Ask a Therapist: It is so hard to get my child to do chores! What should I do?
Getting your child to complete chores can be very frustrating. Not every child will be compliant and listen to you when you ask them to do chores.
Here are a few tips that can make completing chores easier on you and your child.
1. Build consistency.
Establish a consistent schedule for completing chores. Set an expectation that your child does chores every day. When you build up that consistency and expectation for children, they are less likely to throw fits and have a hard time with it, because they are expecting to do their chores every day. In very rare cases should you allow an exception when your child does not have to do chores. It is best to actually modify a chore instead of telling your child they don’t have to do it at all.
For example, on holidays, such as Christmas, instead of giving them a break and telling them they don’t have to do a chore, it’s better to say, “We’re going to make it a little easier for you today, since it’s Christmas, and instead of doing a big chore, you only have to do a small chore.”
Or, “We are going to work together as a family and clean for only 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes.”
2. Make sure the chore matches the child’s developmental level.
You don’t want to assign a complex chore such as putting dishes away in cabinets to a 4-year-old. You will end up frustrated because your dishes will be everywhere except where they’re supposed to be, and your child will be frustrated because they don’t know how to do the chore.
Small tasks like picking up toys, picking up shoes, cleaning off the stairs, cleaning up their room (on a basic level) are best for younger children. More complex chores such as putting away dishes, vacuuming, dusting, organizing should be reserved for older children who understand where everything goes and can do it more quickly.
3. Teach your child how to do the chore correctly. Don’t assume that they know how to do it.
Frustration occurs when we expect children to know how to do a specific chore and we feel like we have to clean up after them or fix their mistakes.
Each one of us was taught differently how to do certain chores. The way you load the dishwasher may be completely different than how your child loads the dishwasher, so it’s important to teach them how you want the chore to be done. It may take doing the chore with the child for the first little while before they understand exactly what they’re supposed to do.
Frustration will be reduced when you actually spend some time up front with your child teaching them how to do it correctly instead of having to fix mistakes behind them.
4. You can also try to make chores fun.
In order to have more fun with your chores, gather the family together and have them come up with different chores around the home. Chores can be put on some type of chart that they can rotate either daily or weekly. (If a child has a difficult time doing a certain chore, it might be best to rotate once a week so a child has time to actually learn to do that chore.)
You can also write chores on craft sticks and put them in a bucket or a can and have them pick out a chore each day. Color code the craft sticks according to their age level so they’re not picking out something that is too complex for them.
One thing we do in our home that the kids seem to enjoy is we set a timer and we work together as a family for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are over, we stop and the kids can do something fun. Working together builds teamwork, there’s an end in sight when you set a timer, and we crank up the music up and we sing or dance while we’re cleaning up. This is one of the favorite ways our kids like to do chores. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in 10 minutes when you’re all working together and each person is focused on a specific room.
Tips for Older Children, Including Teens
- Implement an allowance system based on completing chores. Let the allowance be a motivator for kids who are starting to buy things on their own. (This helps them learn to budget.) You can start with a just a few dollars a week and shift towards allowing the child to buy more things on their own. Try starting with $3-$5 a week for whatever they want to spend it on.
- In order to get the allowance, the child must complete their chores every day. Use an all or nothing approach. Assign them 2-3 chores a day (plus their room–they’re always responsible for their room), and if they miss a day, they don’t get the allowance at all.
- Let the motivation work by itself. Don’t harp on it, and don’t make kids feel guilty if they haven’t done their chores.
- Write down and display their chores so your expectations are very clear.
- Focus on the positive: “When you do this chore every day, you get this allowance money.” Give it some time. It might take a couple of weeks for kids to understand that it’s something they can earn.
- You might want to start cutting back on some things you would normally buy your child, such as a drink at a gas station. You can instead say, “This is a great opportunity for you to use the money you would earn for chores, so I don’t think I’ll buy you a drink.” Let me them miss out a little and realize it’s important for them to earn money.
- You can give your child options! Give them a list of 5 chores and let them pick 2 they will focus on that week. Each week they can rotate and pick another chore. You’re giving them options, and then they feel like can have a choice.
Customized Chore Charts
You can find plenty of free chore charts on Pinterest. (By the way, you can follow us on Pinterest for all kinds of mental health and parenting articles.) Here’s another great resource: go to Canva.com and type in “chore chart” in the “Search templates” field in the upper right. You’ll find many results for stylish chore charts you can easily customize by changing the text or colors and images. Most are free.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have questions or are struggling with your child’s behavior or defiance, please contact us at 801-855-7999. We’re here to help.
Jeff Bright, LCSW, BCN