How to Get Help from your Kids Around the House? Try Asking Them their Opinion

By Natasha Barrett

The dishes always seem to quickly pile up in the sink. “Laundry Mountain” gets bigger and bigger in every bedroom.  The floor needs to be swept. The trash needs to be taken out. The everyday chores around the house never end.

According to Mariam Wahby, Ph.D., LMFT, education specialist with Behavioral Services at Memorial Hermann Health System, there are ways to actually get kids excited about taking part in cleaning the house that also help with their overall development.

Here’s how to start:

Ask your kids for their input. Ask them what they would like to do to help around the house, then listen. This will make them feel valued and a real part of the family.

“Children can gain life-long benefits from developing self-competency and confidence through doing chores at any early age. It can be as simple as a 4-year-old taking his or her clothes to the laundry basket rather than tossing them on the floor,” Wahby said. “Studies have reported not only improved competencies in social behavior but also in academics for kids who regularly performed chores as early as kindergarten.”

Create a list of chores together. The thought here is that if your children are the ones coming up with the chore list, then they might actually follow through in completing the tasks.

Make that list age appropriate. Not every child’s list of chores is supposed to look the same. For example, your 5-year-old may not be able to unload the dishwasher that includes sharp knives. But, for your 10-year-old, it may be more suitable.

Set times. Create a time of day that the certain chores should be handled. Putting together a schedule can create a ritual for your child. If 8 a.m. is the time to brush teeth, then maybe it’s also time to pick up dirty clothes and put them in the hamper.

“A routine is so important for a child (and an adult too!). We all love to know what to expect. Knowing what comes next gives us security. For a child, it helps to learn the steps of a daily task and provides clear expectations,” Wahby added.

Come up with repercussions. If a chore is not completed or not done in a timely manner, what should be the proper punishment? Have your child come up with the repercussion. No screen time? For how long? Again, if your kids outline the negative result, they may be more likely to follow through with completing their chores.

“Every child responds to direction and consequences differently. It’s critical that parents tailor their expectations and responses to their child to fit his or her unique needs. Involving the child seems like a great place to start,” Wahby said.  “It’s most helpful when this step is done upfront. We love to know what’s coming, so mapping out the expectations should include any consequences from the start. Remember, this should be done to help build up the positive sense-of-self in your children and their own competence and confidence.”

Post the list of chores. It is something you and your children worked on together. Show it off like a piece of artwork they brought home from school. Post the list of chores on your refrigerator or on a wall where they will see it every day.

Stick to it. Consistency is key. Maybe at the beginning of the week gently remind everyone that they should look over their list of chores and make sure they allot enough time to complete the list before they can do things like play on their iPad or watch TV.

“What good comes without consistency? Very few of the good things in our lives come without repeated, consistent effort. Parenting falls into that,” Wahby said.  “Consistent responses and expectations, again, help the child to know what to expect. Putting systems in place ahead of time will help kids understand the value of the chores and the consequences in the event that they don’t follow through.”

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