Ask the Experts: Getting Kids to Love (or at Least do) Chores

Dealing with complaining and whining when kids are assigned chores

Q:   How can I not only get my child to tackle chores, but also to be agreeable or even happy about it rather than complaining and miserable? 

A:   We all love to see our kids happy, but you can’t make your kids love chores any more than you can make yourself love coming home from a long day at work to three loads of laundry and a sink full of dishes. What you can do is set the stage for chores to be a regular part of family life, free from nagging and full of valuable life skills. Here’s how.

Involve them in choosing chores. This may shock you, but my children pick a new chore on their birthdays. They talk with excitement about possible choices for weeks. How did we achieve this magic? When they were young, we asked what they wanted to learn how to do and we started with that chore.

Make a plan. Have a discussion to work through chore completion logistics. Include specifics: when the chore will be completed, how they will remember the task and how they will communicate completion. This creates clear expectations, helps parents avoid nagging and teaches kids to be responsible for their jobs. Let your child really be a part of the decision making.

Take time for training. Children often resist chores because they are overwhelmed with the task. It doesn’t matter if you know your children can do it — it’s all about whether they believe they can do it. Implement steps so your child feels capable: Your child watches you do it and then helps you do it; you help your child do it and then watch your child do it.

Express appreciation despite imperfections. Often we discourage kids by focusing on mistakes with criticisms. When your child completes a chore, thank them for pitching in. If more training is needed, pick another time to bring that up.

While you can’t make your child love chores, you can share control, teach life skills and help them feel capable. This increases their willingness to do chores and helps them realize they have a role that matters in the family.

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