Dealing with Procrastinators to Get Chores Done

Learn how to motivate your child to complete household chores.

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Family & responsibilities

Dealing with Procrastinators to Get Chores Done

Once you decide to implement chores, the battles begin. No self-respecting child is going to want to work! Here are some tips for making it go smoothly.

  • Be clear that this is a positive step in raising a responsible, resourceful, well-behaved child. Your confidence will be catching (and remember that kids love limits, even if they'll never, ever admit it!).
  • Chores can be boring. What about scheduling one of the weekend mornings as family clean-up day, and doing it all together?
  • Keep your chore expectations in line with your child's age and development.
  • If your child is highly resistant to chores, consider that she may be maxed out on activities. Between school, other activities, and scheduled play dates, she may have too much on her plate to handle work, too. Consider eliminating some of her outside commitments. Family time and family commitments are very important. (While you're at it, leave her time to just hang out and play. Your child needs some “down time.” Something has to give. You don't want that “something” to be your child.)
  • Teach your child how to clean. Sweeping is a skill, it requires practice. Knowing how do the laundry, or to clean a bedroom, requires practice, too. Be patient, don't redo her work, and give her positive reinforcement for her efforts.
  • Stop listening to the other parents when they brag about how responsible their kids are. They may be exaggerating. Most kids don't do chores until college (and many don't do them even then!).
Behave Yourself!

Don't be so judgmental about your child's attitude about chores. It's the rare kid who loves doing household chores. Toss the shoulds (“He should start doing his own laundry, he's old enough”) and take a walk down memory lane. Then, when Junior starts reacting, rebelling, and refusing to even hit the hamper with his gym shorts, you'll have some empathy. And that's a good place to start.

Need More Responsibility?

Some kids can't wait to grow up. You know 'em, from the time they're a toddler, the very idea of being a child rankles. It's particularly hard on these kinds of kids if they have to deal, not only with being a child, but with the added indignity of being a younger sibling. The cure for a child like this? More responsibility. Put her to work. Make her feel important.

In general, kids don't always know when they want or need more responsibilities. Often they'll ask for them in reverse, by being less responsible than usual. Sound bizarre? Hey, lots about kids is bizarre, but this really isn't. It's an issue of ownership (remember chore ownership, above?). If your child feels useless, and that everything will always be done for her, why should she try to be responsible?

Take the story of Jeannie, who had very few responsibilities other than occasionally straightening her room. She began pushing her limits, never bringing the trash out of her room, leaving her clothes in great, wrinkled piles, and, most of all, arriving late to meals, complaining about the food, and never helping to even clear the table. Finally her parents put her in charge of cleaning the entire kitchen. “The kitchen is your domain, Jeannie,” they said, and sat back to wait. Jeannie whined, moaned, and (after a few unpleasant logical consequences such as having to stay home to complete her chores), got organized. Soon she was complaining when people left dirty dishes in the sink. And, amazingly, soon her room was even less of a mess (at least there were no dirty dishes moldering in corners!). Jeannie had claimed ownership of the kitchen, and her pride in her work began to “leak” into other parts of her life.

Putting a child in charge (you can be the “helper,” available when needed) will give her a sense of responsibility. Put your son in charge of doing laundry and imagine this scenario: Little Doug arriving at your bedroom door saying, “Dad, please strip your sheets before this afternoon so I can wash them.” Like the idea? I do.

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