Learn how to get kids to do chores. Let’s make that chore chart more than just another wasted piece of paper!
As you walk through the kitchen to do the dishes, you notice the chore chart stuck to the refrigerator.
It’s giving you the stink eye again.
Because here you are, once more, doing a job you should probably have given to one of the kids instead.
You’re just glad your mom can’t see you right now. She’d be going on and on about how “the kids made the mess, and they can clean it up.”
“Kids have plenty of time to play on their phones, but no time for chores.”
Great points, sure, but they don’t help you to get the kids to actually follow through on the work…do they?
Maybe a chore chart would help. (Scroll down for our chore chart for teens!)
But what you really need is the follow through.
They don’t have to do it while they sing a song in three part harmony. (Even though those old cartoons made chore time look so much more fun in chorus.)
Nah. You just want it done.
Instead of preaching to you about why kids should be helping, let this mom of 6 show you how to get kids to do chores.
How To Get Kids To Do Chores
Get Ahead Of It
Let’s face it. If your house is overwhelming to you, there’s no way the kids are going to be able to tackle it.
Cleaning and organizing has never come easily to me. When my fifth child was born, our house was an absolute disaster.
But I had no idea where to start.
I would get frustrated when my kids didn’t do their chores at the time. But heck, if I was overwhelmed, how were those guys feeling??
Finally I figured out that I had to get my things in order before I could realistically ask my kids to pitch in.
Have the Right Tools
Nobody likes cleaning.
(Ok, I do know a couple of people who seem to like it. But they don’t live here.)
And just because cleaning is a fact of life, doesn’t mean it has to be miserable.
So when it’s chore time, remind the kids to turn on their favorite tunes while they work.
And have good tools to use. (They don’t have to be expensive!)
Our house is full of hardwood, so a good broom (or 3) is a must. This one is my favorite.
For some reason, all of my kids are far more willing to clean a floor without complaint if I let them use a Swiffer. In fact, one of mine used it like a hockey stick, which was a total win/win if you ask me.
Amazon has a pretty good price on Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. I love these for cleaning so many things.
And they aren’t full of chemicals, so I don’t mind giving them even to my youngsters.
My 4 year old gets a big kick out of wiping doorknobs with a Magic Eraser!
Don’t Ask Permission
The first step is to make sure you aren’t asking the kids if they would like to do chores.
This is an old lesson they taught all the incoming teachers back in college.
Never ask, “Can you…”
(Can you take out the trash? Can you do the dishes?)
And will you… is even worse.
The problem with “can you” and “will you” is that you’re basically giving them permission to disobey.
“Will you take out the trash?” is like saying “Golly gee, I sure hope you find this more interesting than playing video games!”
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not telling you to be rude.
(Even though sometimes I’m convinced my kids’ first language is “Rude” with English a trailing second place.)
Instead, try this:
“Hey William, I need you to take out the trash for me, please. Thank you!”
See how this is polite but leaves no room for a no?
And always be crystal clear about what you need them to do. My kids get annoyed that I explain too much, but I can’t help but notice that they won’t do it if I am not specific.
“Please empty the dishwasher. Make sure the dishes are dry and put anything that is still dirty into the sink. Let me know when you’re done. Thanks!”
There’s no rule that says you have to be fair all the time.
No law tells you what time everyone should be doing chores.
It’s perfectly fine to notice that the living room is full of clutter, call everyone into the room, and ask them each to pick up 20 things.
(No matter who made the original mess. We do a job because it needs to be done. Not because life is fair.)
Don’t worry. You’ll notice if one kid is gaming the system.
If the same child makes the mess in the living room regularly, the living room can become her territory…ask her to clean it a couple of times each day.
Or once a day if that’s more your style.
I actually do try to call for the youngest child capable of doing the job at hand. But if that’s too much mental effort for the day, I don’t sweat it.
Ask the first person that runs into the room to unload the dishwasher.
Or the child who complained last time.
And that kid that always needs a ride somewhere? Yeah, he can definitely do some dishes!
Play To Their Strengths
We have a son who is great at making sweet tea. That’s become his job.
It’s a source of pride for him that we all love his tea the most.
And other kids get jobs that play off of their strengths naturally, too.
Everyone Pick a Room
This one works perfectly for larger families, but you can make it work with any size family.
Our family living space consists of a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and a small computer area.
That makes 5 rooms.
And what do you know, but we have 5 kids who are capable of managing a broom or vacuum cleaner!
So when I say “everyone pick a room”, the kids go to the room that matches their abilities best. And they clean it.
If there’s a fight over a particular room, I ask them to settle it. Because the price I charge for settling fights is that the fighters clean all of the living space together.
Call it bribery if you like, but there’s nothing wrong with adding a nice incentive to chores.
Screen time is a rarity in our home. Sometimes I’ll let the kids clean up to earn some screen time.
Or I’ll tell them that I have marshmallows to roast for anyone who helps clean up the back yard.
It’s important to let them know that the marshmallows are optional…but the cleaning is not. 😉
(I’ve got a couple of kids who would give up the treats so they don’t have to do the work…smart kids, but not as smart as mom. bwahaha)
Follow A Schedule
Sure, you can be totally random with some chores, but still follow a schedule for others.
Especially if you choose chores that need to be completed for something else to happen.
Think about dinner time. You need:
- a meal cooked
- the table set
- the table cleared
- dishes done
If you have 4 kids, that’s 4 chores you can assign that automatically happen at meal time.
Or 2 kids can do 2 chores each!
Again, don’t stress too much about making it fair. If you have 3 kids, someone has to do 2 chores this time. Oh well.
If you’re in a panic thinking “My 7 year old can’t cook supper!”, let me tell you that he can.
You’re going to have to jump in and teach him the first couple of times. And you’ll need to be close by to supervise several times after that.
But I bet you’ll be surprised at how quickly he figures it out and wants to do it on his own!
Kids older than 1 can certainly at least help with these chores!
Let’s say you notice that there is a serious lack of towels in your home.
They’re not in the bathroom…but also not in any laundry baskets.
Really, they just about have to be hidden in the kids bedrooms.
So, you let them know that it’s snack time. And you have a snack for anyone who can bring you a dirty towel.
If all of the towels are in one child’s room? They can each go grab one from there.
Remember that it’s not your job to teach the kids that life is fair…because it isn’t.
Besides, grabbing a towel is almost no effort. And that’s the point…
…you shouldn’t have to do 200 small extra tasks all day when the kids can do it so easily themselves.
Plus it will remind your young hoarder that they’ll get more privacy if they clean up after themselves. 😉
- Charge missing ice packs to sit down at the dinner table (give them plenty of time to search rooms while you cook the meal).
- Dirty cups to get in the shower (only works if they like showers).
- Lost spoons for a bowl of ice cream.
Obviously you won’t do this every time there’s something fun coming up.
But if you tie “find this missing thing” to something fun or something that needs to happen any
Consequences For Not Doing Chores
All of these ideas work better if the kids know they’re better off doing the chores…because the consequences are not worth it.
This is the most important part.
The part most parents get wrong.
Sometimes it’s because we feel queasy about making our beloved children feel bad.
But often, it’s because we want the child to suffer the consequences without suffering alongside them.
Believe me, I agree that parents are already tapped out with the amount of stuff we do for our kids.
But this is a step you just can’t skip.
But if you don’t put in the time, faithfully, to make your kids know without a doubt that you’ll push this consequence again and again, they are going to run over you like the Roadrunner leaving track marks on the back of Coyote.
The good news is that if you do this right a few times, you won’t have to do it very often later.
(Necessary disclaimer: If your child is openly defiant on a regular basis, it may be time to discuss this with a doctor. This post is in no way a replacement for deeper therapies some children need.)
Here are some things that work:
Practice Makes Perfect
Let them practice! If they can’t put their shoes in the basket, they probably just don’t know how to do it, right?
So, dump out all the shoes and let them throw them all back into the basket.
Then… dump them out again, and let them practice again.
The trick to this method is to do it enough times that they find it annoying…but don’t make them do it so many times that they are discouraged and frustrated.
We aren’t trying to make them angry.
We’re getting the point across that doing a job correctly the first time is so much easier than the mess it creates when you don’t do the job right.
Hang with them while they do the repetitions and read their behavior.
If they angrily throw the shoes, show them how to calmly put shoes away and ask them to repeat it a few times, calmly.
Always make it clear that you are in this with them. As a teacher, not as a punisher.
If you aren’t willing to make the time to do it right, don’t use this method.
You Got The Job!
If he skipped out of sweeping, he can become the floor sweeper of the home.
You’ll always know who to call when you see a mess on the floor.
This method, again, means that you have to stand over this child and make sure they do the job right.
Let them do this job every day for a week or longer.
Ask them if they are proud of their work, and let the truth of that (Are they working to their ability? Are they complaining?) determine how long you leave them with this job.
The best answer to flat out refusal to work is the buddy system.
No, you aren’t telling them to do the job with a buddy.
YOU are the buddy.
I’ve heard this called “tomato staking”. Keep the child with you and let them learn from you all day long.
If your child won’t do a job by himself, let her do all of your jobs with you.
She’ll notice how much more work you do (whether she says so or not) and that will stick with her.
Sometimes kids act out because they need our attention. This is one way for them to get that attention.
Plus, you can give them pointers on how to do a job better and show them how much work they’ll save in the long run by doing it that way.
Work alongside this child. Let them see your work ethic by example.
The point is not to make them into the family slave, but to let them see, over and over again, the results of chores.
We don’t love to do chores, but look at what you can accomplish when you work hard!
Every time you see that organized closet, you can be proud of it.
Here’s an easier way to do this. Let me show you how doing the job this way makes it easier the next time you have to clean this up.
You’ll be surprised at how your child will open up to you after some time of doing chores together.
You may be able to get to the root of the real problem, and find out why they are being defiant.
Here’s Your Free Teen Chore List
Click the photo to print. Free for your own personal use!
That’s how you get kids to do chores!
It’s not the easiest thing to do as a parent, but if you put in the time at a younger age, you’ll reap rewards for years to come.
And that chore chart might become more than another thing that flies off the fridge every time a child runs through the kitchen.
Want more helpful tips? For more ideas that will save you from pulling your hair out, sign up here!