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Mark Hutten, M.A.
Re: Getting Children To Do Chores

How can I get my children to do chores without me having to nag them?

As kids mature, they become increasingly able to manage matters like homework and school projects on their own.
Thus, each year they should take on more responsibilities in the classroom and at home. During the middle years
of childhood, most youngsters can help clean their rooms, make their beds, pick up their games, and help out in the
kitchen or the yard. Some feed and care for pets. These daily chores and responsibilities are an important part of
learning that life requires work, not just play.

Normally, of course, kids are still preoccupied with their desire to have fun. While they may pitch in from time to time
on their own accord, kids are not likely to ask for household tasks. Therefore, moms and dads often need to assign
responsibilities as part of belonging to the family. At this age, many kids find it difficult to follow through and complete
their chores, at least initially. Responsibility and initiative are learned through a gradual process of guidance and
reward.
As your own youngster takes on more responsibilities,
she will probably have periods of acting irresponsibly,
procrastinating and dawdling. Most kids do. During these
times you need to step in and, with encouragement and
gentle guidance, point her in the right direction.

Sometimes moms and dads may demand too much of
their kids, or may see a problem in everything their kids
do. They may burden them with too many responsibilities
(e.g., an unfair number of chores, excess hours of taking
care of younger siblings, a too rigorous schedule of
after-school activities, etc.). When that happens, kids may
feel overwhelmed and resist taking on any responsibilities
at all. Moms and dads need to guard against this kind of
overloading while still making sure that their youngster is
assuming an appropriate level of responsibility.
Kids differ in the personal traits and temperament they bring to tasks. Some are simply not very persistent and drift
away in the middle of chores. Others have difficulty getting organized. Still others have trouble shifting from one activity
to another. You should have a good sense of your youngster's style, and shape your expectations accordingly.

Kids need to have some obligations and duties within the family, or they will not learn to accept responsibility.
In unstructured home environments, or in families that are very permissive and where little is expected of kids,
youngsters are losing out on some valuable learning experiences, and their development of a sense of responsibility
and initiative may not happen until later in life – if ever. As a result, whenever demands are placed upon these kids,
they appear to procrastinate or dawdle, never having learned to get started meeting their responsibilities and
completing them.
If your youngster procrastinates and dawdles,
especially around responsibilities and chores,
here are some simple management techniques
that are often helpful:

1.        When your youngster does not complete his
chores and other responsibilities, it may be necessary to
discipline him. For example, you might decide to revoke
certain privileges or special activities that mean a lot to
him.

Although some moms and dads may feel that badgering
or scolding a youngster to the point of starting an
argument will get him to accept more responsibility, this
approach is rarely effective. Rewarding successes and
providing encouragement is always much more effective.
2.        Your youngster may be greatly helped in remembering to do chores if your family life has a structure and
routines. Encourage him to do his chores at the same time each day. Routines of other activities - including meals,
homework, play and bedtime - also can teach organization and help him develop responsibility.

3.        Schedule weekly family meetings to review your youngster's progress. Ask him to discuss his ideas about
chores and other responsibilities. Create new or modified "contracts" of the chores that are expected of him. Most
important, supervise and support your youngster, which is the best way to ensure that he is being responsible.

4.        Honest praise from you can be the most effective way of motivating your youngster and guaranteeing her
success. As your youngster completes a regular task, praise him and the job he did. Initiating tasks on his own without
a reminder, completing a special task, or doing an unusually good job with a regular one, might merit a reward of some
sort. You may also want to consider tangible rewards like allowances and stickers tied to completed chores.

5.        Carefully spell out the tasks your youngster must perform. Make sure he understands what is expected of him
on a daily and a weekly basis. Star charts or chore lists posted in your youngster's room or on the refrigerator should
clearly show what your expectations are. With a school-age youngster, particularly one who has not taken on
responsibilities before, you should introduce one new task at a time. If you spring a long list on him, he will probably
fail and rebel.

Early efforts to help kids who consistently avoid responsibility are important for their future success.