Children will do almost anything to get out of chores. Typical excuses run the gamut "from 'I’ve got a stomach ache,' to 'I’m a kid. I shouldn’t have to do chores,'" says Mason Turner, MD, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco Medical Center.
In fact, one survey found that 74% of parents report that their children rarely help with chores unless asked. And a full 50% of parents say they spend as much time arguing with their kids about chores as the children spend doing chores.
For many parents, it may seem easier to do the chores themselves. If you’re one of them, this article is for you. WebMD spoke with Turner and pediatrician James Sears, MD, for advice on how to get kids to do chores.
Use Chores to Teach Life Skills
"When kids do chores, they’re learning responsibility. They’re learning that life requires work," says James Sears, MD, co-author of Father’s First Steps: 25 Things Every Dad Should Know. For kids, chores are more than helping out; they are lessons in basic life skills. By loading the dishwasher, mowing the grass, or doing their laundry, "kids learn how the world works," Sears tells WebMD.
Make Chores Predictable
To take the sting out of chores, Turner suggests setting aside a time each week when the whole family does chores, Saturday morning from 8 to 9 for example. "Then you don’t get into battles about when chores get done." Having the whole family do chores at the same time also helps. "Your kid knows that every Saturday morning, this is what the family does," says Turner.
Assign Chores by Age
Tasks that are clearly over your child’s head will make chore time dreadful for everyone. The following suggestions can get you started on assigning age-appropriate chores. Then it’s your turn to get creative.
- 4 and 5 years old: Sort socks, put away toys, help set the table, stack magazines.
- 6 and 7 years old: Take the dog for a walk, empty the dishwasher, prepare lunch, make the bed.
- 8 and 9 years old: Set the table, load the dishwasher, clean the bathroom sink, feed, brush, and bathe the pet.
- 10 and 11 years old: Put away groceries, run the dishwasher, fold laundry, take out trash.
- 12 and 13: Do laundry and put it away, change sheets, mow the grass, make simple meals, clean the shower and toilet.
Make Chores Personal
Cleaning his own room will make a lot more sense to your son than having to clean his sister’s room. "Personalizing it is important because you’re teaching your child self-reliance and how to take care of himself," Turner tells WebMD. The rewards will be obvious: your son gets to spend time in a tidy room where everything is put away and easy to find.