How To Get Your Kids To Love Chores

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By Jodi Bartle

Remember when you brought your new baby home and you were thrown into round-the-clock care, which felt necessary (because someone has to do it) and rewarding (well, some of the time)?

Job descriptions were suddenly rewritten; you were cooking and washing up and tidying and making beds and walking the dog and getting up from the table because your toddler - a little older now - needed some water and couldn’t reach the taps?

And then, all of a sudden, knee-deep in laundry, you look up and realise that your kids have grown up - and they are messier than ever.

Strewn school bags all over the floor, scattered shoes from the doorway up the hall, underpants stuck in grey school uniform trousers laid bare on the bathroom tiles - they haven't made their beds, the dog hasn't been walked, and you are inexplicably still the one doing it all.

Chores, my friend - it is time to implement chores. Perhaps you have already, and for that, I salute you for your parental foresight and your dogged, firm perseverance.

But for those of us who became accidental martyrs to the Unrelenting Domestic Cause, it is time to take charge. 

Here are some ideas to steer your family ship back into more harmonious, less untidy waters.

1. Start Early

Babies are a bit useless at vacuuming, this is true, and there are few three year olds who should attempt fashioning a hearty bowl of steaming Spaghetti Bolognese for the whole family. But once little people are adept at pulling toys out and putting them everywhere, then they can put them away again.

Toddlers can put cushions back onto the sofa, they can pick up their discarded clothes and put them into the laundry basket. They can have a go at washing some plastic cups in a lukewarm sink, they can even hand you their plates when they have finished their chopped apple snack and tumbler of milk.

Start a culture of everyone having to tidy up after yourselves, and it will stick. Remember - most nurseries have a ‘tidy up time’ routine and everyone has to pitch in. Do the same at home, all the time.

2. Role Modelling

Make sure that the chores are split between the adults at home. Don’t do everything because you are female. Equally, don't do everything because you are male. Domestic chores are real, and unrewarding, but if everyone does their bit, regardless of gender, or which of you worked outside of the home that day, or who is more tired etc etc, then the kids see that this is not a political negotiation - it is just what people do to make their homes nicer to be in.

Everyone has a part to play, so do yours with grace. Don’t wait until someone has to nag at you - if you see balled up dirty socks under the couch, pick them up and deal with them.

3. List It Out - Daily Expectations

Sit down as a family and make a list. There should be jobs that the kids have to do, every day. Our non-negotiable daily list reads:

  • Clean up after yourselves
  • Take plates to dishwasher
  • Make beds
  • Sort out dirty/clean clothes and put them in the right place
  • Tidy living room
  • Put shoes and schoolbags away

If the kids do these simple things, it makes a huge difference to the workload. Insist on them until it becomes a habit.

4. Specific Paid Chores

On top of the every day jobs, each of our kids have a specific weekly chore which we pay them £2 for. We try to find a job that they want to do, which makes the whole thing a lot easier to implement and to keep up.

My 11 year old loves to cook, so he is tasked with making one meal a week with full access to my cookbooks and the Ocado account.

My third child (quite) likes the dog, so he walks him to school and back every day.

My eldest son is a control-freak, so he is charge of the book-keeping when it comes to payment, because  - word to the wise - if you don’t keep on top of weekly remuneration, the kids come to you with wildly inflated invoices and you’ll be confused and probably give in.  

We try to give them choices about these specific chores, and we meet together every three months or so to recalibrate. Sometimes the cook gets a little slack, or the third child can’t walk the dog because of after school clubs. Mix it up and keep it fresh, and make sure they have their say, so that they buy in to the scheme.

5. Get The Kids To Work For Things They Want

When our eldest son went to secondary school he wanted to use one of our old phones so we set him up with a contract but he has to pay for half of the costs every month. So he has taken on additional jobs (the daily dishwasher loading and unloading as well as being responsible for the recycling) and he does it with barely a grumble, because there is a clear correlation between the enabling of his social life and a bit of domestic grunt.

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The end goals are simple - to share the load of family life and to bring our children up to become capable, conscientious adults who can manage the laundry and have a few staple recipes to hand. 

What do you do to encourage your kids to do their bit?