How can I get my kids to help out at home?
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
I was recently in touch with a family who struggled with getting their 9 year old to help around the home. Her room was a permanent bombsite, piles of dirty and clean clothes mixed together, and when she was asked to help set the table, she’d whine and complain, or just say no.
Her parents were fed up with the way she was speaking to them, and tired of picking up after her. They shared this difficulty during a parenting workshop I was running. They had tried all sorts of different things - nagging her daily, picking up after her, and threatening to take away privileges if she didn't tidy up. Nothing seemed to work.
And I know how they feel – as parents we juggle home, work, cooking and cleaning, and it’s frustrating when we can’t get our kids to help even for 5 minutes with a small task.
Positive Discipline offers lots of tools to help with chores, so we took this example and the group brainstormed their different ideas so that the parents could go and try something new at home. Here are some of the things we suggested:
Breaking her bedroom tidying-up into smaller tasks ‘First step: tidy all your clean clothes into your closet’
Doing it as a family: Set aside 15 minutes each night to ‘love our home’ and tackle one room together
Take time for training: spend time with the daughter ensuring she knows when to put clothes in the laundry bin, and how to refold sweaters to put away in her closet
Brainstorming as a family about all the jobs that need to be done in the house each week
Responsibilities: give each child in the family a responsibility for the week
Limited Choices: give her a choice about the chore she wants – do you want to set the table or fold the washing this week
As parents, you are the experts in your family, so the parents looked through the list of ideas, and picked one to try out for a week. Parenting workshops create a safe environment for us to try out new ideas with other parents and realise that we’re not the only ones with difficulties.
This family chose to brainstorm together about their different responsibilities, and then designed a chart with the jobs that could be done by each of the children. Each child chose 2 jobs a week, and the chores were written on a chores chart
As Mum knew which jobs her daughter had chosen, she felt free to tell her daughter “it’s time to set the table now” and her daughter, knowing she wouldn’t also be asked to clear, or take out the bins as well, started taking responsibility for her own chore. She even suggested re-arranging the kitchen so that the glasses were at a suitable height for the children to reach.
Mum didn’t feel taken for granted anymore, and that had a knock-on effect of making meal-times a more enjoyable experience.