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Well-intentioned parents everywhere often set out to make a family chore schedule only to have it peter out over a week or two. Let’s face it. As parents, our plates are already so full; it can be challenging to add the extra task of supervising our children’s chores on top of that.

We know the benefits of having our children participate in chores around the house, not least of which include teaching our children to have a good work ethic. However, it’s also important to follow through once those chores are set. The more times you start and stop, the less seriously your children will take chores the next time you get “a bee in your bonnet” about a family chore list. So once the chores are set, it’s wise to have a plan for ensuring the chores are regularly completed.

Tips for Getting Your Children to Do Their Chores

As always, one of the best ways to teach children to follow through on their assigned chores is to be a good example. However, if your child has been watching you take care of your home for years, they won’t necessarily connect your contribution to the household to the chores they’ve been assigned. In most cases, it takes more than a good example to follow through with a family chore list. Here are some ideas to help:

1. Set a Schedule

Set a schedule for everyone in the family to do certain chores at the same time and try to never deviate. Sometimes things will come up, but ensure that is the exception, not the rule. Again, making sure the chores are realistically achievable and age-appropriate can help you follow through with helping the family to complete their chores each day.

2. Teach Your Child to Do the Chore

When you first introduce chores to your children, make sure you patiently help them through it the first several times so they can feel comfortable completing the chore on their own. Even though it can take (much) longer to teach them how to do the chore than do it yourself, remember, your goal is a long-game one: you’re teaching them to be able to complete this task well into the future and to build their lifelong work ethic.

Be patient as you’re teaching your child. Remember, even if your child has watched you put away dishes 100 times, they won’t know where the mixing bowls until you show them the first few times. If your child can sense your frustration, they’ll get frustrated too and develop a negative association with the chore. The younger the child, the more times you should expect to help them with the chore until they’re confident and competent enough to do it on their own. Even after your child is able to do it on their own, make sure you’re available to help answer questions if they forget where something goes.

3. Write a Checklist for Your Child

For multi-step chores, a checklist can help ensure the chore is done well and to completion. For readers, this can be as simple as a laminated sheet with each step written down. For pre or early-readers, draw a checklist using pictures instead. For instance, if the chore is for the child to clean his or her room, you may add the following steps using words or pictures:

  1. Make bed (picture of bed)
  2. Put clothes in laundry basket (picture of clothes in laundry basket)
  3. Put books back on bookshelf (picture of book)
  4. Put away toys (picture of toy)
  5. Pick up trash (picture of trash can)

Our advice is to laminate the sheet and attach a dry-erase marker that your child can use to mark off each step. This little extra step of marking off each step gives your child a little extra dose of success and pride that helps carry the chore through to completion.

4. Make Chores Fun

One of the best ways to ensure your children do their chores is to make doing chores fun. If chores are used as a punishment or are considered a negative thing, then children are less likely to do them and to do them well. We know that rewards are short-term motivators, but intrinsic motivation breeds long-term habits. Making chores fun is one of the best ways to motivate kids and help them develop an intrinsic desire to complete chores.

Again, this is a time that it will probably make your life more difficult, so sorry in advance, but keep your eyes on the prize: children who develop intrinsic motivation will eventually learn to make chores fun on their own and will develop long-term, lifelong habits and work ethic.

For younger kids, try turning chores into a game. Toss stuffed animals into a basket to help them put their toys away and make a big deal out of them successfully making a goal or basket. Or do room cleaning “freeze dancing” where they clean when the music is on but freeze when you pause the song. If you have laundry to fold, have the entire family fold a pile of laundry together while listening to your favorite music or watching a funny tv show. Instead of sending each family member to clean their room alone, have a “community clean” day where each person gets one responsibility (such as putting clothes in the hamper or making the bed) for all of the rooms–give them a “ready, set, go” and watch the fun.

5. Break Chores into Smaller Chunks

Does your child struggle to finish a chore to completion? It may benefit you and your child to start more slowly by breaking the chore into smaller chunks and assigning only one chunk at a time to your child. If your child is overwhelmed by the chore of unloading the dishwasher, start by having them put away the silverware for a month or so, then add plates and bowls to the mix. As they build their skills, they will gain more confidence in the task rather than getting into the habit of feeling overwhelmed. Remember, teaching work ethic to children is a long game; if your child is repeatedly overwhelmed, they’re learning to get overwhelmed and to give up when things get rough. Set expectations that allow children have a habit of success, then incrementally grow their responsibility from there.

6. Make Supplies Easy to Access

No matter the child’s chore, make sure it’s easy for them to find and use the supplies they need. If your child is in charge of dusting the bookshelves, put a duster on a lower shelf of your laundry room so your child can get to it without help. If your older child is in charge of cleaning the bathroom, put cleaning supplies (including rags, paper towels, and a sponge) in a cleaning bucket that they can reach without help. If your child can’t even get to the supplies needed to complete a chore without assistance, they’ve started the routine of completing a chore with having to ask for help (already). If they can start the chore with the small success of remembering where the supplies are and reaching the supplies themselves, then they’re starting the chore on a more positive note of independence and competence.

7. Don’t Make Allowance Dependent on Chores

Most experts advise not making allowance dependent on chores. Giving allowance or another reward for completing chores means you’re offering your child the option each day to do chores and be rewarded or forego chores and skip the money for today. Children are still learning cost-benefit analysis, so in many cases, this method of motivation sets them up for failure. Instead, make chores expected—period—and consider allowance part of your strategy for building smart money habits.

How do you Encourage Your Family to Complete Their Chores?

Do you use a method for helping your children complete their chores that isn’t listed above? Let us know in the comments below!

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