading dishes into the dishwasher after manipulating the other into scrubbing the dirty dishes. My siblings all mastered the delay tactic: “You can get started; I need to go to the bathroom.” And I’m sure our bickering drove our mother up the wall.
But there’s no need for chore drama or for it to feel like drudgery. If you struggle with how to get kids to do chores and see the bigger picture that taking responsibility is good, you’re not alone. Here are 5 ways not only to get kids to do the chores, but to get them done cheerfully.
1. Part of Your World
Now that you’re singing a favorite song from The Little Mermaid, here’s an idea: Going anywhere? To the family room? The kitchen? To the bathroom? Your toddler wants to be there. Why not turn his or her attachment into a force for productivity? Let your child take a turn with the vacuum, sweep, dust, or wash windows. If using a dust cloth doesn’t appeal to your children immediately, pretend that the task is off-limits (“only Mommy gets to dust”) and you’ll have their undivided fascination.
My siblings and I loved the “100-second cleanup.” Gone was the bickering about who would wash or dry. Everyone pitched in and we tried each time to break our record. We counted down aloud together starting at 100, and if the last few seconds had to be drawn out to minutes, no one kept score (“teeeeeeeeeen, niiiiiiiiiiine,” etc.). Mom may need to check for quality control afterward to ensure speed doesn’t sacrifice quality.
Create a weekly reward, such as going out for ice cream together. If chores are completed on time, to mom and dad’s satisfaction, everyone gets to enjoy a treat or outing. This creates an incentive for each child to take individual responsibility, be proactive, and be a good team player. No one wants to be the reason the whole family misses out! Make sure the goal you set contributes to your family’s larger vision, fits your budget, and carries enough motivation.
4. The Contract
As a child, I received a monthly allowance equivalent to my age (such as $6 when I was six years old). My parents communicated clearly that this was a contract. When I did my chores as expected, I received my allowance. Failure to complete my chores resulted in decreases in the allowance, as agreed in advance. The contract helped me learn personal responsibility for how I spent my time. It took the emotion, bugging, and threats out of chores for my parents: I received what I had earned in fairness and accepted the consequences if I didn’t. Be sure to set clear expectations for what each chore entails and when it needs to be completed. Follow-through is key and requires your attention.
5. Playlist Party
Surprise your kids with a custom-designed list of their favorite songs to listen to while they do chores. Combining something enjoyable with something practical can show your kids how to bring fun into obligations. Chore time will become a dance party when you bust a move or sing along.
Combining something enjoyable with something practical can show your kids how to bring fun into obligations.
What chores did you most dislike as a child? Do you have any strategies for making chores more enjoyable?