If you’ve ever struggled to get your kids to do their chores, this post is for you!
I thought that having kids meant that I could delegate the housework to them. That’s how I grew up!! I was essentially free manual labour to my parents. My siblings and I have done just about everything.
We’ve worked in my dad’s sandwich business for a couples hours in the morning before going to school. Answered the phone in my mother’s beauty clinic after school. Scrubbed the bird droppings off the aviary floor with sponges strapped to our feet (it’s as gross as it sounds!) And even scrubbed the house from top to bottom.
We never got paid. Never got an allowance. Allowance? My dad is Caribbean! I totally relate to this scene from Everybody Hates Chris:
Ummm…. I soon realised it wasn’t genetic!
I discovered that if I’m not pitching in with housework myself, my kids won’t be motivated to do cleaning of any sort! At least when they are quite young.
My oldest daughter, who is now ten, can be assigned a job and left to complete it to a high standard all by herself. This is not the case with my six-year-old.
And so I think the shift occurs somewhere between the ages of eight and ten. Depending on the diligence and trustworthiness of your kid of course.
That being said, my six-year-old can be very motivated to do her chores. Here’s how.
Get your kids to do their chores by working with them
When your kids are young, they won’t know how to clean anything. In fact, the only thing they probably know instinctively is how to make a mess!
If you want your kids to do their chores independently (which is parent heaven!), you’ve got to show them how to do it yourself. This is teaching through our own example. For more on this, read my post entitled 10 Things Clever Mums Know About Raising Awesome Kids.
This essentially means spending quite a bit of time cleaning alongside your kid. When it’s time to tidy up, make sure that you all tidy up together. No one is sitting with their feet up watching everyone else. Get everyone moving.
This is important because our kids have an innate sense of justice.
That whiny ‘it’s not fair!’ moan that grates my ears is due in part to our kid’s natural desire for justice and balance. When someone’s not pulling their weight, it makes the burden seem unbearable to a kid.
Until your kid can go off and clean by themselves (probably between the ages of eight and ten), you’ll need to be cleaning alongside them.
Actions speak louder
I have to say, this is the hardest part of training our kids. Just because we are essentially training them with our own actions and attitudes.
If you huff and puff whilst you clean, guess who’s gonna do that too! If you cut corners and skip over jobs, guess who’ll be putting in little effort themselves!
For this reason alone, I think that this stage of training our kids to do their chores is the hardest step.
But there’s something that can help!
Motivate them with a drill sergeant!
In fact, I love this app so much that I’ve been in contact with the developers who are now working on expanding the app to include a bedtime routine! I’m so excited!!
I’ve spent some money on morning routine apps in the past, but the Happy Kids Timer app is by far the best I’ve used.
First off, you can get it FOR FREE (get it here)! Secondly, it’s just better designed for the end user – kids!
The reason I mention it in this post is that my kids do their chores in the morning. And if your kids like any amount of screen time, you’ll find this app to be a God-send.
Using this app I’ve found that my kids are very eager to get started with their morning routine. This means that I don’t need to keep reminding them of what they should be doing in the morning. My very own “drill sergeant”, the Happy Kids Timer app does that for me!
More delight than drill!
I call it a drill sergeant here, but honestly, to my kids, it’s more like a game.
When my kids open the app and press “start activity”, the app begins with the first item in their morning routine and gives them a certain amount of time to complete that activity.
If they manage to finish the activity in time, they get stars (who doesn’t love stars?).
I can set the time limit for each activity they do and even ensure that they spend a minimum amount of time on an activity so that they can’t move forward until that amount of time has elapsed.
This is useful for example when they have to brush their teeth or do their chores!
When they’ve earned a certain amount of stars (again set by the parent), they get a reward.
You can make this reward for anything you want. And the reward page on the app also lets you print out a certificate (which my kids do every time!).
They can fix their eyes on the big reward
The Happy Kids Timer app, therefore, keeps my kids moving through the morning and prevents them from getting distracted. That’s because they want to get through all the activities and build up their stars so that they can receive their reward at the end.
For my kids, it takes them about a week to build up enough stars to get their reward. So I know about once a week they will be getting a little incentive for all their hard work.
The result? A smoother morning routine, kids who are eager to get their chores done because it’s part of their morning “game” and a more calm and relaxed mummy who’s not screaming at her kids to hurry up!
I can’t tell you how eager I am for the bedtime routine to be available. My kids are master procrastinators when it comes to bedtime!
Bribe your kids to do their chores
As helpful as the Happy Kids Timer app is at getting my kids moving in the morning, I’ve found that it is helped a lot by the fact that they get a reward when they’ve earned a certain number of stars.
This is essentially a bribe. And bribes can be great motivators.
Yes, my kids like to get stars for their efforts. But knowing that a bigger, more tangible reward is awaiting them is hugely motivating.
It’s got to be ‘for real for real’
The key thing here is that it’s tangible. You see, stars aren’t tangible. Not really. They are a great reinforcement of good work, like a pat on the back.
But a tangible reward, like a sweet, a book or even some cold hard cash which can be physically held or experienced has a different effect on a kid.
And so, a real tangible reward is more motivating than an abstract pat on the back (as pleasant as they are).If you’ve been finding it difficult to motivate your kids to do their chores, try introducing a small, but tangible reward.Click To Tweet
Make sure you can keep it up
Do bear in mind that you will need to be able to maintain the supply of this reward, so it’s best not to make it too big. If the reward is small like a sweet or a small amount of change, you can keep providing it over the long term.
If it’s a wad of cash or an expensive piece of tech, you’ll find that it can become difficult to maintain. And reducing a reward is tremendously de-motivating.
How would you feel if you got a pay cut in your job but still had to do the same amount of work? See what I mean?
Know what they’d like
Choose something that they’d like to receive which is tangible, but small enough for you to keep supplying over a long time.
It could be a Kinder surprise egg or going out for an ice-cream. A sticker pack, or collectable eraser or your kid’s favourite magazine.
I’ve found that cash is highly motivating for my older kid because she’s saving up to buy a game. My six-year-old, on the other hand, has no interest in money whatsoever. And a small chocolate or a pack of stickers is good enough motivation for her.
Although expecting excellence won’t necessarily get your kids to do their chores, I had to mention it here because I think it’s crucial.
I tell my kids that I only reward them for jobs properly done. A badly executed job is no good to me and sends the message to my kid that shoddy work is acceptable.
You see, I think that chores can shape the character of our kids as adults. And that building a good work ethic begins at home.
It’s the long game that matters
If you expect excellence from chores when your kids are young, when they get old enough to do their chores independently they will do them to a decent standard. And this, in turn, means that you won’t have to worry about going over their work again yourself. When it’s done by them, it’s done.
This will really save you extra time in the long run. And it means that you can delegate chores to your kids and know that they will be done properly.
Can you say “free labour”? Lol!
Most importantly, though, you’re giving your kid life skills that they will take into the world as adults. Domestics life skills and a great work ethic which will make them highly employable and more likely to be high achievers.
If they expect excellence from themselves, they will strive for excellence in the other areas of their life. Win-win.
If you promise a reward of some kind, it’s absolutely essential that you make good on your word.
Not only will you be reinforcing hardworking diligent behaviour, but you’re establishing the fact that you mean what you say and that their hard work will pay off. That’s a life lesson right there.
I love the wisdom in the Bible. And there’s a proverb which says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. What that means is that a hope or a promise that is delayed or not realised can really make the person who is hoping for it feel disappointed and even depressed. And it can even break down trust between people.
I’m sure you know how it feels when a promise is broken. That why it’s so important to follow through with any rewards you’ve promised.
Prepare your rewards in advance so that they’re already sitting and waiting to be handed out at the appropriate time. Even let them see it in advance if you want to really motivate them into action!
Your kids will be so thrilled that they received it and they will be eager to keep doing their chores because they know (they’re no longer hoping or crossing their fingers) that you will give them that reward in the future.
So there you have it. Some great tips on how to get your kids to do their chores.
- Work alongside them
- Motivate them with the Happy Kids Timer app (it’s free!)
- Add a small reward of your choice
- Expect excellence
- Make sure you fulfil your reward promises
Are there any other techniques that you’ve used to get your kids to do their chores? Any stories from your childhood about being a cleaning slave? If so, I’d love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments!