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I knew I needed my kids’ to do chores because I was drowning when my husband started working nights and I had to handle our 5 kids plus lunches, homework, house clean up, baths, and everything else.

Basically, I started a small sweat shop so that I could survive. My 10 year old puts away clean clothes. My 8 year old is in charge of lunches.  My 4 year old’s set the table and help collect the trash. My 2 year old climbs and destroys everything.  They all do something.

chase setting table

What I didn’t realize was how much my children needed to do chores.  In fact, children who do chores do better academically, emotional and professionally.  According to one study (reported in the Wall Street Journal), “young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.”

And if you want your kids to be happy, chores can be key because it teaches them to take care of others. According to psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, we are out of balance. He says, a good way to start readjusting priorities is by learning to be kind and helpful at home.

I remember doing chores as a kid. One of my favorites (once I was old enough to drive) was to do the weekly grocery shopping. I was free. I was alone. I could buy candy! But so many of us aren’t requiring the same of our kids. According to one research study, 82% report having regular chores growing up, but only 28% said that they require their own children to do them.

What are we afraid of? Free, reliable labor?!

I know what some of you are thinking – but I can do it all so much faster and better than my kids! Yes, but you probably could do their required reading faster than them too but I bet you make them do it on their own, right? That was a stumbling block for me. I felt like I didn’t have the patience to let them do their chores slowly and imperfectly. But I’m learning to let go.

Okay, here is your cheat sheet (courtesy of Why Children Need Chores) for getting started. And I’m implementing some of these ideas in my small sweat shop immediately!

Homework and after school activities should not trump chores. That’s right. Chores are just as important so make sure they get done. You can even schedule them on your calendar.

Keep allowances and chores separate. It’s not a business transaction. It’s an altruistic act.

Chores should be focused on the care of the entire family (setting the table for everyone), not just self care (putting one’s own clothes away).

Change the language. Instead of saying, “Do your chores,” try to say, “Let’s do our chores.” Because chores are about taking care of each other, not a grunt task. Also, refer to children as “helpers” instead of just helping. Research shows kids like being known as a “helper” and this increases their desire to pitch in.

Be positive. If you complain about chores, so will your kids. Come on… doing the dishes isn’t that bad, right? (I may need to work on this one.)

11 Responses to how to get your kids to start doing chores immediately

  • Steph says:

    I’m guessing it is too late for my teenager. But I’ll do it with my preteen. I did have them help when they were younger and they usually like it but as the teen years hit, adding one more battle pushed me over the edge. p.s. Chase is the most adorable table-setter ever:)

  • Aunt Michele says:

    Great post, made me rethink how I look at chores. I’ve always felt children thrive on feeling needed and capable. Wendi and David practically raised themselves and they did a darn good job!

  • Well, I don’t know about using the term “reliable,” but otherwise I am with you. There’s nothing like having a big family to force you to realize that young kids can actually help out! Teens, though – that’s another matter. They will still help, but they exact a small piece of your soul every time they do. Think dementors, but more soul-sucking…

    • Steph says:

      You said exactly how I feel, teens “exact a small piece of your soul every time they” help. so painfully true.

  • Kristina Dorfman says:

    I’m with your mom, thanks! We have only “selfish” chores at the moment and they are definitely business transactions. I’m going to start being more consistent (but that means we have to eat at the table I guess!)

  • Jen says:

    Great post! Made us get going with chores again and my girls are always so eager to help. We started tonight! Thanks for the push and great writing as always KK. xo

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kelcey kintner