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Published on February 23, 2016

son helping dad with dishes

Is Making Kids Do Chores Worth the Effort? Part 2: Tips for Teaching Kids about Chores

If you read Part 1: Why Chores Are Important, you learned that it IS worth the effort to teach kids to do chores. They learn self-help skills, personal skills and working together as a family. But is it easy? Unfortunately, no! These tips can get you started and hopefully make chore time a little easier.

Tips for parents

  • Be positive! Nagging and criticizing make chore time more of a chore.
  • Be a good example. If parents complain and have a negative attitude about their own chores, they pass this on to their children. Instead, make honest but positive comments about chores. “Washing the kitchen floor is not my favorite job, but I like the way it looks when I’m done.” Or, “Let’s work together to get this yard picked up, and then we can have some fun.”
  • Teach values. Help your child learn that families work together to benefit everyone, and that doing a good job makes us feel good inside.
  • Teach skills. Instruct your child in how to do their chores and work with them the first few times until they can do it on their own.
  • Don’t expect perfection, especially in preschool children. Be sure chores are appropriate for a child’s age and be sure the child can do the chore safely. (See examples of chores at the end of this blog.)
  • Give feedback, but avoid mindless praise. When we constantly tell kids that they are “awesome” for doing what is expected, they have trouble evaluating their own work. Give specific feedback: “Those faucets are shining!” “Your room looks neat and tidy.” “Your clothes are all folded and put away correctly.”
  • Give constructive criticism, but in a positive way. “I still see dust around the TV and the end tables. Give it another try.” “The towels are folded nicely. You need to put them on the shelf and then this job will be done.”
  • Use lists or charts to provide visual feedback of completed jobs. My girls would get frustrated when we did Saturday chores because I would give them their chores verbally, one at a time — “First clean the bathroom sink, now vacuum the living room, now fold the towels.” They never knew when the end would come, and I think they worried I might just keep thinking of more chores forever! So I agreed to make a list of all the chores and let them take turns choosing. They would put their initials by their chores and then cross them off when completed. This gave them encouragement that the end was in sight! For younger children, you can use a chore chart or pictures of the chores.
  • Setting a time limit for when chores must be completed may save you from nagging. For young children, set a timer and race the clock to complete each chore.
  • Once in a while, give your kids a chore holiday. Dad might say, “You’ve been doing a great job mowing the lawn. Today, I’ll do it and you can have a break.”
  • Let kids trade or alternate chores to keep things interesting.

Should chores be tied to allowance?

Most experts say no. Chores are things we do to contribute to the family. Allowance is something we get for being part of the family. When you tie the two together, you may have younger children who don’t care about money, so they won’t do their chores. When older children get jobs and have their own money, they may not care about the allowance, and think they no longer need to do chores.

As children get older, you may want to offer “commissions” for special chores. The child still is required to do his or her regular chores, but can earn extra money for things that need to be done once in a while. Examples might be cleaning out the trash cans, washing the car, trimming shrubs, helping to clean the garage, sorting toys.

What can kids do?

Here are some examples of chores for various ages. Start small with one or two chores. Add more as a child gains confidence and skill. Be sure the child can do the chores safely. Break up chore time so young children aren’t spending too much time on chores in one day. Let kids trade chores sometimes, for variety. Re-evaluate and adjust chores as needed. Some families evaluate chores the day after a child’s birthday. “Now that you are 13, you are ready to learn how to mow the lawn.” There may be times when you need to reduce chores for some children for a while. A child who is experiencing stress due to increased school work or a child who has practice every night for the school play may need chores reduced temporarily.

Chores for 2 to 3 year olds:

  • Help with toy pick up
  • Fill the pet’s dish
  • Put clothes in the hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Collect and stack newspapers and magazines
  • Gather shoes and deliver them to the correct owner
  • Put napkins or other trash in the waste can

Chores for 4 to 5 year olds:

  • Make the bed
  • Set the table
  • Clear dishes and scrape plates
  • Empty unbreakables from the dishwasher
  • Fold and put away some laundry
  • Fold small towels and wash cloths
  • Use a hand-held vacuum
  • Empty small trash cans

Chores for 6 to 7 year olds:

  • Clean his/her room (pick up, vacuum, dust)
  • Fold and put away laundry
  • Get the mail
  • Water plants
  • Wipe table and counter
  • Load and unload the dishwasher
  • Help feed younger children
  • Vacuum
  • Yard work (weeding, picking up sticks, raking)

Chores for 8 to 9 year olds:

  • Put away groceries
  • Help with meal preparation
  • Fix snacks for younger sibling
  • Walk, feed and pick up after pets
  • Put away groceries
  • Carry out trash
  • Clean sinks
  • Simple sewing, like sewing on a button
  • Put clothes from the washer to the dryer

You know your child best. Choose chores that he or she can learn to do with confidence. With a positive attitude, parents can help children learn important skills that have lifelong benefits.

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