With three kids and approximately 40 years of (cumulative) parenting, I’ve learned a thing or two about what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to getting kids to do chores around the house. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe our little cherubs should have a bit of responsibility on the homefront, without needing a carrot (insert allowance here) to motivate them. In our house, we tell the kids everyone should contribute to the running of the household because we all live here together! (Don’t get defensive though, as we totally pay/bribe our kids to practice the piano). At the end of the day and however you approach it, we’re all trying to raise responsible kids that contribute to society and pick up after themselves!
I’m going to put it out there that I’m a total Pinterest fail when it comes to cute chore charts. Kuddos to those of you that are mini Martha Stewarts – so jealous! For the rest of us, I’m going to let you in on a little secret…It’s not the cuteness (or complexity) of the chart that’s actually going to get your kids to do their chores. In fact, I’ll argue that having a chart with multiple chores listed is one of the big reasons why the whole endeavor is failing in the first place. As the wise sage Yoda once said, “If no mistake you have made yet losing you are, a different game you should play.” This time around can I challenge you to view household chores through a different lens? Break it down, hone in on what matters most and SIMPLIFY!
I suggest following the ‘Wisdom of Yoda Approach’ for your children’s chores…
- Size matters not. Pick the TOP 3 things around the house you’d rather not do (let’s be honest, pick the tasks you can’t stand…you are the boss of your kids after all), and delegate these chores to your children. I simply say three tasks because I have three kids…Oh, those of you with lots of kids are already coming out ahead! Assigning only one task per child should do the trick when it comes to simplification. (And I can stay on top of the parental hounding that’s sometimes required when it’s just one task each offspring must complete daily.)
- You must unlearn what you have learned. Next nugget of wisdom…Have the kids make the chart, not you! This will give them a sense of ownership and despite the fact that it will likely not be Pinterest worthy (just turn a blind eye to the excessive post-it notes and scotch tape used to create their masterpiece) you don’t care so long as they OWN IT!
- A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. Put the chart in the highest traffic area of your house so it can be seen every day and by everyone. For us, this is on the kitchen counter where the kids eat breakfast, after school snacks and pretty much heave everything left in their school bags while they do homework in the evening. Other high traffic areas might be the refrigerator (inside or outside – nobody is judging), the door to the garage or the bathroom mirror.
- Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try. Have each child do his or her ONE chore for an entire week and then rotate. Be sure the order of rotation is tracked – This is a real hot button issue in our house! Siblings have an amazing knack for policing each other and love to hold each other accountable (especially when one of them has overlooked their chore for the day). Sibling accountability has an amazing way of squeezing you (the parent) out of the picture when it comes to ensuring everyone meets their chore chart obligations.
- Named must your fear be, before banish it you can. There MUST be a consequence (that the kids have picked) if the chore doesn’t happen. If your children have chosen the punishment, then you’re not as much of the bad guy when you enforce it. Just for an idea…The punishment for not following through on your chore in our household is that miraculously Mom’s car doesn’t start, thereby preventing you from getting a ride to sports practice until the dishwasher has been unloaded, school lunches are packed, or the litter box is cleaned.
We’ve heard it said that it’s the lazy mother that does all the work. I don’t think any of us are lazy, it’s just that sometimes it is so much faster to do it ourselves than watch our child slowly unload the dishwasher—one utensil at a time! Yoda describes it simply as, “If you choose the quick and easy path…You will become an agent of evil.” Yes, teaching your children to be responsible and contribute to the household is hard work, but it’s our job to raise upstanding citizens and not little Darth Vaders. By simplifying a bit and really nailing the weekly chore chart, you and your kids will come out ahead!