"I'll Do It Later"-Six Ways To Get Kids To Do
Getting kids to do chores is one of the most
common arguments families have. Who can't relate to this picture? You're
yelling, "Why haven't you cleaned your room yet?" while your child is on the
couch watching TV, shouting back, "I'll do it later!"
The reason kids don't like doing chores is the
same reason adults don't like doing chores: household tasks are generally
boring. Let's face it; the satisfaction of getting the dishes done is not a very
big reward in this day and age of video games and instant gratification. While
that doesn't mean kids
shouldn't do chores, it does help to partly explain why they resist them.
Another big reason is because
children feel like they're being taken away from something they'd like to do in
order to do something that's not exciting or stimulating. And most kids don't
solve that problem by using their time more efficiently to complete tasks
quickly. Instead, you'll see them showing disinterest and dragging their feet. I
think it's also important to understand that children don't have the same value
structure as adults. Most parents feel it's their child's responsibility to get
their chores done, not only to help out around the house, but also to share in
tasks and responsibilities as part of their role as members of the family.
Certainly, kids understand on some level that they should do chores simply
because they are part of the family. But as every parent knows, children have a
difficult time relating that concept to action.
In my opinion, getting your child to do chores becomes a battle when you allow
it to grow into one. If you're standing over your kids telling them over and
over again to "empty the dishwasher, mow the lawn, clean the kitchen," and
they're digging their heels in and still not complying, you are in that battle,
make no mistake about it.
Nag, Nag, Nag-All I Ever Do is Nag My Kids!
Frankly, I don't like the term nagging because I think it puts a negative spin
on what parents are doing, when in reality, it's not negative at all. When we're
"nagging" our kids, we're prompting, reminding, and encouraging them to fulfill
their responsibilities. And as a parent, it's well within our responsibilities
to make sure our children do tasks around the house. In fact, I believe that
part of the chore system in your home should include the rule that your child
doesn't need to be nagged. (I'll explain more about that later.)
Parents generally get caught in a nagging cycle out of habit; we get stuck in
repetitive behaviors just like kids do. Personally, I think giving a general
reminder is fine. It's perfectly okay for parents to say, "All right guys, let's
get to work now." But after that, they need to get started. The problem with
nagging, of course, is that it doesn't work. Far too often, parents continue to
do things that don't work because they don't have any other options. Once you
turn your back on your child, they stop doing their chores-and
then you have to get back on top of them, and the whole cycle repeats itself.
If you feel like you're constantly on top of your kids, trying to get them to do
their household chores, here are some effective things you can do to give
yourself-and them-a break.
6 Ways to Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores (Without Going Crazy)
1)Stop the Show: I believe that parents really have to learn how
to stop the show. What does this mean? If your child is not doing his chores,
you simply stop everything, tell him to have a seat and talk to him about it.
Ask him what he thinks is going on and what's getting in his way of doing his
assigned tasks. Find out what his plans are after he?s finished and try to
motivate him toward getting the work done so he move onto what he really wants
to do. Appealing to a child's self-interests-rather than explaining the abstract
concept of responsibility or duty-is generally much more effective for kids.
2)Time Your Child's Performance: Timing is a good way to get your
child to comply with doing chores. You can say, "All right, the dishes have to
be done in 20 minutes." If they're not done in 20 minutes, then your child's
bedtime is earlier. Now there's a cost associated with his foot-dragging. The
beauty of this system is that you're not constantly nagging anymore, you're just
keeping time. The next night, you can say, "Let's not repeat what happened last night-because
remember, you didn't enjoy going to bed earlier."
Another timing strategy parents can use is a technique where you motivate kids
to compete with themselves. You can say, "Let's see if you can get it done in 15
minutes tonight. But remember, you have to do it right. I'm going to check." You
can even give them an incentive: "If you get it done within 15 minutes, you can
stay up 15 minutes later. Or you can stay online 15 minutes more." So then it
becomes more exciting and stimulating for the child. And while your child won't
lose anything if he or she doesn't
get it done, they'll gain something if they do. That kind of reward system is
always preferable to one in which the kid loses something, because it's more
motivational and less punitive-you're giving your child an incentive to do
3)Consider Giving Kids an Allowance: I think if parents are
financially able to give kids an allowance, they should do it. Your child's
allowance should also be hooked into their chores-and to the times when your
child fails to complete his tasks or has to be reminded to do them. So for
example, if your child has to be told more than once to do his chore, he would
lose a certain part of his allowance-let's say a dollar. And each time you
remind him, he loses another dollar. It is also appropriate to give that part of
his allowance to a sibling who does the chore instead. This way, you're not
working on the chore, you're working on the communications process, as well as
your child's motivation.
4)Use Structure: Structure is very important when it comes to
completing household tasks. I believe there should be a time to do chores in the
evening or in the morning. Personally, I think that evenings are best during the
school year, because doing chores in the morning just adds to the stress and
intensity of the schedule. Summertime is easier in some ways because you're not
contending with homework. So in the summer, chores should be done first, before
anything else gets done. For example, before the video
games or any electronics go on, make it a rule that your child's bed has to be
made, his clothes should be in the hamper and his room is tidy. This way, he's
starting to learn that before he can have free time, his responsibilities have
to be met. Again, you never want to be pulling your child back from something
exciting in order to do something mundane and boring. Rather, you want to get
them to work through the mundane and boring things to get to something exciting.
Sometimes as a parent you have to ask yourself, if my child isn't doing his
chores, what is he doing? You really have to be aware of how your child is using
his time. If he's not doing his chores because he's playing on the computer or
reading a comic book, you've got to stop that pattern. The choice shouldn't be
"excitement or chore." The choice should be "boredom or chore." What I mean is
that kids have to understand that they can't go listen to music in their rooms
or just hang out until their chores are finished.
I also think it's a good idea to set aside time during the day when all the kids
in your family are doing their chores at once. So your 15 year old might be
unloading the dishwasher while your 11 year old is taking out the garbage. That
way, no one feels as if they're missing out or being punished by having to
complete their tasks. It's just chore time.
5)Don't Turn Chores into Punishment: I tell parents not to use
chores as punishment. If somebody misbehaves and does something wrong, don't
give them a consequence of doing the dishes, for example. The only time that's
appropriate is if your child does something wrong to another sibling. And so in
order to make amends-in order to right the wrong-they do that person's chore for
them. That's a physical way of saying, "I was wrong to do that and I'm doing
your chore to show you that I'm sincere." That's the only time when I advocate
that parents use chores as something more than an assigned task.
6)Use a Reward System: It's pretty simple: If you want kids to
take responsibility for their chores, integrate their tasks with some reward
system that has to do with allowance, as we mentioned, or in some other
observable way. I recommend that parents have a chart on the refrigerator with
each child's name on it, with their chores listed next to their names. If they
make their bed promptly and do it right, they get a check. When they get five
checks, they get some reward. Maybe it's staying up an hour later.
Maybe it's having more computer
time one night. In my opinion, the computer, video games and television don't
have to be on every waking hour. Just because the computer is there doesn't mean
the child has to be using it-especially if your kids argue about it. Each child
should get an hour of computer time, and then computer time is over. If they
want more than that hour, they should have to earn it. This allows you to use
computer time, TV time, and video game time as a reward. Of course, this doesn't
apply to schoolwork or projects that they have to do on the computer.
Kids might understand that doing the dishes is part of their role in the family
but they're not going to feel it in some significant way. Chores are work, and
in that sense very few of us like to work unless we're getting rewarded for it.
And the reward has to be something we like. If my boss had paid me in carrots I
wouldn't have worked much at all-because one or two carrots and I'm all set.
Kids have the same motivating principle. They want a reward that's in currency
they like. The idea that they should learn to do chores for some abstract
reason-like duty or responsibility-sounds good on paper, but has very little
practical application in a child's life. ("I'll
Do It Later"-Six Ways To Get Kids To Do Chores Now
reprinted with permission from
For three decades, behavioral therapist James
Lehman, MSW, has worked with troubled teens and children with behavior problems.
He has developed a practical, real-life approach to managing children and
adolescents that teaches them how to solve social problems without hiding behind
a fa?de of defiant, disrespectful, or obnoxious behavior. He has taught his
approach to parents, teachers, state agencies and treatment centers in private
practice and now through
The Total Transformation? -- a
comprehensive step-by-step, multi-media program that makes learning James'
techniques remarkably easy and helps you change your child's behavior.