This post shares some tips and tricks for how to get kids to do chores – especially younger kids! You’ll find some mistakes many moms make and tips for fixing them.
“Your kids gotta learn how to clean up when young”, they say.
“Give ’em chores – it’ll teach them responsibility” they tell you.
And yet, when you try, you simply feel like you’re pulling out your teeth…
Sounds familiar? That was me with M not that long ago.
Over time, I learned some tips and tricks for getting him to do chores, as well as getting his little brother to cooperate.
My boys are age five and three, so the tips I wan to share are obviously for young kids.
Also, what works for some kids doesn’t work for everybody – my goal is really just to share a few more strategies that you can try. And finally, I can’t share a parenting post without first assuring you that you are trying, and you are doing a great job. Even if it seems like “everybody’s got this but me”, you know that’s not true.
You know that people only share the good, and that the very fact that you looked for this article is proof that you’re trying and that you care. And ultimately that’s the difference between a good mom and a bad one. The good moms care and try.
So good luck, and keep at it!
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links which earn me a small commission per purchase. This does not cost any extra and I only promote products or services I truly believe in.
8 Reasons they’re refusing – and How to get kids to do chores:
The best tip for how to get kids to do chores is making sure that the chores and strategies are tailored to them.
1.They’re not age appropriate.
We see all over toddlers doing laundry, and while some toddlers may be able to do some things, others… can’t. Don’t get discouraged if your child can’t do the same chores all the Pinterest moms have their tots doing.
M, age 5 can help me sort laundry by color.
Baby Y, age 3, gets distracted while transferring laundry from the basket to the washer. So I give him only 1-2 items to do, not really to help, just to train him in.
2. The chores are too big
M can’t put away his clothing yet, but he can put away his underwear. And then his socks. And then his pajamas…
Breaking the chore down into smaller tasks help kids stick to it. Young children have short attention spans, so make the chore fit.
3. They have the wrong attitude toward chores.
For both M and Y, calling chores “missions” and celebrating “mission accomplished” when they’re done was all the change we needed.
They started celebrating accomplished missions, and feeling that sense of accomplishment. Chores might not be cool, but missions are waayyy cool!
For some kids, seeing the positive benefits might work, especially if you choose the right tasks. As a child, I couldn’t stand clearing off tables with peoples’ dirty food. However, I got a sense of satisfaction from sweeping the floor, because I saw the change.
Giving your children the chores that’ll give them that satisfaction will help change that attitude.
4. Reward charts aren’t tangible enough incentives for them
If your child doesn’t respond to the “perk of a clean house”, chore charts can be a great tool. However, many children do well with more immediate gratification.
I personally don’t believe in “pay for chores” however I do believe in reward systems. As an adult, your child WILL most likely feel the natural perks of completing chores, however she won’t get paid to do it.
So having an immediate gratification system is great for little kids.
- For M, age five, I made this LEGO chart. It’s a tangible reward, but he needs to complete the chart to get anything in his hand.
- For Baby Y, age three, stickers work because he’s obsessed.
- Another idea is a “reward jar“. This works best with multi-part rewards. Take the prize you’d give for completing a chore. Find a jar that’ll fit it. Each time a mission is accomplished, your child gets one piece.The required effort can depend on the prize value. I bought used LEGO lots on eBay for this purpose, and use a mason jar. When it’s full, your children get to empty the jar.
- A popular classroom trick is the popcorn kernel jar. Every time an incentive is given in the form of a kernel in the jar (or a teaspoon of kernels if you need to fill it quicker). When it’s full, it’s popcorn party time! I don’t know if this works in the home context – because it’s not like they’ll be missing class time too.
- And finally, a visual chart where kids are seeing their prize form is a great trick. I designed a few printable visual reward charts for you to enjoy and try out, for a few different prizes. You can check out the full visual reward chart system here.
5. Everything else is more interesting:
M’s biggest struggle with chores is his distractability.
Everything else is just more interesting.
Getting some fun clean-up tools put the fun back in!
- Fun rags or cleaning supplies
- Spray bottles (if they can show restraint)
- A grabber for large toys
- A shovel and pail for smaller toys
6.They don’t like to be told what to do:
Here’s a double whammy – the kids don’t like doing chores and they don’t like being told what to do.
Soften the blow by giving them choices, allowing them the illusion of choosing what to do.
Again, this works for some kids, especially toddlers, but not for others. And for some kids it’ll work some days, some day not.
I like to give M the choice what to clean up first – which combines with breaking down tasks for him.
7.They feel like they can’t:
If you have a nervous child, he might feel like he’s just not doing it right.
While some people will advise to do the chores with your kids as a tip for how to get kids to do chores, I say to step back and let go.
The reason? I think that if I’m too on top of my kids while they’re doing chores, they’ll get stressed out and will feel like I’m micromanaging them. I also think that part of doing chores is fostering independence.
Let them do it.
Let them do it imperfectly.
And let them do it their way.
8. There’s no end in sight:
Even when a task is broken up, sometimes it seems like it’ll take forever. It seems insurmountable.
Setting a timer helps some kids get a tangible end date for their work. For my kids, positive/negative reinforcement works.
When you’ve cleaned your toys and/or done your chores, you get to watch TV. You get dessert. You get whatever it is you want. If you don’t clean, you don’t get it.
ALWAYS stick to what you promise. Don’t use the screen time incentive on a day you know you need them to have that screen time regardless. Try another incentive. Or a timer.
Sometimes even promising the children they can take out a specific toy after they’ve done their chores helps!
There are so many nuances in how to get kids to do chores.
There are so many more tips and tricks out there, and your strategy needs to be customized for your child.
And if it doesn’t work? Don’t feel like you’re doing a wrong job. You tried. Your kids will learn. Keep at it. Be strong. Acknowledge to yourself that parenting is a hard job, and getting kids to pitch in is one of the harder parts.
And if your kids do their chores nicely? Give yourself a huge pat on the back, and reward yourself for doing such a great job!!
What are your best tips for how to get kids to do chores? Comment below!