Health & Well-being Home & Food

Have we left it too late to get our children doing chores?

Parenting Place Kids and chores

Dear Jenny,

We are a pretty busy family by most people’s standards and it feels like a lot of our time is invested in the busyness of school, after-school activities, play dates and getting from A to B. My husband and I have a sneaky suspicion that we are meant to get our kids involved in helping out around home. They are 7, 9 and 12.

I don’t know if we have missed the boat, but we haven’t expected them to do many chores to help out as their lives seem busy enough. It is also true that we don’t like the resistance we come up against, so it’s less trouble to just do the jobs ourselves.

What we don’t like though, is their unwillingness to do any chores when we ask them to lend a hand and it feels like we have contributed to turning our kids into little princes and princesses. Now we are wondering if it is too late to change the pattern and their lack of gratitude for what we do for them?

Jenny’s tips

Getting children to contribute to daily chores and helping around the house is going to take some energy and focus. It is never too late to start, but at this stage you will definitely meet with more resistance than if your children were preschoolers.

Some interesting research has been done on chores and their benefits for children. (This can keep you focused when it all gets a bit hard!) Studies have shown a direct correlation between involving kids in household tasks and a greater chance later on that those same children will complete their education, get on a career path, form better relationships with family and friends and be less likely to use drugs. True story! Sign us up for the dishes roster, right!

They will quietly love the sense of achievement and self-worth as they pitch in.

Rally the troops

Have a mini meeting between dinner and dessert one evening (dessert can be the incentive to listen!) and let the children know you have realised that a part of helping them become happy and confident grown-ups who can handle life's challenges has been missing. This ‘reset’ lets them know you have a plan and a dream for them to succeed and that you are not just turning mean. Your aim is to help them become skilled, capable contributors who feel proud of themselves.

Your children are not likely to say, “Wow, thanks parents, this is awesome. We love having jobs to do – we were missing out before!” However, they will quietly love the sense of achievement and self-worth as they pitch in, feel part of a bigger team and can honestly say that they are able to peg out washing, make a meal, unpack the dishwasher, feed the dog, make their bed, tidy their room, put their clothes away etc.

Each week, have a five-minute meeting to divvy up the chores or use a chart showing the children's names and chores. The key is to give children variety. It's also really important to spend a bit of time teaching them how to do the task.

One of the hardest things to do is to keep focused and nudge the children along. The first week may be easy, but be ready for some wobbles by week two. Keep positive and be encouraging. Have some silly rewards at hand for remembering to do the chores without any reminders!

Banner familycoach

Strategies and tips tailored just for you

Family coaching provides you with the take-home strategies that can help you bring about the positive changes you desire for your whānau.

Book now

The outcome

As expected, the novelty wore off after about five days but Mum and Dad hung in there and found listing the chores on the fridge under each child’s name a great reminder to track the progress.

Mum found it particularly demanding on her time, especially when she realised that she would need to teach the children how to do some of the jobs she had previously taken care of. Tasks took longer, and were done with less expertise and more mess than she liked. She tried not to fixate on the bumpy, wobbly beds, the crumbs and mess in the kitchen after the children had made their own sandwiches, or be disheartened by the moans and groans.

When children have been involved in household tasks, there is a direct correlation between completing their education, getting on a career path, forming better relationships with family and friends and less likelihood of drug use.

Dad felt like the atmosphere in the home improved almost at once. It was like letting the children get waited upon had created some unwanted meanness and a sense of entitlement. Once enlisted to do chores, the kids actually seemed to get on better.

The mini meetings continued so that the children felt that chores were now part of the family expectations and not just another trial. What kept the momentum going was the decision to keep the chores a positive experience so Dad helped each child, once a week, with one chore they nominated for extra help on. They also handed out some small, fun prizes for things like fastest bed maker, most creative sandwich concoction, least bumpy bed, least in need of reminders, most helpful to siblings, as well as an end-of-week bonus for outstanding effort.

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale is our Senior Parent Coach and we’ve been lucky enough to have her on our team for over 24 years. She’d love to raise free-range chickens, write children’s books and perhaps even take up horse-riding again.

Recommended Content

Get relatable parenting advice and inspo for your family, direct to your inbox

Subscribe now