Three ways to get your kids to do their chores

Research shows time and again that giving kids responsibility makes them more empowered and self-sufficient. But when adding one more thing to your to-do list seems like more of a hassle than a help, how on earth are you supposed to get it done?


Sometimes it can seem like kids are actively trying to make your life harder – they take 10 minutes to put on their shoes, they spill their cereal before they’ve even taken a bite, they routinely wake before the clock has struck six. So the idea of getting them to try to help you around the house? It can seem kind of crazy.

And yet studies show again and again that giving kids chores actually works. Not only do you get a small helping hand in the house (literally and figuratively), your kid will learn to be independent, self-sufficient and more understanding of the work that goes into running a house. Not only that, but kids who do chores regularly have higher self-esteem, are more responsible and are better able to cope with frustration and to delay their gratification. Chores can even set a kid up for success as a young adult: anthropologist Marty Rossman studied 25 years of data on 84 children and found that the kids who were given chores from the age of three were more likely to have stronger relationships with family and friends and achieve academic and early career successes than those who weren’t.

So how do you get your kid to help with the washing up, when he can barely strap the Velcro on his sneakers? First, start small. It’s not so much about the size of the task as it is the responsibility. Choose something age and developmentally appropriate – a three-year-old won’t be able to sort the laundry, but she can set out napkins for dinner and put away her toys and books. As your kids get older, adjust their tasks to match their development.

Second, change your own attitude. If you think of chores as boring and laborious, chances are that’s what your children will think, too. Instead, frame chores as jobs that need to be done to ensure the smooth running of the household (and that, when the home is run smoothly, there’s more time for fun and play). Chores should be a part of everyday family life.

Third, be consistent. Chores don’t have to be long, but they do have to happen regularly. If your child has started school, it might be his responsibility to unpack his lunchbox every day, and put it in the dishwasher. Setting consistent, regular tasks sets up the idea that chores are an everyday occurrence that everyone needs to help out with.

And while some experts are torn over the idea of linking chores with an allowance, you could set up a different kind of reward system – for example, doing chores consistently could result in privileges like a trip to the store for ice cream, extra screen time or a play date with a friend.

We love this Kid Can Chore System, which documents chores completed and helps keep track of what your child is supposed to be doing (and also helps you be consistent with setting chores!).

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Good luck!