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Chores for kids pt. 1: How to answer “BUT MOM! WHYYYY?!”

kids doing chores

Spring is on it’s way and change is in the air. What better way to spice things up at home than to add some chores to your children’s days? This 5-part blog series will help you start assigning chores for kids if you haven’t already and help you up your chore game if you have.

Where do you even start when it comes to getting kids to help out around the house? It seems pretty daunting. Doesn’t it? Assigning chores is a lesson in delayed gratification if ever there was one.

The first few times you ask them to do anything new can get pretty ugly. But once a chore becomes a habit, you as a parent get to bask in the glory of your diligence for years to come. (Imagine a world where you never touch the trash cans or the toilet brush AGAIN? It can happen!) So let’s get started.

First things first: find your motivation.

Why do you want to have your children help around the house?

  • Are you totally fried by the time they go to school because you’ve done the work of 4 people to get them ready?
  • Are you embarrassed around older generations because your kids don’t do their share?
  • Are you worried they will never learn to hang up a shirt?
  • Are you jealous of other parents whose kids are miraculously helpful?


My motivation came at a dinner party years ago:

A good (childless) friend of ours, a professor at USC, was talking about how the incoming students were being micromanaged by their parents so much that the professors had been forbidden by the university to talk to parents at all. Parents were taking up all of the professors’ time with questions about the minutia of student life and classes–buying books, writing papers, finding classrooms. I was dumbfounded. Then our friend told us about one mother who’d gotten a hotel room near campus for the first 2 weeks of school–to make sure her (19 yo) baby didn’t get too stressed out about anything.

Well, that story sent me straight to my computer to create a chore spreadsheet. My kids were only 3 and 4 at the time, but I would be damned if they were going off to college dependent on me to handle their personal needs!

And my chore sheet was great. For two weeks.

Then we had to add rewards.

Two weeks later we created a new, more exciting chart. So much work!

And while the chart method worked for my self-motivated child very well (parts of it still work 7 years later) my other child is not a chart kinda guy. So I had to find different options for him.

Since this process is not the easy part of being a parent, before we even talk about actual chores, I’d like to give you two things to think about.

What is your motivation for having chores for your kids? Write these reasons down somewhere you can go back to (on a little card or a reminder board) to be motivated when enforcing the responsibility is more sucky than doing the chore yourself.

Getting kids into the habit of helping is definitely worth the effort it takes to get there. It’s also very good for your children. Make your specific intentions and reason(s) for doing this for your kids clear–at least to you, and hopefully to your parenting partner.

Next, keep in mind all ideas will not work for all children. You have to be committed to experimenting and figuring out one or two that work for your child(ren) and be willing to stick with it.

Consistency is key

Every parent is going to mess up and forget one day, or let the chart slip for a week. Don’t beat yourself up about that. DO get back in the saddle and let everyone know that the game is still on. If they are old enough, ask your kids for help reminding you. If there are rewards involved, they will want to be able to earn the rewards again.

Take away: What is your motivation to assign your kids more chores starting this spring?

chores, Kids, motivation

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