Chores rank right up there with “eating your peas” and "brushing your teeth" on the list of things kids frequently just don’t want to do. But as parents, many of us continue to see the list of chores as essential to our child’s development (and to getting more accomplished around the house). Because after all, the table isn’t going to set itself, now, is it?
If you’re still scratching your head and wondering how to entice your little ones to get more involved in helping out (and excited about it!), we’ve got some pro tips to share.
Experts say that the key to getting the kids excited about helping out is to start them young – and the younger the better! By establishing a routine early, kids will grow up seeing chores as fun or second nature, like buckling their seatbelt or taking a bath.
By the time your little ones get older, they’ll see simple tasks like putting away the dishes, folding the laundry or cleaning their rooms as a part of normal life, rather than something out of the ordinary.
Make it Fun
Children like to feel like they’re being helpful. You can leverage this urge by turning helping out around the house into a fun family activity. And don’t forget to mix it up from day to day to avoid monotony and boredom – play laundry basketball on Saturday and have a race to see who can set out place settings at the table the fastest or the neatest on Sunday.
It can also help, especially at a younger age, to perform chores together, rather than delegating Task A to your child while you handle Task B. When engaged in teamwork, your little one will be able to take more pride in being helpful.
Reward Good Behavior
Just like you might with any good behavior, come up with a system for rewarding your little helpers for contributing so much. Chore charts and gold stars are a tried-and-true method. Some parents prefer to increase TV or computer time, or even set up an allowance system. Maybe a week’s worth of perfect chore duty means they get to decide what’s for Sunday night dinner!
However you do it, positive (and consistent) reinforcement will get them enthusiastic about chores and establish the structure that children so often crave.
Pick Your Battles
Don’t be too hard on yourself if they don’t take to it immediately. Some extra creativity may be necessary to get some children excited about household chores.
Also, always be willing to rethink priorities as your children get older. You don’t want arguments to dominate your interactions with your child as they age, and the last thing you want to do is see them off to college only to reflect on too much time spent fighting about unfinished chores.
When it comes down to it, establishing a good chore routine is a major contribution to the life skills your child will need in adolescence and adulthood, and getting started early can vastly improve its effectiveness.