"I'll Do It Later"-Six Ways to Get Kids to Do Chores Now
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.
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.
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 better.
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.
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.
by James Lehman, MSW