Growing up, we dreaded our daily responsibilities like taking out the trash, making our beds, and feeding the cat – often putting them off for as long as possible, dragging our feet, or pretending we forgot.
Now, as parents, we’re forced into the role of playtime’s Enemy #1 as we attempt to coerce our own children into doing their chores as well – no longer able to enjoy the freedom of childhood’s ignorance to life’s responsibilities.
We hate being the “bad guy”, but chores are important – not only to help out with household duties and make sure things flow smoothly, but to teach our kids the importance of responsibility and hard work as well.
But alas, our children are too much like the parent – a chorus of grumbles, whines, and poor excuses greeting the mere mention of the word…
What if I told you that chore time didn’t have to translate as “slave labor” in the eyes of your child? What if I told you there are five easy strategies you can implement right now that could not only make completing chores bearable, but fun?
Sounds impossible? Think again.
Here are five super simple strategies every parent can use to motivate their kids to do chores.
1) Create Star Charts
Growing up, Star Charts were a big deal in my family -and boy, did they work!
The concept behind a Star Chart is simple: for each day the child completes their chores, they earn a star sticker to be placed on a designated sheet of paper, whiteboard, etc.. Once a set number of stars is reached, the child earns a big reward ranging anywhere from ice cream or a special toy, to a family date to the movies or computer time.
The options are quite endless and entirely tailorable to every family’s tastes.
Best of all, this system not only motivates children to do their chores every day, but offers the added bonus of quality family time and the importance of saving – as, if the child chooses, they can save their stars to unlock an even bigger reward (i.e. a more expensive toy/outing, or longer computer time).
Plus, with the Star Chart’s capabilities of including bigger, more meaningful rewards, they can be used to motivate older children as well who would otherwise shun other popular, unstructured reward systems filled with coloring books, GI Joes, and candy boxes.
2) Play Orphan Annie/Andy
For young children, play pretend is an essential daily game, while almost nothing sparks a young mind’s interest more than the dramatic plight of an orphan. Add in the sad orphan’s duties of “cleaning the orphanage”, and the stern Headmaster – otherwise known as Mom or Dad – and you have an instant favorite game.
Children instructed under the rouse of a fully functioning orphanage will be so caught up in their imagination (and the fact that mom or dad is pretending with them!), that they won’t even notice the once laborious chores.
Plus, as a little inside parental secret, under the role of a strict headmaster, we can even demand the tasks done faster, or better.
Just be sure to not get too into the game.
3) Host Household Olympics
Let’s be honest: chores are boring. Even if your child is responsible with their daily household chores, it’s hard to enjoy something that’s so tedious.
Want to turn that frown upside-down? Spice up dry, every day routines by offering various challenges to complete.
These challenges can take numerous and diverse forms, such as timing how long a certain chore takes – prompting children to try and break their own record, or beat the other sibling – seeing who can get something the cleanest, or make the neatest bed.
And for an added incentive? Offer up a small prize like candy, or choice of the bedtime story/movie to the winner.
The options are endless, and sure to turn dreaded chore time into a game.
4) Set Achievable Goals
Whether they admit it or not, children want to feel needed and that their hard work achieved something. Assigning tasks that are too easy often rob them of that feeling and deprive them of valuable problem-solving skills.
In the same breath, however, making tasks too difficult can be a massive discouragement – leaving children feeling inadequate and stressed.
It is for this reason that the task falls to us parents to maintain a fine balance between the two, setting achievable goals for each individual child’s strengths and weaknesses.
That being said, adding ground rules like waiting to watch tv, go outside, or visit friends till after all chores have been completed, can be a great motivator to get the daily tasks out of the way – all the while subtly teaching kids the life lesson of work-before-play.
5) Create Colorful Chore Charts
Its a psychological fact that for both child and adult, little makes us feel better about ourselves than checking something off our list; while often for kids, forgetting the existence of, or how to do a chore, can be a big discouragement.
To spark productivity and a feeling of accomplishment in our little household helpers, create easy-to-follow daily chore charts, detailing each chore to be completed on its respective day of the week, along with any other necessary notes.
For older children and readers, bright, organized “to-do” list style charts with plenty of room for checkmarks and a few fridge magnets, can make all the difference.
For the youngsters, something as simple as two small folders labeled “Do” and “Done” taped low down on the fridge, holding squares of pictures or artwork displaying each task, is all you’ll need.
Regardless of age, chore charts are a must for every organized household and daily routine – all the while empowering your child with the importance of responsibility.