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I love chores. I have always loved chores. Getting the family on a chore system has always been in me. As a pre-teen, I even made up a chore chart for my family to follow and I was shocked that my mother did not follow it. Ha! Now that I am the mom, my chore systems can be followed.
Teaching your children to do chores is simpler than you might think. It takes time. It takes effort long before you see results. But I can promise you, it is all worth it. It is of great worth for children to learn how to work. There is a life skill, yes. It is nice to go off to college knowing how to do your own laundry. There is also the great benefit of mom not having to do all of the cleaning around the house. But doing chores does even more than that. It teaches children to be responsible and to value work. It builds character and creates a bond with those they work with. For more on this, see Teaching Children Life Skills, Work and Responsibility, and Work: More than Economic Value.
With those benefits in mind, here are five steps to teaching your child to do chores. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you decide today that you want your children to be able to do chores, they won’t be able and capable tomorrow or even next week. It takes time to teach and time for them to learn.
1-Do Chores With Your Child
Do your chores with your child by your side. I do this from the time by children are small babies. They spend time with me while I work. Before they are one, they eagerly want to help. Children want to imitate their parents. Be an example to your child, and your child will want to be involved. See my post Creating a “Good Helper” for more on this idea.
2-Let Your Child Help
When that desire is there, let your child help. I remember giving a 9 month old Brayden a broom and letting him “sweep.” Allow your child to contribute to doing chores. If you are dusting, give your child a dust rag. If you are vacuuming, let your child help push the vaccum, too. Think of ways your child can help clean while you are cleaning. As your child gets older, he will want to keep helping with the chores. Thank your child for helping. Children love praise and they want to please you. Thanking the child motivates the child to help more. See Getting Children Actively Engaged in Household Responsibilities for more.
3-Have a Daily Chore Time
As your child gets older, have chore time a part of the day. I would start required chores even as early as 2 if desired. I would really have it in place as a 3 year old–but if your child is older than that, it isn’t too late to start! See Working Chores Into Your Day for more.
Pick a chore of the day. Have a point in your routine when chores are done. Keep it fun. It is okay for chore time to be enjoyable (see Making Work Fun). Use Chore Cards, chore charts, Chore Jar, Chore Wheel, etc. for your chores if that works for your family. If chore charts are just annoying, forget them. If you do use charts, mix up what you use over time–this keeps it interesting. Make the culture of your home one where everyone contributes to helping keep the home clean. This teaches your children these life skills and it also eases the burden off of you. At age 3, Brayden could vacuum a small room well enough that he could do it and it was done. They can contribute in a positive way if you allow them to practice.
4-Accept Less Than Perfect
That leads me to accepting less than perfection. Your young child will not be as good as you are at cleaning. No way. It won’t happen for years. Be okay with that. The day will come when your child does a great job. I love this story from Loren Dunn to illustrate the point:
“While we were growing up in a small community, my father saw the need for my brother and me to learn the principle of work. As a result, he put us to work on a small farm on the edge of town where he had been raised. He ran the local newspaper, so he could not spend much time with us. … And sometimes we made mistakes.
“Our small farm was surrounded by other farms, and one of the farmers went in to see my father one day to tell him the things he thought we were doing wrong. My father listened to him carefully and then said, ‘Jim, you don’t understand. You see, I’m raising boys and not cows’ ”.
Let me give one caveat. Sometimes children will try to get by with the bare minimum effort. Accept your child’s best effort, but require the best effort. If you see your child is not putting forth his best, reteach and remind your child to take pride in the job done. You want best effort; just don’t demand perfection.
5-Teach New Chores as Children Age
It is important to teach children how to clean. They will learn a lot from observing you–they are little sponges. They can’t glean everything from observation, however. Explain how to do things and why you do things that way. Let them do the chore while you watch. Then let them do it without being supervised. For more on this, see Teaching Children to Clean.
While getting your children to the point of being good at chores takes a lot of time and effort, it is effort worth making. As a mom with older children who are now able to be independent and good at chores, I can say I am SO GLAD I put the effort in while they were young. As they get older, they get more and more capable of creating large messes. Their clothes get larger so the laundry loads increase each week. As they grow, our need for chores increase and I would not be able to maintain my sanity without my children being able to contribute to helping contribute to the cleaning in the home.
For more on chores, see:
- Everyone Cleans
- Teaching Your Child To Clean Up After Self