How Do You Motivate Your Kids to Do Chores?

If getting kids to put their shoes on in the morning if Level 1 difficulty, getting them to do chores definitely requires advanced skills. Like clockwork, we ask them to make their bed . . . And we wait, and wait, and wait. Then we nag and nag and nag. Finally, we reach the point of frustration, and well, you get how this one goes.

I confess I was terrible at making my kids do chores when they were small. It’s not that I didn’t try, it’s was because I was so impatient and such a control freak that I would just shoo them away with an exasperated tone and say, “Never mind, mommy will do it.”

Of course as clever as our little ones are, my own kiddies figured out p-r-e-t-t-y quickly how to play the game. They would stand there and pretend to do a chore, take way too long (like five seconds) and then wait for me to jump in and take over . . . masterminds, right? Of course I’m not proud of my obvious defect, and yes, as they got older, it did have its inevitable consequences. Eventually I wised up, stopped swooping in to enable them, and instead forced them to take some responsibility.

The reason our little ones don't like doing chores is the same reason that we don't like doing chores: It’s just not fun! No one wants to delay the instant gratification that playing with a toy or video game can bring, in exchange for the thrill of washing the dishes or making a bed. The reality is that sometimes, life isn’t any fun, but that’s what learning how to be a responsible human being is all about. So unless we can evoke the spirit of Mary Poppins to help make the medicine go down, our little ones will just have to learn to deal with the hard work involved in doing chores.

As my kids began to get older and I learned to be less anal about everything (I said “less”), I began to realize that as children, they didn’t have the value system that I had when it came to performing chores, as it related to responsibility. They did seem to get the concept that as part of a family dynamic, there were certain expectations that we had for them, and these usually translated to chores. But it became abundantly clear that their motivation to complete their designated chores was not to become responsible human beings, but rather to avoid punishment. (It took a while for this one to sink in.)

So back to the heart of the matter: How can you get your kids to actually do their chores?

Don’t Nag

In my case, out of habit, I got trapped in the oh-so common nagging cycle. It’s a vicious, repetitive cycle that we should never even allow ourselves to fall into. When we are wearing our parenting hats, our kids are not our friends – so yes, we have to be the bad guy and lay down the law. I finally learned not to “nag,” but to give my kids one reminder. If they didn’t get the hint, then depending what kind of a mood I was in, I might give them a second warning . . . But there definitely was no third strike. They wouldn’t be able to move on to their privileges without first taking care of their responsibilities.

Hit the Pause Button

Another thing that worked for me was to stop everything and get their attention when they weren’t doing their chores. I discovered that clapping my hands loudly or hitting the light switch were always good attention-getters. Having let go of the misguided notion that my kids WANTED to do their chores because they somehow had a working understanding of integrity and character, I learned that appealing to their self-interest was much more realistic. After I got their attention, I asked them what they planned to do AFTER (yes, the power of suggestion) their chores, and reminded them that if they planned on doing that activity, they better get their chores done.

Time's Up

I am not sure about your kids, but mine were quite proficient at looking like they were doing something when they actually weren’t. I would tell them to straighten up their rooms and thirty minutes later (if I had gotten busy cooking), I would return to their room and it was like I had been transported back into time and they were putting away the same exact toy. I finally decided to put an egg timer in their room. If it went off before they finished their task, they would have to go to bed 15 minutes early or face some other similar consequence.

The Incentive Program

As my children got older, I learned that the best way to motivate them to do their chores was to reward them. Some parents give an allowance, but I didn’t feel like I should have to pay my kids to make their beds, because no one was going to pay them to make their beds as adults unless they were working at the Holiday Inn. So instead of money, I rewarded them with privileges. I kept a list in my head of requests that they had and whenever they would ask to have that reward redeemed, my mantra was, “Did you finish your chores?” The key to this is consistency and a good memory, because trust me, our little ones have selective memory when it comes to the things they either want or that they want to conveniently forget.

Despite my rocky beginning, I did finally manage to teach my children that nothing in life was free, and that they had to earn the things that they wanted. It didn’t seem like such a big deal when they were 5, but by 15, it most certainly was!

How do you get your kids to do chores? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

Tags : life lessons   chores   responsibility   

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