How to Delegate Chores and Actually Get Your Kids to Do Them

Getting kids to help around the house can prove to be a Herculean task. But by giving them age-appropriate tasks, they can easily participate.

Getting kids to help around the house can prove to be a Herculean task. More often than not, attempts to get children to participate in household chores are met with some form of resistance. Children today are spending less time doing household chores than ever before.
Although there is a common misconception that young children cannot participate in domestic chores, evidence suggests that children assigned chores from as early as age 3 become more self-reliant and independent, are they are also more responsible. According to Rossman, a professor at the University of Mississippi, including kids in chores is worth the effort: starting chores early is among the greatest predictors of success as an adult.
Encouraging children to participate in regular, reasonable and age-appropriate chores has been associated with social, emotional and academic benefits. Chores teach kids important skills such as responsibility, self-reliance and accountability.
In her book “How to Raise an Adult”, Julie Lythcott-Haims argues that by letting your kids skip household chores, you prevent them from developing important skills they will need later on in life. The Harvard Medical School psychologist Richard Bromfielf shares the same view: by neglecting to involve your children in household chores, you may be doing them a great disservice.
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How do you get your kids to participate in household chores?

1 | Be specific

If you’re like most parents, you know you want your kids to participate in household chores but you don’t know exactly what you would like them to do.
According to Richard Bromfield, psychologist and author of the book “How to Unspoil Your Child Fast”, it is important to clearly define exactly what you would like your kids to do, and what you want to achieve by assigning them chores. Focus on your objectives:

  • Are there specific skills you would like your children to develop? Which chores can help you accomplish this?
  • Do you want them to participate in chores that are meaningful for the whole family or only those that directly concern them (like making their beds or cleaning their rooms)?

2 | Be firm and consistent

Most kids will resist household chores once they get past the age when “helping set the table” is fun!
It is important to clearly explain to your child that participating in household chores is not an option. Make it clear that “everyone who lives here has to participate in chores”.
Identify your non-negotiables, then be consistent. If you expect your child to set the table, be specific – how often? Every day? One meal or all meal times? Once you’re decided, be consistent. Fight the urge to do things yourself to save “time and energy”.

3 | Negotiate

Families in which negotiation is common enjoy better parent-child relationships, and kids raised in these families are more likely to cooperate. Take the time to listen to your kids. Be flexible. Tell your kids the household chores that need to be done then ask for their input: How can the chores be distributed in a fair way?
Let them decide who does what and when. You can also ask them to come up with a chore wheel that ensures the fair distribution of chores. When kids feel involved in making decisions that concern them, they are more likely to stick to those decisions.

4 | Choose age-appropriate chores

Many benefits are associated with assigning children household chores, but only if those chores are age-appropriate. Even children younger than age three can participate in simple tasks such as picking up toys.
It is generally accepted that children should have more benefits as they grow older; they should also have more chores. Try associating each new benefit with additional chores when they reach important milestones (for example on birthdays or at the start of a new school year).

Below are a few ideas about some of the things kids can do:

Below age 3
Pick up toysDust surfacesThrow their diapers in the trash can
Water flowers
Pick up their books
Age 3 to 4
All previous choresPut away toysPut their dirty laundry in the laundry basket
Help set and clear the table with help
Help clean small surfaces with a wet cloth
Wash hands by themselves
Help put away groceries
Fold their clothes with supervision
Choose their outfit and get dressed
4 to 5 year olds
All previous choresMake their beds with minimal helpHelp in the kitchen with supervision
Take care of a pet (feeding)
Hang up towel after shower
6 to 7 year olds
All previous choresMake bed without supervisionAnswer the phone
Put away their laundry
Wipe floor with mop
Put away cleaned dishes
Fold their clothes by themselves
8 to 9 year olds
All previous choresClean bedroomEmpty trash
Rake leaves
Prepare easy meals
9 to 12 year olds
All previous choresChange their sheetsWash dishes
Do homework by themselves
Vacuum and mop
Mow lawn

5 | Show them how

Don’t assume that your kids will automatically know how to perform household chores. Be clear about what you expect your child to do. If you expect him to dust the furniture, take the time to show him exactly how you want him to do it. If he doesn’t do what is expected, focus on the future: “next time I’d like you to …)

6 | Be clear on the consequences

Now that you have your chores set out, what happens if your kids don’t follow through or if they do a mediocre job? Once again, negotiation can come in handy and make it more likely for your kids to cooperate. Ask them to come up with the consequences of a poorly done job: Should some privileges be taken away? Should they repeat the chore?
What household chores do your kids participate in? Let us know in the comments below