Getting Your Kids to Help with the Chores

Every member of the family needs to contribute to make the family work. If one person is doing most or all of the housework, it won't take long to burn out. Try these tips for getting the help you need:

  • Try to make pickup time as fun as possible. Preschool age children seem to respond well to clean up songs. It helps to start young, when children see cleaning as a game. There are several "clean up" and "tidy up" songs on children's tapes and videos. Find one that isn't too annoying and use it! Sing along with the children. Older children -- I hate to say this, but it's true -- may work better with their own favorite music playing. I know that adults in the clutter club have mentioned that music helps. Close the door or move outside while they work to the beat if you don't appreciate their music. But don't insist on silence for housework. Don't teach your children that housework is boring. They may just find that some housework is interesting and even fun. Don't spoil it for them!
  • Label shelves or boxes with words or pictures. Why buy toys that involve putting small blocks or balls into a container when you can practice the same skill on something more useful-like toys and their shelves or boxes. It's a matching game! Young school-aged children are great at matching socks-and sorting laundry once you teach them the rules.
  • Work together, side-by-side. Not only is it good for the children to see you helping (not the mean ogre that makes them do all the work) but you might also get some insight into how your child does things. It is not always necessary for a child to do everything the way you do. Sometimes good enough really is enough. Sometimes the child may come up with a better way. (This is especially true of tasks we were taught to do but hated doing-rather than try to think of a better way to do it, we often try not to think about it.)


  • After children have a chance to put their belongings away, and haven't, place the items in a box. Your kids can redeem them by doing extra chores around the house. This is not a punishment, this is an exchange of labor -- you had to pick up their stuff, now they have to do something for you. Don't make chores a punishment. If you think of housework as a punishment yourself, you need to get things straight in your own mind. Certain tasks simply must be done to keep a household running. Doing them doesn't make you a servant. You do it for the good of the family --including yourself.
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