If you’ve ever struggled to get your kids helping with housework, then this post is for you!
Growing up as a kid in Barbados, I was essentially free manual labour to my parents. When you don’t have a maid, the whole family pitches in to get things done around the house. And my siblings and I have done just about everything!
We’ve worked in my dad’s sandwich business for a couples hours in the morning before going to school. Answered the phone in my mother’s beauty clinic after school. Scrubbed the bird droppings off the aviary floor with sponges strapped to our feet (it’s as gross as it sounds!) And of course we’ve scrubbed the house from top to bottom.
We never got paid. Never got an allowance. Allowance? My dad is Caribbean! I totally relate to this scene from Everybody Hates Chris:
And because my siblings and I worked hard at home, I naturally thought that ‘my kids should be hard workers too, right?’.
I discovered that if I’m not pitching in with housework myself, my kids won’t be motivated to do cleaning of any sort! At least not when they’re quite young. (I talk about this more in point #3 of this post)
My daughters, who are now 12 and 8, can be assigned jobs and left to complete them all by themselves. This, however, is not the case with my four-year-old son.
And so I think the shift to becoming more independent with chores occurs somewhere between the ages of seven and ten. Depending on the diligence and trustworthiness of your kid.
That being said, my four-year-old can be very motivated to do his chores. Here’s how.
Get your kids helping with housework by working with them
When your kids are young, they won’t know how to clean anything. In fact, the only thing they probably know instinctively is how to make a mess!
If you want your kids helping with housework independently (which is parent heaven!), you’ve got to show them how to do it yourself. This is teaching through our own example. For more on this, read my post How to Get Your Kids to Clean.
This essentially means spending quite a bit of time cleaning alongside your kid. When it’s time to tidy up, make sure that you all tidy up together. No one is sitting with their feet up watching everyone else. Get everyone moving.
This is important because our kids have an innate sense of justice.
That whiny ‘it’s not fair!’ moan that grates on your ears is due in part to our children’s natural desire for justice and balance. When someone’s not pulling their weight, it makes the burden seem unbearable to a kid.
Until your kid can go off and clean by themselves (probably between the ages of eight and ten), you’ll need to be cleaning alongside them.
Wanna get your hands on a great cleaning checklist? Then grab our free Speed Cleaning Checklist right here:
Actions speak louder
I have to say, this is the hardest part of training our kids. Just because we are essentially training them with our own actions and attitudes.
If you huff and puff whilst you clean, guess who’s gonna do that too! If you cut corners and skip over jobs, guess who’ll be putting in minimum effort themselves!
For this reason alone, I think that this stage of getting our kids to help with the housework is the hardest step.
But there’s something that can help!
Motivate them with an app
I’ve spent some money on morning routine apps in the past, but the Timo app is our current favourite.
First off, you can get it FOR FREE (get it here)! Secondly, it’s just better designed for kids. It makes doing standard and fairly boring tasks like brushing your teeth or doing your chores into a game. And kids love games!
The reason I mention it in this post is that my kids do their chores in the morning. And if your kids like any amount of screen time, you’ll find this app to be a God-send.
Using this app I’ve found that my kids are very eager to get started with their morning routine. This means that I don’t need to keep reminding them of what they should be doing in the morning. My very own “drill sergeant”, the Timo app does that for me!
More delight than drill!
I call it a drill sergeant here, but honestly, to my kids, it’s definitely more like a game.
When my kids open the app and press the play button, the app begins with the first item in their morning routine and gives them a certain amount of time to complete that activity.
They earn stars for completing tasks. And the more stars they have, the more things they can get in the app to change their avatar character. My kid’s characters are just mini versions of themselves, but of course you can make any character you want. All the clothes and extras a character has requires stars to purchase them with. And of course, they can only get more stars by completing more tasks in their routine.
The result? A smoother morning routine with kids who are eager to get their chores done because it’s part of their morning “game”. And a more calm and relaxed mummy who’s not screaming at her kids to hurry up!
Reward your kids
If you don’t want to use an app, or you prefer a different route, you can simply reward your kids when they complete their chores.
Rewards can be great motivators. Knowing that a bigger, more tangible reward is awaiting them is hugely motivational.
It’s got to be ‘for real for real’
The key thing here is that it’s tangible. You see, stars aren’t tangible. Not really. They are a great reinforcement of good work, like a pat on the back.
But a tangible reward, like a sweet, a book, a toy or even some cold hard cash has a different effect on a kid. If the reward is a big one that will take some time to work toward, put a picture of it up on your fridge, or wherever your child will see it often. Then it will remain highly motivating for them throughout the week when it’s time to do their chores.
Make sure you can keep it up
Bear in mind that you will need to be able to deliver on your rewards, so it’s best not to make it too big. If the reward is small like a sweet or a small amount of change, you can keep providing it over the long term.
If it’s a wad of cash or an expensive piece of tech, you’ll find that it can become difficult to maintain. And reducing a reward is tremendously de-motivating.
How would you feel if you got a pay cut in your job but still had to do the same amount of work? See what I mean?
Choose something that they’d like to receive which is tangible, but small enough for you to keep supplying over a long time.
Although expecting excellence won’t necessarily get your kids to do their chores, I had to mention it here because I think it’s crucial.
I tell my kids that I only reward them for jobs properly done. A badly executed job is not good as it sends the message to my kid that shoddy work is acceptable.
You see, I think that chores can shape the character of our kids as adults. And that building a good work ethic begins at home.
It’s the long game that matters
If you expect excellence from chores when your kids are young, when they get old enough to do their chores independently they will do them to a decent standard. And this, in turn, means that you won’t have to worry about going over their work again yourself. When it’s done by them, it’s done.
This will really save you extra time in the long run. And it means that you can delegate chores to your kids and know that they will be done properly.
Most importantly, though, you’re giving your kid life skills that they will take into the world as adults. Domestics life skills and a great work ethic which will make them highly employable and more likely to be high achievers.
If they expect excellence from themselves, they will strive for excellence in the other areas of their life. Win-win.
If you promise a reward of some kind, it’s absolutely essential that you make good on your word.
Not only will you be reinforcing hardworking diligent behaviour, but you’re establishing the fact that you mean what you say and that their hard work will pay off. That’s a life lesson right there.
I love the wisdom in the Bible. And there’s a proverb which says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). What that means is that a hope or a promise that is delayed or not realised can really make the person who is hoping for it feel disappointed and even depressed. And it can even break down trust between people.
I’m sure you know how it feels when a promise is broken. That why it’s so important to follow through with any rewards you’ve promised.
Prepare your rewards in advance so that they’re already sitting and waiting to be handed out at the appropriate time. You might even let them see it in advance if you want to really motivate them into action!
Your kids will be so thrilled that they received it and they will be eager to keep doing their chores because they know (they’re no longer hoping or crossing their fingers) that you will give them that reward in the future.
So there you have it. Some great tips on how to get your kids helping with housework.
- Work alongside them
- Motivate them with the Timo app (it’s free!)
- Add a small reward of your choice
- Expect excellence
- Make sure you fulfil your reward promises
Are there any other techniques that you’ve used to get your kids helping with the housework? If so, I’d love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments!