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Chores for Kids

How to get them to help around the house and not lose it!

I hate chores, but who loves them? When it comes to getting the kids to help with household chores, it usually is less painful to just do it myself, and therefore I have failed several times at creating chore assignments for my family.

Well, I am giving it another shot, and I'm determined that this time, not only will the system stick, but I will become a more praising, less nagging, parent, and my children will develop responsibility, and respect our home. If nothing else, it will reduce the number of times in a week that I step barefoot on a Lego or our dog eats a Barbie! Here are some tips that I'll be using to implement our new family chores system:

Age-appropriate Assignments: Children can start helping with chores around age two according to Housekeeping.about.com. Start with helping to pick up toys and put them in designated places. Then around age four, add assistance with bed-making, table setting, feeding the dog, and light household chores like dusting. Six-year-olds can fold and put away their own clothes, clear the dinner table, clean the bathroom sink and mirror, and the list increases from there.

Rewards and Recognition: I find it difficult to stay on top of reminding everyone of their chores, and so after a few weeks (days) of trying to instill chore duties, it all falls apart. I've been looking for a system to help me as well as my children manage their own daily chores. Here are a few I like:

Children's Chores door hanger: This clever idea helps the child manage his own tasks throughout the day.
Chore Monster: Found a great tutorial on how to make this hungry monster that is ready to eat your pillows if you don't do chores and feed him some cookies!
Chore Wheel: Great for multiple children, this design allows you to easily rotate the chores around the family.

Recognition for a job well done is always the easiest thing to overlook. Amy McCready from Positive Parenting Solutions shares that there's an easy opportunity to recognize your child's contribution to the family anytime he/she helps with the laundry, or sweeps the floor, or unloads the dishwasher. Share your appreciation with your child to let them know that the chore he/she did really was a big help and saved you some time and energy.

Bag the Nag: I hate the sound of my voice some days; the constant reminders and increasing volume and levels of irritation are annoying to say the least, so I can only imagine how my kids feel about it. I don't want them to feel that way about me--the nagging must stop! A change in my approach to family chores hopefully will preempt any nagging that would usually take over. I'm going to try two suggestions from EmpoweringParents.com:

  1. "Stop the Show"- If you ask your child to do a task, and he/she does not comply, rather than starting to nag, stop, sit down with your child, and find out why he/she is dragging their heels on this. They can let you know if there is a lack of understanding or a problem preventing them from doing the task, or you can remind them why they need to help out, or even discuss what they'd like to do once they are done, all without needing to raise your voice.
  2. Time the Task: Sometimes, making chores a game can make it go by faster. I do this with myself sometimes, setting a timer for 15 minutes to clean up clutter, before rewarding myself with a cup of coffee or computer time. Some kids respond well to this game. I will tell you that my six-year-old panics when I set the timer, and cries, "I'll never get it done in time!" The timer apparently makes the task insurmountable for her.

Collecting the Clutter: While I am trying to use more positive reinforcement than negative, sometimes a consequence is needed. For my kids, the clutter fairy comes to visit. I, the clutter fairy, after a predetermined timeframe, inspect the kids' bedrooms or play area, and if the toys aren't put away, I collect them. The toys are released the next time the children clean up appropriately when asked.

I also just found this cute idea on Pinterest the other day to create a "Clutter Jail" for toys that don't get cleaned up.  To get their toys out of jail, the child must select a Community Chest card and complete the chore listed.

Show Them the Money: About the age that your child is old enough to say, "I want that!" is the time that an allowance can work its way into a family's routine. Starting to offer allowance at a young age for tasks completed at home demonstrates how they can earn rewards rather than just getting what they want. There are good lessons to be had in delaying their gratification until they can prove they deserve it. As the children get older, having money of their own helps teach them about how they can spend their money, or save it for something even more valuable.

It seems the online rule of thumb about how much allowance to pay is one dollar per year in the child's age. Should my four-year-old earn $4.00/week? I don't know about that, but you can use your own judgment there. There is also the thought that siblings close in age should earn the same amount for fairness, but I also think the children's abilities to do equal chores should play a factor as well. My older child often does far more chores than her younger sibling, so I feel that extra effort should be rewarded.

Incorporating family chores into the daily routine takes effort, but if you get it right, it will not only instill a sense of responsibility for your children, but also make them feel like a valuable part of the team. Less mess and less nagging is something the whole family can be happy about!
Bill at FamZoo March 08, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Here are some other creative ideas for chore charts collected via Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/famzoo/creative-chore-charts/ Can't guarantee any will help chore performance, but at least they're stylish ;-)

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