My kids are getting a kick out of the fact that I’m writing a series on chores. Chores are a big deal in our house. We clean for about 10 minutes in the morning and maybe another 20 or 30 in the afternoon. When 3 or 4 people work diligently for this amount of time, a lot of work gets done! Shh – don’t tell, but I think they are secretly proud they are trusted with so much important work.
Attitude is key
If you want your kids to cheerfully help out around the house, you must consider attitudes: yours and theirs. Kids are much more likely to be willing workers if they feel appreciated. Choosing the right attitude will make the work go twice as fast.
What message you are sending when you do housework (or work of any kind)?
Are you complaining about the never-ending pile of laundry? Do you groan when it’s time to take out the stinky trash? Do you complain when it’s time to go to work? I know I am guilty of a bad attitude at times when the work piles up.
For good or for bad, our attitudes are contagious. If our kids see us grumbling, they will get the message that chores are unpleasant and to be avoided. Alternatively, if they see you approaching your work with a good attitude, they will be more likely to do the same. I try to remember that I would have a lot less laundry to do and dishes to wash if I wasn’t blessed with 4 kids. And how lonely I would be! I’d have a lot less help, too!
Show your appreciation.
When they complete a job, even a very small one, thank them for it. Don’t you like it when someone thanks you for doing something? I think it’s almost impossible to overdo this. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. So tell them! Give them a quick thanks, a high five, or maybe write a little note. They will be glad you noticed.
I also try to schedule something fun after we’ve finished our afternoon chore time. When the kids know they have something to look forward to, they work incredibly fast. It’s amazing how efficient a 9 year old can be when there’s the promise of computer time awaiting him at the end! He thinks about the reward, not the work and his attitude is good.
Don’t allow your kids to grumble about their chores. Perhaps you make a rule that grumbling will be met with an extra chore.
Here are some tips to encourage good attitudes during chore time:
- Don’t nag.
- Empathize. “I know how you feel. Folding laundry isn’t my favorite activity either. But we’re almost done.”
- Use simple announcements, the shorter, the better: “Dishwasher, please!”
- Set expectations and train your helpers to do things the way you want.
- Don’t expect them to do it perfectly but do have them keep trying until it’s done.
- Keep things age-appropriate. So very important!
Focus on the result, not the work.
Stop and savor together the product of your work. Say things like “The playroom looks so nice now that we’ve put all the toys away.” This helps kids to look ahead to the reward of their labors.
Use a little tough love – let consequences for non-compliance be known.
Maybe you say something like: “Your room has to be clean before you can go to your friend’s house.” Tell her one time, make sure she hears you, and then let the consequence kick in if necessary. She will learn you mean business. The nice thing about this strategy is that you can use it very pleasantly. It’s much nicer for you to restate the consequence instead of continually nagging your kid to do a job.
Make it their problem, not yours.
In our house, the child responsible for emptying the dishwasher has to also load any dirty dishes that pile up. If he delays, the stack of dirty dishes can get quite large. There is a great incentive to empty the dishwasher quickly so others can load their own dirty dishes.
It’s more fun to work as a team.
Certainly, no one is going to be thrilled to be doing chores when others are doing something fun. In our house, we usually work at the same time, although often on different jobs. This way no one feels like he has more work to do than someone else.
Turn up the music.
If you want everyone to work fast, put on some loud, exciting music, and watch them pick up the pace. If there’s a more thorough job or you want a calmer atmosphere, maybe some relaxing classical music is in need. Music is a great way to lift everyone’s mood, improve attitudes, and make the time go quickly.
Make it a game.
My little boys have always loved being “chased” by the vacuum cleaner. When my oldest son mops the kitchen, the little boys climb on the kitchen island and pretend they are trapped. This is great fun to them.
If your kids are still small, you’ll still have to do (most of) the work yourself.
In this case, it’s even more important to have a good attitude – you will get through the work happier and you’ll set a good example for your kids. It won’t be long before they’re pitching in alongside you.
If you’re facing bad attitudes from your kids about chores, it will take some time to turn them around.
Just remember the most important thing is for you to model the proper attitude for them. Kids should know that chores are a necessary part of life and their help is needed and appreciated. Mom is not their servant and everyone should pitch in together.
Thanks to a lot of practice and use of these strategies, I’m glad to say my kids are generally good-natured about the work I ask them to do. It’s a good thing, too, because I could never keep up without them. They know it and they know we are all part of a team.
[This post is part of the How to Teach Your Kids to Do Chores series.]
What do you do to encourage a positive attitude about chores? Please tell us in the comments.