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Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores!

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I just love all those helpful tips in all those best-selling books written by all those well-meaning experts on how to raise all our flawless children ... (hang on ... I'm looking for the emoticon that conveys sarcasm ...).

kids doing chores

Beth Falkenstein: One of my favorite suggestions (insert sarcastic emoticon) is the concept of a Chore Chart. You know, the grid that lists all the household duties each child is responsible for, with a space next to each where you can put a gold star or a smiley face sticker when your child has completed his/her task. What those experts don't tell you is that maintaining that damn chart is just about as much work as doing the chores yourself.

Another problem is that my kids don't seem able (or willing) to remember what's on the chart (and frankly, neither am I -- but that's another issue). Those experts have seriously overestimated the appeal of gold stars as a motivational tool. Gold stars have zero street cred in middle school. I've tried substituting cash, and even gone the way of using punishment instead of rewards, but the hand washing remains piled high and the hamster cage remains uncleaned.

So I have to pester them to get the jobs done -- which often takes longer and uses more energy than if I did the chore myself. Then, when they do manage to accomplish one of their chores, it's usually done in such a slipshod manner that I wish I had done it myself. I'd say this was a clever ploy on their part, but I've seen their report cards.

That's why lately I have taken to a new method of getting my kids to help around the house: real-time responsibilities. That is to say, instead of assigning duties with some arbitrary future deadline, I tell them what I want done ... now! This eliminates a whole lot of hassle, and actually ends up getting me more bang for my smiley face bucks.

For example, while I'm making dinner, I might ask -- a euphemism for "order" -- them to set the table. Or when I hear the garbage truck, I might "ask" them to take out the recycling. Or when I'm sitting on my butt doing my morning sudoku, I might "ask" one of them to reheat my coffee.

I admit it's a bit like having a servant, only cheaper. And at least things are finally getting done around the house. Besides, my kids are loving being so productive (insert sarcastic emoticon).

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley November 18, 2009, 8:17 AM

Every Saturday morning, I make a lengthy chore list and tell my 7th grader to pick five off the list. Giving her this control helps a lot. She typically picks the easier chores, but I don’t care. At least she does something for our home, and I don’t have to hear her complain. She picked the chores, so it makes her feel better. This may not work for everyone, but it sure has worked out for us when my daughter is at a very surly age (12).

Heather E. Sedlock November 18, 2009, 12:09 PM

As a mom of special needs kids, and all, I know chore charts can be hard to maintain in a busy lifestyle (or lazy one, such as myself).

No need for the chart. You want something done? Tell the child to do it. She refuses? Simple. Have her sit at the table, no tv, no electronics, nothing until she complies, and then she gets TWO chores to do immediately to prove she’s willing to listen to you. Next time you tell her to do something, she’ll be more likely to do it if she knows she’ll have to do anyway and will get extra if she stalls. :)

Kyle Bailey November 18, 2009, 1:42 PM

The problem I see, from a Dad’s perspective, is that “do it now” does not teach respect. Assuming or expecting them to drop whatever they are doing to exact an ‘order’ because a parent expects it only shows them that demanding is the way things work.

I try and use the prodding method which reminds them of the thing(s) that are still outstanding on their list. When this gets no response then the ‘order’ comes to bear.

I go to great lengths to show them what the expectations are for a proper job. If this is not then achieved there are consequences.

Kids are not perfect and I’m not either but this way all are respected and expectations are all known.

Just the $.02 from a Dad.

kate December 7, 2009, 8:01 AM

I’m totally with Beth on this one, but I have 3 teenagers. They’re like toddlers, only bigger. Seriously. It may be easy to be charty and consistent with one kid, but three teenagers? I don’t have time for that. I can’t constantly be checking on them. At least if I (respectfully) tell them that I really need help with something, they will (usually) listen and care and sometimes even help at this age. Or, if I tell them “no gas money until you clean your room.” Well, that sometimes works too. But charts and stars? hahahaha

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