A young mom friend of mine recently called me to ask some advice. With three young children, my friend was frustrated with trying to get her kids to do chores around the house.
“I have tried everything,” she lamented. “They just won’t do their chores consistently.”
Oh, how I remember those days. As parents, we know our children should help out around the house — after all, it is “everybody’s” home.
Children benefit so much from doing chores and getting that sense of accomplishment from doing various tasks.
Can a child make their bed like you do? No. Can a child clean the bathroom as well as you do? Of course not. But still, there is value in letting them do these chores — even if you have to come behind them the next day and do the job “properly.”
So, how do you get children to do chores and how do you keep the momentum going?
First and foremost, make sure your expectations are age appropriate. For example, a 5-year old can pick up toys, but won’t be very good at cleaning a bathroom.
Do you remember the “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” books? Oh, how I loved those books when I was a child. I also loved reading them to our children when they were young.
If you are not familiar with the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, or you have forgotten, the stories written by Betty MacDonald was originally published in 1947.
The main character, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was a small, older woman, who lived alone in an upside-down house. She was always dispensing advice to frustrated parents who had children with bad habits. One of my favorite stories was the one about Hubert Prentiss and the “Won’t-Pick-Up-Toys-Cure.”
The little boy was lucky enough to have lots and lots of toys, but he would not pick up after himself. His mother appealed to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and she advised Hubert’s mother to let Hubert not pick up his toys at all.
Eventually, Hubert’s room was so messy, he was trapped in there. Things got so bad that Hubert’s mother had to give him his dinner via a garden rake through his bedroom window and let him have water from the garden hose.
The “cure” happened when Hubert saw Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was having a parade down the street with all of the other children, and Hubert wanted to go — Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle yelled to Hubert, “Hurry up and pick up your toys so you can come along!” Needless to say, Hubert quickly cleaned up his room and was never a slob again.
A 10-year old can help make dinner, but certainly cannot use a sharp knife to cut up vegetables. So, when deciding on tasks/chores, pay attention to the age of the child and the tasks you are assigning.
Make a list of what chores you want each of your children to do. For little ones, picking up their toys, making their bed, helping pack school lunches, and setting the table are all good beginning chores.
For older children, adding things to the list such as vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom (use non-toxic cleaners), loading the dishwasher, dusting, washing the car, and assisting with other chores. When it comes to teenagers, much more can be expected, but of course, teens are in a category of their own!
As far as rewards are concerned, I think an allowance is a great idea. That being said, you can make a chart for weekly chores with a set amount for an allowance, and then add extra chores for extra money.
All of that being said, did we have it all figured out when it came to our children doing their chores? Of course not.
As with everything involved with parenting, everything is a work in progress. I tried lots of different things — charts, sticker rewards, and even bribery. The main advice I have is this: teaching your children that doing your part around the house is important and worth your efforts.
There is much to be gained for children learning the value in doing work and reaping the rewards of said work — whether it is monetary or just the self-esteem gained by doing so.
Adlen Robinson is an award winning columnist and author of “Organic Food and Kitchen Matters.” You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.