Training them to help around the house

Getting Kids to Complete Chores

by Gary Foreman


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When you were little, doing chores was a part of growing up. And you think it should be that way for your kids, too. But getting them to complete household chores isn't always easy. So we contacted Jill Davis to help us. Jill is the owner of Upstairs Downstairs Cleaning Service in the suburban Chicago area.

Why is it important for parents to get their kids to complete chores around the house?

Jill Davis: As a working mom of four teenagers, the only way to survive is to divide the work among the family. There are so many benefits for having children help out around the house. I have seen chores build a closer relationship within the family. Children working together and joking around with each other, older children being "the coach," teaching younger children how to do chores, and younger children trying to do as much as their older siblings. There will always be comparisons about how much each child contributes, but in the long run, the goal is to teach each child responsibility and to be proud of what they can accomplish.

At what age should children be expected to start helping around the house?

Jill Davis: Children can start helping around the house at a very young age. At as young as two years old, they can start by putting their toys back when done and putting dirty laundry in the hamper. They can slowly work up to helping with setting/clearing the table, dusting small tables, and vacuuming their own room. If expectations are set early in life that everyone needs to help out, then it is easier to continue these expectations during the teenage years.

Are kids more motivated by duty or rewards?

Jill Davis: My belief is that children are motivated by duty. They should learn that if everyone does some of the work, there is more time for everyone to enjoy. Sometimes rewards are in order, but chores around the house should not have a monetary amount set to them. Children should expect to help out around the house daily by making their bed and putting their own dishes in the dishwasher along with other tasks that should be done throughout the week.

Some families use chore charts. What makes them effective?

Jill Davis: I do like chore charts because they can read the list and know what is expected. Children do not like to be told what to do on a daily basis. A list or chart works best. They can see all the expectations for the week and plan accordingly without parents nagging them. Changing the jobs overtime will help keep them motivated. As teens become busier with their own hectic schedules, chores can be negotiated. You will be surprised the ideas they come up with if you let them sign up for the chores they prefer. Even at a younger age, you can show them a list of task and ask if there is a task they would like to learn to master. It is ok to include parents on the job charts as well. Children will notice all the work you do around the house that they may not even notice.


How old do children need to be before they can handle cleaning supplies needed to do bathrooms and showers?

Jill Davis: That is a good question. It depends on the child, but I would recommend after the age of 10. They can better understand the safety issues with some cleaning chemicals. These tasks could be included on the job chart for the adults with the child as an assistant.

What consequences should there be if a child doesn't do their chores or does them badly?

Jill Davis: I would not be too critical if the job is done poorly. You can show them what is wrong and show them the correct way to clean it for the next time but do not discourage their efforts. Praise the work they do. Children will not be perfect at cleaning, but in the long run, they will be better off knowing how to clean and be proud of their work.

If they decide not to do their chores, privileges are best recourse. If everything is not done, it is ok to negotiate a time frame for everything to be completed. They will learn that if the jobs are done on time, they will not need to go through the negotiation process.

Why is it important to teach a child to be responsible in handling family chores?

Jill Davis: It is important that children have regular chores to do. Chores teach children that as part of a family, everyone needs to share in the workload. Chores can also teach children responsibility which in turn will teach children to become responsible adults.

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Can you get your kids to complete household chores? Taking a consistent affirmative approach might be just what you need to get those chores complete!


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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