How do you get kids to do chores?
If you are like me, you will be of the mindset that if you have a child who is capable of helping at home with chores they should indeed help.
As my four kids have got older I have resisted taking on the role of mum slave.
When should children start helping out at home? I think you probably have to start early if it is going to be a smooth process, which also means that you need the patience of a saint. A young child is obviously not going to be as fast and efficient as even the most slovenly parent on the planet when it comes to chore competency.
We have tried lots of different ways of getting all of our kids helping out at home. Cleaning rotas, monetary rewards, reward charts, no screen until certain chores are completed and all manner of other carrot or stick approaches we could think of. None of these methods seemed to work, one child would decide they didn’t care about a monetary reward or any reward for that matter. Not all of the kids did their rotas at the agreed time so it felt unfair on our most biddable children whilst their siblings silently shirked their duties. (I am not going to name and shame here). Actually getting the children to do their chores always felt like more of a chore in itself and rarely resembled happy family team work. This all changed just over a year ago, and I hate to jinx things but our latest method has been brilliant.
It’s a really simple system.
For each chore you do, you put a sticker under your column of the family calendar.
These stickers are not, I repeat not, reward stickers, they simply indicate that you have done a chore.
When a job needs to be done now, we just have to look at the calendar and see who is behind on stickers and that person gets the job.
“What chore gets a sticker?”, I hear you ask.
Emptying the dishwasher, loading the dishwasher, emptying the laundry basket and bringing all the washing downstairs, setting the table and letting everyone know that it is dinner time, emptying the bins, hoovering the living room, unloading the shopping, hanging out the washing…. etc.
I nearly broke the system by introducing chores valued at 2 stickers – do not do this – keep it simple. My error led to a full-blown family meeting with heated debate about sticker devaluation. More time-consuming chores are usually done by me although I am prepared to pay cash for bathroom cleaning/car hoovering type tasks to any willing child volunteer.
Our kids never take long to wise up to any system we put in place – now they all start vying for preferred chores so that they do not get left having to do the hated ones (bin emptying/ dishwasher loading).
Another rule that we have had to add is no back dating. You can not for example suddenly remember that you emptied the bin last Tuesday and put a sticker on your column. Oh no!
This system means that some jobs are done less well than when Nick or I do them, but it also means we’re not doing everything. Above all it’s the fairest system we’ve found – peer pressure amongst the kids means that they all force each other to muck in. They also police each other for fraudulent sticker use, of which there has only been one incident to my knowledge (once again, I am not going to name and shame!).
I have a friend who has a very different way of getting her kids to do chores. Their family rule is that each kid has to ask at least once a day, “How can I help?”. This actually works in her family! In my fantasy world it would work in mine too, but I know that this could never be our reality!
We much prefer the new chore system – less nagging, less cajoling, everyone playing their part. It also seems to be working out well for Edward, our autistic teenage son, who prefers systems, plans and rules. Out of all our children he probably likes the new chore system the most (obviously in a lesser of alternative evils kind of way).
To all other families out there, good luck with finding a chore system that works for you.