Thursday, March 1, 2012

5 Ways to Get Kids to Do Chores (Without Yelling!)

So today’s the big one when it comes to Kids & Chores. The attitudes. The kids’ attitudes and our own attitudes.

How do we get our kids to do their chores with a good attitude. . .no whining, complaining, arguing, fussing, or procrastinating?
How do we get our kids to take their time and not rush through their work? How do we get our kids to do a thorough job and not leave their chore half done?
How do we get our kids to take personal responsibility for their chores without reminding them 20 million times or without prodding, nagging, lecturing, threatening, or screaming?
Oh I do not have the perfect answer. Those of you who have been around awhile know I do not have it all together.  But what I do have is a goal I am working towards. I have a vision of what I want my home to look like and how I want it to hum along. And I have discovered that they only way to make that vision a reality is by being intentional. 
So I offer the below answers not as "shoulds" or "musts" or "the only ways". I offer them to you as something to ponder, something to get you brainstorming, something to talk over with your hubby, something to encourage you on your own journey in running the intentional home.

Below are 5 ways Rob and I get our kids to do their chores:
1. Set Expectations.

Before we assign the chores, we talk to the kids about what is expected (well, this is what we do on a good day when we are at our best). We explain to them what gets us frustrated. We actually ask them to tell us what gets us frustrated and why. They know. We brainstorm together what needs to be done around the house. We talk about what will happen if the chores are not done. We explain that we are a family and we each have a role to make the household work. 
2. Allow Natural Consequences to Happen

When we allow natural consequences to happen, we have seen our kids’ behavior change quickly in the right direction. It only takes a few times for our kids to not do their laundry and have to go to school wearing dirty clothes before they will make a point of washing their clothes. It only took ONE time for a particular Soutter kid to forget to pack their lunch box and have to go a day with no lunch. . .they make sure that chore is done now.

If only all chores had natural consequences attached to them. I mean what is the natural consequence of not taking out the trash? That it overflows all over the kitchen floor? Well my kids just wouldn't care. And for those kind of chores we have to assign a consequence. And for us that is they are not allowed to play or go out with friends until the chore is done. Yes, they have had to cancel plans.

3. Require "Repeats" as neccessary

When we talk about what is expected with our kids, we do not only talk about the particular "whats", but we also talk about the "hows". We expect our children to do a job thoroughly and with a good attitude. If a job is done with any complaining/arguing or is done poorly, we make the child repeat the chore. We feel like this is training our kids to not be lazy or ungrateful.
Now, I do need to remember that the quality of my kid's work is not going to be the same as an adult's work and that is ok, but the work does need to be done with excellence.   

4. Build Over Time

Rome was not built in a day and neither is our children's character. One of the things we try to keep in the forefront of our mind is the long-term.  What is it we want our kids to be like when they walk out of our home at age 18?  We are not going to get there today or even next week, but we keep setting the expectations, reminding, disciplining, practicing, and praising over and over and over. 

5. Praise

Everyone likes to be thanked for work they have done .  And oh how my kids beam when I brag to Rob/Dad about what a good job they have done.

I am thankful for
a lawn that needs mowing,
windows that need cleaning
and gutters that need fixing
because it means I have a home.
I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing
because it means my loved ones are nearby.  
~Nancie J. Carmody

Of course the best way to instill work ethic is to role model it for our children. This is where I often fall short. I can get the housework done, but often my attitude stinks. But again, this blog is not about being perfect; it is about being intentional. I truly believe that I ought to approach household tasks with joy and thanksgiving. And so today, I renew my commitment to choosing my attitude and creating a home that is not only neat and organized, but full of love, peace, joy, and grateful hearts. May my kids watch and follow.

I am sharing this post over at Beneath the Rowan Tree and Somewhat Simple and Serenity Now.


  1. Awesome Su and so very helpful.

  2. what kind of consequenses do you suggestion for chores not done? for an 8 yr old who has the responsiblity of keeping the guest bathroom clean which is the bathroom he uses too?

    1. Hi Esther-

      What we do. .is there is no going outside, no tv, no playing Legos, no doing anything that they want to do until the chore is done. So when he asks, "Mom. .can I play Wii?" We say. . "Sure honey as soon as you get your chores done. Work first, then play." And our kids' bathroom is the guest bathroom too (ugh!)

      Feel free to dialogue with me :)

      And the rest of you, what do you do in a situation like Esther mentions? Any other ideas for her?

  3. I never thought about having my kids repeat the chores if done while complaining. I love it! I will definitely be putting your suggestions into use. Thanks for taking the time to put your wisdom down for those of us learning to be intentional women!

  4. Thanks for letiing me know is OK to make our kids have to cancel plans to a playdate or whatever is always hard for me to do that i felt like i was such a mean mom and I so relate to your way of thinking about feeling guilty when i put a chore list for them everyday... but i really need to follow you list and think is for their own good. Thanks so much for this post it has help me and uplifted me :)

  5. Hi, just discovered your blog few days and I've been reading your blog some each day now. I love what I'm reading especially this post. My kids are 7, 5, 3 and 9 months old. We do chores each day but my 5 years old girl complains/whines all the time. Is she young to do what you are doing? She's bright for her age so I'm not sure where I should stand, should I expect more or should I just let it go because she's young. I need help in doing our chores cheerfully. I also need to work on myself as well. Thank you so much for your blog and your encouragement!

    1. send you an email :) but short answer, is I think 5 is the perfect age to begin doing what is outlined in this post.

  6. Hi, I have a 2, 5, 9, 11 year olds. They seem to think they don't have to do a thing but play, well the younger ones do. My 11 yr old helps me all the time. My middle two seem to think they can do whatever when my back is turned n stop doing their chore. An example my 9 n 5 share a room and when they're told to clean it they always end up playing n I have to make one of them stay out while the other does her part, but still then the one left in the room will stop cleaning and play or read a book and totally ignore me. I'm tired of the repeat and constantly cleaning I've explained that if they pick up their mess before bed then they won't have a lot to do when they get home from school. Any suggestions?


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