Chores teach children respect and responsibility. They are an important part of raising children that are doers and that will become successful adults. But getting kids to do chores and building consistent chore routines can be really difficult.
There are a number of studies out there that have concluded that children that are given regular chores will be more successful in life. In one study from the University of Minnesota, researchers “…determined that the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four”.
Our job, and our hope, as parents is to raise kind and capable children. And one really important way we can do that is to create consistent and clear expectations for our children when it comes to their responsibilities at home.
I’m here to tell you I totally failed at this.
At around 5 years old, I started noticing that my son was fighting doing chores AND expecting me to do the clean up. He did not see it as his job nor did he feel responsible for pitching in.
I fully realize that I am completely to blame. I will admit that my OCD took over and that I prefered to do the chores myself so they would get done “right”. It was just easier and faster to do the chores myself.
Before you totally judge me, know that from a young age I had him “help”. He liked wiping baseboards down and spraying and wiping the kitchen cabinets. But he only helped when he felt like it. And I didn’t force it. As he got older, he felt like helping less and less.
I failed at creating a consistent chore routine for him and holding him responsible for certain tasks and it started to show.
When I realized the path we were headed down (think Will Farrell in Wedding Crashers “MA! The MEATLOAF”) I had an “Aww hell no” moment and realized I needed to make a change. And I did.
It was hard at first.
There were battles.
There were tears.
But friends, it has paid off.
Now, at 8 years old, I have a child that consistently helps around the house and doesn’t complain about it (mostly).
These are the changes I made that have proved to be successful in getting both kids to do their chores. After implementing these strategies, I noticed over time that the battles became few and far between and there were times when I didn’t even need to ask for certain chores to be done *gasp*.
5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Chores Without Bribes
1. Set a Cleaning Routine
By building a cleaning routine, your children will know when certain chores are expected to be done.
For example, Sunday afternoons are our big cleaning day around here. The kids know that I vacuum the whole house and that everything on their bedroom floor need to be picked up. Each week, I get fewer and fewer “whhhhyyyyy” and “can we do it later”s.
This also applies to daily tasks. Everybody knows to clear their plates after dinner, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, and pick up their toys in the family room. These things are part of our daily routine.
Do they still complain? Sometimes. Do they forget? Sometimes. But the more we do it, the fewer complaints I hear and the less they forget.
Don’t have a cleaning routine? Check out The Easiest Cleaning Schedule For Your Busy Life for tips on creating a cleaning schedule.
2. Work as a Team
This is a huge one. Mess is overwhelming. How many times have you looked at a mess and thought “I have no idea where to start”.
It’s the same for kids! I will often work with them when the playroom has gotten completely out of hand. The key here is that they do their fair share. I will stop cleaning if they stop cleaning and explain to them they have to keep going.
One of the important lessons learned through chores is that everybody contributes and that the family is a team. Working alongside your child strengthens that lesson.
Related: 5 Best TED Talks For Moms
3. Make Sure You Choose Age Appropriate Chores
Don’t expect your 2 year old to be able to vacuum. On the other hand, you can expect your 5 year old to make the bed.
The chores your child does should be work but not completely impossible for your child to complete.
Even if the chore is age appropriate, chances are you will have to teach your child the chore and they will not complete it perfectly. Do not get frustrated or angry with your child. Help them to learn the chore well and provide lots of positive reinforcement.
Need help with finding age appropriate chores? Here is a list of age appropriate chores.
4. Timed Chores
This is another effective way to get your kids to complete their chores quickly. Making a game out of it makes it fun and gets the chore over with quickly.
For example, I often give them a short amount of time (no more than 15 minutes) and see how much of the chore can get done. The excitement of a race is a great motivator!
5. Be Specific
Sometimes, children don’t do the chores or complain because they are really unsure of what your expectations are. Saying “clean your room” is really broad and a child may have trouble figuring out the right way to accomplish this.
My son needs me to be very specific in what needs to get done. I can’t just say clean your room. I need to say “Pick up the legos. Then make your bed.” Once he is done with those tasks he can come back for more.
The older he gets and the more he builds the habit of doing chores, the less I need to do this.
Friends, I know that life is hectic and chores slip to the wayside when life happens. But do yourself and your kids a favor: set clear expectations as to which chores they are responsible for and be consistent.
You mat feel like a total nag sometimes, but you and your children will reap the rewards from your efforts when they grow into awesome adults (that will come and clean your house when you’re old.)
14 thoughts on “5 Ways To Get Your Kids to Do Chores Without Bribes”
I’ve been struggling with this. I feel like I’m a broken record when it comes to chores… “make your bed”, “clear the table”, etc, etc. I have a chores sheet up on the fridge but throughout summer things have been hard to keep up with vacations, etc. Now that we’re back in the routine I need to get my son more motivated to help out. I like the idea of timing chores. I actually do this for myself and move fast. I also like the idea of getting everyone to do the big clean together. Great tips!
Yolanda I am totally with you! In the summer all the routines sort of slide around here too. I still have to do my share of reminding and giving direction, especially to my youngest, but I’ve seen so much improvement since we started really being consistent with the chores. I hope you guys find your groove again after summer!
Absolutely love all these tips! I have the same issue with wanting to do everything myself because it’s quicker and sometimes, easier. I am going to incorporate these ideas with my little ones now and as they grow older because they are simple and effective! Thank you so much for posting these and for reminding me that the effort of teaching them various tasks is completely worth it!
Starting early is key. I see such a difference between my oldest and youngest and while part of this is due to their different personalities some of it is that I started being more consistent when she was younger. I’m so glad you found this useful!
The timing tip really helps my children too! A gamechanger for us was a simple cleaning list with pictures that helped set expectations of what it means to make a specific room clean. I need to set up a good cleaning routine like you suggested for our new house!
Maegan, I love the idea of the cleaning list with pictures. Moving into a new house is a great time to start fresh 🙂
# 2 is a must I agree with you and love the GIF.
I love tackling chores as “teamwork” around here. I try to make it a game, too. 😉
Yes! It’s a great idea to keep the chores fun!
I love this post! I quickly learned to get over it and accept that they will do it their way. I can always go back and re-do but its more important that they learn to help out. A chore chart has helped for us- and bribes!
It’s so true Angelica. I have found that chore charts and bribes work for short periods of time but the excitement wears off for my kids pretty quickly. I’m so glad you guys have found what works for you 🙂
This is wonderful! The insight about timing chores is something I haven’t tried yet (but will this week!) Thanks for your thoughtful posts.
Hi Julie, I’m glad you find that tip useful! It’s one of my go to strategies for getting my kids to complete their chores with as little fuss as possible. ?