Photo: milkos via 123RF

Everyone could use more help with the tasks that keep your house orderly and functional. As a parent, receiving that assistance from your children is a gift for both of you. Daily and weekly chores instill responsibility and teach kids the work required to run a household. Plus, those little helping hands ease your household work burden.

Do you wish your kids would help more? Are you eager to introduce chores but don’t want the power struggle? With patience and reframing, household duties can become a positive and integral part of your family system.

How to Introduce Chores to Your Kids

First and foremost, chores don’t have to be a drag! Even though we often view these tasks negatively, chores are neutral. You can present them to your kids as a way to contribute to the family community. For the youngest crowd, chores are often fun since they involve new tools, responsibilities, and fresh activities to try. Remember to present the idea positively. You might be surprised by their willingness to help and the ways they find to make their chores entertaining.

Avoid Reward Systems

Kids need a clear outline of the permissions and allowances they have, along with the household responsibilities they bear. However, tying tasks directly to rewards can create a problem. This system results in children relying on external motivation to complete their chores rather than developing a sense of community, responsibility, and teamwork. As they age, they’ll always look for the external rewards to make a new venture worthwhile rather than calling upon their drive to succeed or contribute. Kids who develop a sense of accomplishment and pride when they’ve finished their chores are more likely to try challenging things in the future, even without the promise of external validation.

Practice Being a Confident Leader

Requiring your kids to complete chores regularly is not always met with cooperation. When they complain, whine, or flat-out refuse, it’s vital to maintain your composure and move forward as a confident leader. The strategy here is to model calm confidence. This trait allows for fewer power struggles at home and more resilient kids. Children ultimately prefer parents who aren’t easily manipulated into changing the rules. A sure=handed parent makes kids feel safe and more comfortable expressing a range of emotions. When your kids refuse to complete chores, stay mellow, acknowledge their feelings, and continue to enforce the rules. Remind yourself that chores help them develop many worthwhile skills, and a bit of temporary whining isn’t worth relenting.

Photo: rawpixel via 123RF

The Best Chores by Age Group

When you’re ready to start assigning chores, consult this list to see the appropriate tasks for each age group. Remember to think about your kids’ abilities and adjust as necessary but have a plan for ramping up responsibilities over time and share that goal with your children. Here are a few examples for each age group as a starting point.

Toddlers: These kids love copying everything adults and older siblings do. Take advantage and have them learn simple household tasks.

  • Throwing away trash
  • Dusting with a sock on their hand
  • Wiping up spills
  • Filling pet food bowls
  • Putting clothes in the hamper
  • Cleaning up their own toys
  • Sweeping with a child-sized broom

Preschoolers: At this age, some kids can begin to complete tasks independently. They love to feel grown-up but also want to make their own decisions. Offering several options for this age group is a good idea. (“Today you can do your living room chores or your bedroom chores, you pick!”)

  • Watering the garden
  • Matching socks, sorting clothing
  • Helping to set the table (silverware, napkins)
  • Putting away groceries
  • Washing plastic dishes
  • Vacuuming with a handheld machine

Elementary Age: Now that they’ve developed more fine-motor coordination, they can complete various tasks. Assigning them a mix of personal-care tasks and household chores will help them understand their role in the home and community.

  • Folding and putting away laundry
  • Making bed
  • Setting the table
  • Pulling weeds
  • Helping with dinner prep
  • Load/unload the dishwasher
  • Make their school lunch or snacks

Middle SchoolersKids this age won’t need as many reminders to complete chores, but they might rebel more. Giving them consistent tasks on a routine basis is essential for success.

  • Washing and drying clothes
  • Making simple meals for family dinner
  • Raking the lawn
  • Vacuuming
  • Mopping
  • Changing bedsheets

High Schoolers: At this age, kids can complete almost all household tasks, and their chores should be a chance for them to learn adult skills they’ll need as they leave home.

  • Washing cars
  • Making more complex meals
  • Taking dogs on walks
  • Simple home and auto repairs
  • Small grocery shopping trips
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Paying bills (with their own money or yours) for their extracurricular activities
  • Babysitting younger siblings

Start small if you haven’t yet incorporated chores into your kids’ routines. Eventually, they’ll contribute to your home and feel proud to be a valued part of the team.