The chore chart: such a well-intentioned grid. Hanging on the fridge, it tries to keep your kids informed of what chores they must do, it really does. But sometimes your daughter misses Table Setting Tuesday to eat dinner at a friend’s house. Sometimes your son has WAY too much homework to fold laundry. And so the chore chart sits unheeded, like a calendar stuck on last month. A few days pass, then a week, and soon the chart is forgotten. If you’ve made chore charts nobody seems to pay attention to, it’s time for a new approach. Check out these tips to get your kids to do their chores – complaint free!
Start your kids on chores from a very early age. It’s not unreasonable for a 2-year-old to be able to pick up their toys and put dirty clothes in a hamper. And young kids, unlike some older ones, actually like to help out. Harness this eagerness by assigning tasks whenever you can, but be sure to keep your expectations low. The idea with young kids is to get them to enjoy doing chores, not necessarily to complete chores efficiently. Even if you have to completely redo your 4-year-old’s laundry folding attempt, if you let them do it from an early age, they’ll be more likely to think it’s fun and keep doing it once they can do it properly.
Whatever you do, don’t step in and take over completely. You wouldn’t take over your child’s homework assignment if they were doing it wrong, would you? Chores can be an opportunity to teach your child a necessary, if not exactly thrilling, life skill, so you should try to instruct rather than correct. Teaching kids how to do chores is just like teaching anything else: it takes patience, but eventually you’ll be rewarded – in this case, rewarded with not having to do a chore yourself anymore!
Chores are not fun, so how do you inspire kids to do them? The most reasonable and pleasant approach is to let kids choose which chores they want to do from a set list. Start by tallying a huge list of chores – aim for 30 or 40 – and narrow down to find the ones your kids are most capable of doing. Then, write the chores up on note cards. Be specific with the way you write them: “empty desk trash, pick up clothes, and sweep under bed” is a much more actionable item than “clean room.” When you give kids a choice between specific tasks, they’ll have a lot less reason to complain.
Even if they have a choice, chores can be a lonely business: sometimes a trip to rake leaves in the backyard can feel like an exile. So, whenever possible, try to establish times to do chores as a family. This can be an opportunity to show young kids how to do certain chores, but it’s also a chance to demonstrate how much effort everyone – yourself included – must put in to keep things tidy. And everyone can have a lot more fun doing chores together. Pick certain songs to put on, or play a word-game that you can shout above vacuum noise. Chore time will be over in no time!