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Tips and resources for healthy family routines -- for your mornings, during your daily schedule, and on to bedtime.

Guest Expert Photo

WebMD Expert Discussion: Do Your Children Do Chores?

“I caaaan’t pick those up! It’s too haaaaard!”

If you’re a parent, you’ve heard this one. You ask your 5-year-old to pick up the playroom and he responds with a beleaguered protest. Kids love making the mess, but they rarely like cleaning it up. Still, it’s never too early to teach your child simple chores to help out around the house, WebMD guest parenting expert Tanya Altmann, MD, says in the online discussion about healthy family routines.

Responsibilities can start small -- like picking up their toys -- and graduate to making their bed, cleaning their room, setting the table, and other jobs. No matter what you call them, or exactly what they are (different families may value different tasks), the point is that they become a routine for your child.

To avoid whining, arguments and defiance, Altmann recommends the old Mary Poppins trick of making the job a game (especially for toddlers). Praise the effort more than the job, avoid nagging, and incorporate a reward system as children get older.

A mom of six suggested clean-up races as a way to motivate siblings to get enthused about their chores. She also makes clean-up time a family bonding ritual: everyone divides the chores after dinner and they talk about their day as the kitchen and dining room go from sloppy to spotless. For her teens, extra chores equal extra money.

She and another mother recommended the “Clean-up Song” (for the uninitiated, that’s “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share…”) as a way of motivating younger children.

Another woman has gradually added more responsibilities for her 4-year-old, who started doing chores at age 3. He now sets the table, helps to empty the dishwasher, helps with the laundry, cleans up his toys, and helps wash the dog.

Another reader has a mixed blessing: a teenage daughter who helps her 7-year-old brother do his chores. Although it’s useful to have another pair of hands and eyes watching the little one’s work, mom has to remind her daughter not to spoil her little brother and do his work for him -- a tendency that many impatient parents, watching their 5-year-old struggle to fold a pair of pants, might sympathize with.

Do you have any tricks or tips on children’s chores?

Discussion led by Tanya Altmann, MD Guest Expert
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Guest Expert What is a guest expert?

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, is a best-selling author, a working mother, and a UCLA-trained pediatrician, practicing in Southern California.

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