Help with the Laundry? You’ve Gotta Be Kidding!”

No doubt if you're a parent you've met with resistance when talking about chores. We may find ourselves nagging, lecturing, coaxing, or even threatening. There is a better way!

I can still see the stunned look on my 6-year-old’s face when I asked him to help me with laundry. He was downright appalled. In his mind, this was clearly my job. After all, he was “just a kid.” You’d think I had asked him to carry a bucket of bricks for a mile. All I wanted was for him to sort his dirty clothes into light and dark piles.

The Perennial Chore Challenge

No doubt if you’re a parent you’ve met with resistance when talking about chores. We may find ourselves nagging, lecturing, coaxing, or even threatening.

(That’s before we set all pride aside and resort to basic begging.)

It can reach a point when we throw our hands in the air and give in. As the saying goes, it is often “easier to just do it myself.”

But, we all know that giving up on family chores is not the answer! Here’s why.

Chores Bring a Big Benefit to Kids

Chores can help children:

  • Learn practical skills that will serve them well when older
  • Develop discipline
  • Engage in activities for the “greater good,” beyond self-centered actions
  • Experience the satisfaction of being a constructive part of the family
  • Take pride in completing tasks

And Chores Can Score a Huge Win for YOU!

Benefits for you, as the parent:

  • Lessening the workload (yay!)
  • Adding structure to the day’s activities
  • Knowing that you helped your child learn new skills
  • Making it clear that you are in charge of the household, and kids are participating members

Plus, keep in mind that when your kids are doing chores, they are not texting on the phone, or playing on a tablet or computer!

“Is It Okay to Ask My Child to. . .?”

If you already have a good system working, stop reading this and take a victory lap. Congratulations! Maybe you can share some of your tips in the comment area below (yes please!).

For many of you, though, you get stuck on a common question. Is it okay to ask my teen to . . . or, Can a 3-year-old be asked to . . .

We’ve addressed this dilemma in an infographic on age appropriate chores for kids.

Of course, age is not everything. Your child may have a physical or mental challenge or special interests, that should be considered. But these guidelines will give you a starting point and get you brainstorming.

Posting a Chore List is Easy Peasy

Remember how we talked about nagging in the beginning? A daily or weekly chore chart will save you a lot of time and energy.

Download free printable chore charts to help encourage your child and keep things on track. Regardless of age, we’ve got you covered.

You’ll find the charts can easily be changed and adapted. Keep it fresh!

Make Family Chores as Fun as You Can

Your attitude will make a ton of difference. Find positive ways to introduce a task. And consider doing it together to get started. This provides support, but also gives you a good opportunity to demonstrate the best way to complete it.

Avoid using chores as a form of punishment, since this will deter your child from wanting to do their chores.

Try setting a timer and see if your youngster is able to complete the chore before the alarm goes off. This can help turn the chore process into a fun game.

For a young child, put on some popular music you know he or she loves. For older teens, let them crank the volume up on what they like (as long as it is not R-rated!). Of course, that’s when it won’t disturb anyone. Otherwise, they will have to choose earbuds!

Give Lots of Positive Feedback

Let your youngster know how much you appreciate cooperation with chores, and congratulate them when they do a good job. In addition to verbal praise, chore charts are ideal for getting a habit established and can make the process more enjoyable for your child.

When using a chore chart, the younger kids will enjoy putting a sticker next to each task as it is completed. For the older kids, you can use a marker to check off the chores.

Successfully completing a daily or weekly chore chart can be a reward in itself. Then again, you may decide to offer a small incentive for completion. In any event, look forward to more family help with more cooperation and less complaining!

I hope you’ll share some of your suggestions (or your frustrations!) about dealing with family chores and incentive charts. After working as a school psychologist for many years, I love to help families find solutions and welcome your feedback.

Published on: November 26, 2018
About the Author
Photo of Sheila DeMare

Sheila Rogers DeMare is a leader in the field of integrative therapies for neuro-behavioral disorders. She is author of the Amazon best-seller Natural Treatments for Tics and Tourettes and Stop Your Tics by Learning What Triggers Them.

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Recent Comments

Thanks for your feedback RMW. Cute to think of him watching the numbers on the machine. Maybe that will help him be motivated to help with laundry someday!

I remember using a chore chart with my brother and sister when we were kids. I think a chore chart is working well for my son because he already loves stickers so much. So he’s excited to see them filling up a page. He also loves counting, so when we turn a chore into something related to numbers, he’s much more engaged. Like instead of cleaning up books, we ask how many he can stack in a pile or put on the shelf. So it becomes a counting game instead of cleaning. I’m looking forward to him being able to help more as he gets older and behavior and chore charts are going to get a lot more use in our home soon!

Good tips here. When I was a teacher many years ago, I used approaches like this to get my students to help take care of our classroom. It’s worth the effort it takes to teach kids responsibility and to help them feel good about their contribution to something bigger than themselves (family, classroom, community, etc.).

That’s a good point, ML. Actually I learned a lot about this approach while working in the schools myself. I agree, it takes some effort but it is worth it in the long run. Thanks so much for the note!

We love using behavior charts – mostly because my son loves stickers! We also make the “reward” be an experience – like an outing to the playground or museum – not just a physical treat. He’s pretty good at chores when we tie them into things he already enjoys, like counting. He watches the numbers on the laundry machine after starting it up or he is much more engaged about putting books away if he counts them while he stacks them into a tower or puts them back on the shelf.