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Conversation About Children Doing Chores

29 min read
Discussion about whether or not you should assign chores to your children. I hope that you will be swayed by the same statement that swayed me. Children are part of your family. Family do chores. Visitors do not do chores. Are the kids feeling like full family members/

Chores 4 Children

A Discussion

Link to a short version of step by step tips on implementing chores for your children.

One of our overarching goals as parents is to teach our children what they need to know in order to be successful independent adults.

Important Journal/Think About:

  • What are your feelings about chores 4 children? Why?
  • Think back to your childhood. How did your parents get you to do chores? How did you feel about chores (maybe think about after you completed them.)
  • How do you feel about chores now, from the view point of the parent?
  • What chores would be appropriate for children to accomplish on a daily or weekly schedule?
  • What are the consequences for your child not doing their chores?

Your children are children and are not your equal. You do not answer to your children. They know you love them. Do you love them enough to let them be the children? You will decide the appropriate chores for each child. Sometimes a child asks for a chore or hates a chore and you can decide to change them. Kids want their parents to be in control of adult things so they can be left to be children. Assigning chores will help your family.

It seems that parenting should be easier than it is, right?

Conversation About Chores

When we bring our tiny bundle of love home, we probably are not thinking about what chores they will do. The idea of chores sort of sneaks up on most of us. “Let’s work together to pick up your toys.” Said cheerfully before naptime.

Picking up toys is one of the first chores we teach our kids. It seems very natural to teach our children how to do something and then expect them to be able to do it (eventually) on their own. Chores work that way.

It seems like common sense to assign chores to your children but many parents are uncomfortable with this. Parents are under more daily stress than ever and are often “too tired” to fight their children about getting chores done. What if I told you that you could get your children to comply with your requests more easily?

Would you be interested in how to maintain a loving supportive relationship and still have your children finish chores without arguments?

Children who have chores are being taught that to be an adult means you need to know how to … make a bed…do laundry…wash, dry and put away dishes…vacuum…take out trash…and on and on. A parent’s true job is to raise children who become happy successful citizens who contribute positively to our world.

Please remember you can only be responsible for your actions, not anybody else’s. It will be significantly harder to implement chores if your partner doesn’t agree with them. It will continue to be a challenge to support one another when there is not a real meeting of the minds. However, you must be the best parent you can possibly be, regardless of anyone else.

I can’t remember where I heard this concept but it rang very true to me. Family members share the tasks of taking care of their home and all that goes with it. Chores are given to family members. Visitors are not given chores. I felt like it answered the big question about having kids do chores.

Kathy was my sister’s best friend from Kindergarten to forever. Kathy was like a second sister to me. She spent a lot of time at our house. I think she even called my dad, “Dad”.

Kathy was one of us, all vacations, all major events. I still think of her as a little sister. However, Kathy was still not put on the chore chart. It never occurred to me that being on the chore chart was part of being in a family, but it is.

Chores act as a sort of glue between individuals in a family. Some of my best memories are about doing projects at our home. Some of the best memories of chores are doing them with my sister or my dad. The chores bonded us with common actions.

“Chores” continue long into our lives. When dad needed to paint the house, he called us all over, husbands and wives. We had a great weekend and he had a freshly painted house. It was fun to do together and nobody was expected to be paid, even grandkids who helped.

So, what is the controversy all about? Why do some families expect chores to be done while other families seem to expect the adults to do all the work?

In the 1980’s-1990’s the vast majority of my students had regular chores to do at home. Sometimes parents would complain that homework was getting in the way of other activities, including doing chores. I keep asking myself what changed as the years went by.

After the turn of the century, parents seem to be very tied to their children having free time, all the time, at home.

  • Is it parenting through guilt?
    • Is it the screen time, television, gaming and texting that is all consuming of our time?
    • Is it the broken families? Families with two households where kids have two sets of rules and parents don’t want to upset the children when it is their “turn” to parent?

Regardless of the reason that many children are not doing chores, I know how important it is to build a strong happy family. I know doing chores is a key to a strong family.

Chores 4 Children:
Putting Kids 2 Work

Before you start chores there are a few things you should wrap your head around.

Assigning new chores:

  1. Do the chore with the child – more than one time. Keep working as a team until you feel your child can accomplish the task on their own.

Example: Make Your Bed.

Why: do we make the bed? To keep it clean. To help your room stay clean.

When: should the bed be made? The best time is right after they get out of it in the morning. As smaller kids you might have a comforter instead of a regular bedspread. A comforter can be pulled up and tucked in around the pillows.

How: When you show them how to do it you want to have them helping. Have the child help with every step – even if it looks messy when it is done.

Encourage: Praise, tell kids you are so proud of them. As children grow into adults these words mean even more than the words, “I Love You.”

Post a Picture: Many parents take a picture of the chore that is complete and put it in the room for the children to follow. Most frequently it is a picture of their bedroom. Take pictures of the bedroom (Under the bed, closet, inside dressers) and pin them someplace in the room so the child can do one more inspection before getting you to check the room.

Siblings: Older children help younger children. You have to put in the time to teach the older children what they need to know so they can share it with the younger ones.

Step-Children – “Part Time Family”: Remember why you give chores? It is important to give ALL your kids chores. Even if they don’t live full time in your home. Every child should pick up after themselves, do dishes, cook, vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms. Children who live in two homes may benefit by parents joining in on the chores which bonds them together.

Posting Chore Charts: Many families have chore charts posted on the fridge or wherever works. These parents have decided to be organized and make things easy for kids to remember. I think chore charts can be a great idea. I especially like it when parents can check things off or initial the item when it is completed. Don’t fall into the idea that you will pay for regular chores.

Posting Extra Chores 4 Money: Some parents have a list of EXTRA CHORES 4 MONEY. They post these chores and children can see how much each chore is worth. Washing the car might be worth as much as $5 while washing the dog is worth $7 because it is harder to accomplish.

Reteach as Needed: You have taught your child how to do a chore. You check on it and it is not completed. Do not fix it for them. Do not shout at them. Walk them in and tell them you will work with them to show them how to do it.

If you think they are doing a poor job completing their chores, on purpose, follow up with a consequence. The best consequences are those that fit the “crime”. Please read about consequences in other articles. Remember to think ahead and never assign a consequence you can’t control. That is essential. Never start a battle you can’t win.

Remember that all kids are different. Allow kids to trade chores with one another – being sure that the deals are mostly fair. We made deals with each other all the time but didn’t ever tell our mom. As long as things were done right it was good enough for her and she didn’t need to know more than that.

 An Example from real life:

Your child doesn’t do the dishes. You are tired of asking them so you do it yourself.

Mom: Honey, you didn’t do the dishes last night. Don’t worry I did them for you.

Child to friend: Oh No, I am in big trouble.

Friend: She didn’t sound mad. Why are you in trouble.

Child to friend: You don’t understand. I have to make up for it.

Mom says to child when she comes in the kitchen.: It took me about half an hour so you own me an hour. Do you want to clean the bathrooms or mop the floors?

Child to mom: Can I look at the bathrooms?

Mom: Sure, I can wait.

Child returns from bathrooms: I will take the floors.

The child goes off and plays with her friend. After the friend leaves the mother asks:

Mom to child: Do you want to mop the floors now or after dinner?

Child: Now, it’s my week for dishes so I better get this done first.

Mom: Good decision, thanks. Do you need me to get the bucket set up?

Child: No, I got this.

The child understands the rules of the house. If you don’t do your chores and someone else has to do them for you, you owe them double the chores in time.

I have many more examples for you. This is hard to put together unless you have a great additional consequence to hold over them until they complete the chore. My mother could hardly wait for us to get our driver’s licenses. She would hold her hand out and we knew she was going to hold our license until we got things done, right. Or, holding a cell phone. Taking television privileges or games.

Feed the Dog

      We bought a dog when my son was 7-years-old. We loved Rocky. He was like another child to us, a brother to our son.

      At first our son fed Rocky every night, like clock-work. He would sit by the bowl and talk to Rocky as he ate. It was so sweet.

      Flash forward a few years.

Mom: Did you feed the dog?

Son: I will

Mom: He is bugging me while I cook, come feed him

Son: I will

Mom – gets frustrated. I started thinking about what consequence I could give my son that would drill home the issue that the dog needed to eat dinner.

      The next night I cooked my son’s favorite dinner. Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Green Beans…He started drooling and actually asked if he could set the table for dinner.

      I brought over the plates – nothing extra tonight, just enough for the three of us. I put the plates in front of each of us. We bowed our heads to say a prayer. Our son grabbed his fork and was about to dig in when I said, “Stop!”

      Mom stands up and picks up sons plate. Mom walks to the dog dish and puts the plate on top of the empty food dish. Then mom sits back down to eat her food.

      Son: Mom! That was my food! Can I get more? What did you do that for?

      Mom: Son, it is your responsibility to feed Rocky every night. I took care of him tonight for you. I think it is very cruel to make him wait and sit there watching us eat. He deserves to have dinner, too.

      Son: Dad, can I have yours?

      Mom: Better not!

      Son: What can I eat?

      Mom: There is a lot of salad. Or you can make something else in the kitchen but you have to clean up whatever you make.

I overheard our son telling Darren about what happened. He sounded so disappointed that he hadn’t had his favorite meal. I had to fight every urge I had to stick to my consequence.

      Just when you think you have conquered a situation, given the perfect consequence. The next night when he came in to feed Rocky he paused, “Mom, what are you making for dinner?”

      He was so quick. If I had cooked something he didn’t like I am pretty sure he would have walked away and hoped I would feed his meal to Rocky.

      Parenting is a constant challenge!

Paying for Chores

Do not pay for everyday chores that are part of being family. Do you get paid every time you drive the kids someplace or clean up a mess? Nope you don’t. Don’t treat them like their time is more precious than yours. Family means we all chip in and we enjoy doing it because we do things as a unit as much as possible.

When Paying Makes Sense

I am in favor of paying kids for the EXTRAS they do around the house. For instance, Washing the cars would be an extra. That is more like real world. You never get paid for doing your part of being a family. You get paid when you do extra or do work for another person or family.

How much should you pay for extras? You do not want to run off to the store the minute they get money in their banks. You want them to get their pay and keep the money for a while. That is the only way to teach children to save money for extras, or the big rainy day.

You need to think about a child’s age and the reason they might want money.

The younger kids want quick purchases of inexpensive toys or candy. As kids age, they will want more money but are more capable of earning more extra money

This is a controversial opinion. You may not agree with me. Here it is anyway.


You want your kids to get jobs when they are old enough. Working for a store or business should pay minimum wage if the kids have a work permit – working for a family business might also pay minimum wage.

      Teenagers have never expected to earn minimum wage for babysitting or washing a car. Parents hire babysitters so they can go to dinner but they can’t afford to pay minimum wage. The vast majority of parents work for minimum wage themselves.

I started earning money babysitting and washing windows when I was twelve years old. It would have been impossible to get any jobs if families had to pay me minimum wage. I was young, inexperienced and I am sure I worked slower washing windows than a professional.

Why work if you have to pay a babysitter the same amount you earn? If your child wants to babysit and have a larger hourly pay, they can be creative by babysitting three family’s kids at the same time and having all three parents’ chip in to equal minimum wage.

      We have all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Working for neighbors, walking dogs, babysitting, mowing lawns, etc. Many neighbors will encourage your kids to work for them. I believe that when a child is doing odd jobs, they are gaining experience and independence.

The act of helping neighbors carries with it an internal feeling of pride. We don’t want to take advantage of kids but we also don’t treat them as if they can do a job as well as a grown.

Most teenagers we have hired have been easily distracted from the task at hand. They have taken more breaks than would be allowed. Many of the tasks had to be taught and monitored so that the work was done correctly.

We usually pay for the job. For instance, the house can easily be cleaned in 3 hours. We pay a flat fee and they can take double that time if they are slow but they will only be paid for the three hours. Unless we add tasks that will take more time to get done.

An Opposing View

Some adults believe all work should be paid minimum wage, including babysitting and dog walking

When a child can do adult work for a business it would make sense for them to earn an adult wage. There is a strong thought that if you work you deserve minimum wage. If a teenager can find work that pays the minimum wage of that state, good for them!


Teach Chores Early in Life:

The beginning of chores is when your child is still a toddler. You talk to small children while you pick up after them or do your household tasks. Sing while you clean. Make it fun to clean up. Pre-schools have a song they sing when they clean that starts something like, “Clean up. Clean up. Everybody Clean up.”

  1. When a child is old enough to mess up their room, they are old enough to clean up. When a parent does all of the picking up of toys, they are starting out wrong. Starting out that way will teach your child that they either are not able to clean up, you were put on this earth to do all the household chores or that they are too good to do little chores.
  2. I had visitors one day who brought their 2 and 4 year old children. The basket of toys came out and the kids had a great time exploring each toy. When the kids wanted to get more toys out of the cabinet I said, “Pick up those toys first then we can get out more toys.” The mother said, “We don’t do that in my family.” I was shocked. These children were plenty capable of putting toys back in the basket. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to encourage them to take out any other toys. “They can get out more toys when these are put away in the basket.” I explained. The baby daddy grumbled and packed them up to leave. The kids were having fits because they didn’t want to leave. What a mess. I do not encourage them to visit! Being unwilling to teach your child to clean up toys is going to make them stand out in a negative way at school and at the homes of friends and family.
  3. When you are sure that your child has practiced cleaning up after themselves you should ask them to do one task alone, then praise them or reteach them as you help them with the rest of the cleaning. Add small parts of the whole task a little at a time. Remembering that it is much more fun to do things with a friend or with a mom.
  4. When your child is old enough and skilled enough to do the entire job, you might want to take pictures of the clean room. Post the pictures on the wall, bulletin board where they can be easily accessed so the children can compare the pictures to how clean the room is. Don’t forget to take pictures of the inside of the closet, inside the dresser drawers and under the bed.
  5. Cleaning the bathroom: I used shaving cream because my son liked to play with it. You can choose any cleanser you want that is not poisonous. I started my son cleaning his bathroom when he was potty trained. I told him, “Mommy doesn’t miss.” And put him in there with the radio on to clean the entire bathroom. He had it all foamed up and when it was wiped clean it sparkled. (I had to go in later and rinse the shaving cream off of the floor and the shower because it made things slick.)
  6. Some children have an inner compass that creates a child who wants to please. That was my little sister. Some kids are naturally able to save money while others spend it as soon as it hits their hands. Don’t forget to identify your children’s nature and to do extra praising in the area that is not as natural for them.

A Routine for doing Chores

Every Saturday morning, we changed our sheets. We took off the dirty ones and put on clean ones. Sis was “too little” to put the bottom sheet on her bed. For as long as I could remember I had to put her bottom sheet on for her.

We shared a room so it was just part of what we did. I remember the day when she was twelve and was standing back while I put the sheet on her bed. She laughed and said, “You have been putting my bottom sheet on since you were half the age I am now.” Yep. last time I put a bottom sheet on for her.

Every Saturday we vacuumed and dusted the house. We did the bathrooms and kitchen floor. When we were all done we were free to do whatever we arranged for the day. I hated to dust so I always convinced my sister that dusting was the easier and best job she could do. I pretended that I wanted that job but gave it to her because I wanted her to feel older. LOL That is the kind of memory we only get from doing chores.

Try to treat your children equitably. It can divide a family if you don’t. Our brother didn’t really do chores. If you asked my Mom, she would have all these comments about how unfair that statement was, but she looks back in her life through a different set of glasses than I do. His main job was to take out the garbage.

Mom: “Hey, time to take out the garbage.”

Brother: “Ok Mom, in a minute.”

Ten minutes later mom’s second reminder: “The garbage isn’t going to take care of itself.”

Brother: “Ok Mom, in a minute.”

Then ten minutes later you would hear the door shut – wait for it- the door opened and miraculously the garbage was taken out. My brother never ever got up to check on that garbage.

In most family’s sons helped dads – so their primary chores were when their dads were home. Our dad worked seven days a week so it was harder for him to coordinate things with my brother.

We thought that all kids in all families did the same things we did. We never complained because we didn’t know enough to complain. I made money babysitting when I was twelve but I think my parents gave my siblings money to spend as they never worked until college years.

Children should only be given allowance because the children have completed some kind of work. The idea is to help teach your children how to save money for the things they want.

Children MUST have daily chores that they are not paid to complete. Family members do chores. visitors do not do chores. Your children might complain about doing chores but stick to your plan. You might need to have a consequence ready if your children do not complete the assigned chore.

How will children learn to manage money if they don’t have any money?

Have a plan with you partner. If your child wants something and it not their birthday or Christmas you should require your child to do specific chores that are not their regular chores.

Chores like window washing, cleaning the interior of a car (ending with a vacuum, cleaning the bbq, cleaning the oven or refrigerator are all things you could pay your child to do.

Some families post a piece of paper on the refrigerator or some other place where it is easy to see. The list has the name of the EXTRA chore and a price beside it. Children should keep track of their EXTRA chores to be paid on pay day.

Make a list of chores your children can do (age appropriate) Plan ahead ( Your children will keep getting older.)

At what age should your children be assigned chores?

When is it okay for your child to skip the chore?

If your child skips chores or decides not to do them what will you do about it?

Let’s get going as we discuss chores.

You have already accomplished so much by completing the journal.

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