Your Questions Answered
Q: What are some ways I can get my kids to do their chores and what’s a good way to keep track of it all?
A: Ah, the Chore Wars. It’s a familiar battle in most households. Children are expected to do their chores, but of course they don’t want to. Offering incentives like an allowance can sometimes help, but even that can wax and wane. Then before you know it, parents fall prey to their usual doom; reminding, nagging and cajoling to get the job done. There must be a better way.
Before we delve into some solutions that I hope will help you, let’s first take a brief moment to remember why we make our children do chores in the first place. Chores teach children responsibility. They teach them what it means to be a part of a family and that their contribution is both needed and appreciated. Chores give children practical life skills that will help them to become independent adults. Call them what you want (chores, tasks, to-do’s, contributions), but please, give your children chores! And don’t think you have to wait until they’re older and more responsible to get them started, either. In fact, the earlier you start the better! A toddler is more than happy to follow mom around the house with a dust cloth and lend a “helping-hand”. If you set the tone early that everyone in the family is expected to chip-in, you’re more likely to have buy-in from your children as they get older.
Ok, so I know what you’re thinking; the help of a 2-year-old isn’t much help at all. It’s true. In fact, sometimes it actually creates MORE work to include your wee-little-ones in the household chores, but do it! It’ll pay off in spades just a few short years from now.
Now, onto the solutions! We’re all familiar with chore charts. They’re great – if they work for you. But sometimes parents need a little help beyond the chart. I want to share with you two new ideas that will hopefully revolutionize the way you do chores in your household: When-Then Routines, and ChorePacks.
The idea of When-Then Routines comes from Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions (www.positiveparentingsolutions.com). In her book, If I Have To Tell You One More Time, McCready suggests establishing When-Then Routines for times in the day when there are a number of routine tasks that you need your child to accomplish. The idea is that WHEN these less desirable tasks have been completed, THEN your child can enjoy a more desirable privilege. For example, you may create a When-Then Routine in the morning that looks like this: WHEN your bed is made, your clothes are on, your hair is groomed, and your back-pack and lunch are by the door, THEN you may sit down for breakfast. Another time of the day that you may employ a When-Then Routine is at bedtime: WHEN your toys are picked up, your jammies are on, your teeth are brushed, and your clothes are picked out for tomorrow, THEN you may have story time with Daddy. You get the idea. When-Then Routines are great because they eliminate the need for power-struggles and negotiations. Make the routine the boss. Write it out on paper. Post it on the wall. Everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them and what the pay-off will be when the tasks are complete. Amy’s book is filled with fantastic ideas just like this. If you like When-Then Routines, then you’ll enjoy her other ideas as well.
The other method I want to introduce you to is the idea of ChorePacks. ChorePacks were created by Teri and Steve Maxwell of Titus2.com. They’re basically a mini to-do list that your child clips to his/her clothing giving them a tangible reminder of what they’re supposed to be doing. If you purchase the actual ChorePack system, it comes with a name-badge type holder that you can slip various chore cards into. When all the chores are done, the child returns the ChorePack to mom or dad who can then check to see that the work was done correctly and give an appropriate reward if desired. To learn more about ChorePacks or to purchase the system and the accompanying book, Managers of Their Chores, click here (http://www.titus2.com/chores/free-chore-charts.html).
Another variation on this idea is called Chore Stacks. To create a chore stack, you’ll need a bunch of 3x5 index cards and a small file box. Pick one color for each child’s personal tasks and a separate color for other household chores that you want your children to complete. Personal tasks include making your bed, brushing teeth, cleaning your room, etc. For younger children, it’s a good idea to paste or draw a picture of each task on the cards.
Each morning place the chore cards that need to be completed in a stack on the kitchen table. The top cards in the stack will consist of each child’s personal tasks. Underneath you may include one or two household chore cards as well. Then, set the timer for an appropriate amount of time and have your kids work through their stacks, flipping each card facedown when the task is completed until all their chores are done. They must be done before the timer goes off to get a reward. The last card in the stack reads, “See Mom if you think you are done.” That card is important because it lets you know if the child completed his/her tasks on time and it allows you to check and see if things were done to your satisfaction. Every once in a while, you could throw in a special card that says “see Mom for a treat” which could be a trip to the dollar store, ice cream after dinner, or whatever you like.
Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas that can be of some help! The main thing is to be dedicated to the task of getting your kids involved in helping out around the house. Think of it as a non-negotiable. Someday your kids will thank you for it.
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