The Art of Dadliness: How to Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores (And Why It’s So Important They Do Them)

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 19, 2012 · 66 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

Every dad wants his children to grow up to be responsible, contributing members of society. But before they head out on their own and make their mark on the world, our kids need to learn how to be responsible, contributing members of the family household. Household chores are training exercises for real life. Chores not only teach children important life skills that will prepare them for living on their own, and impart a pull-your-own-weight work ethic, but recent studies show that starting chores at an early age gives children an enormous leg-up in other areas of their life as well.

Unfortunately, very few children today are getting the training at home they need to become industrious, responsible adults. Studies show that children in the West spend little time helping around the house. While children a century or two ago were expected to do many things to keep the household running, especially if they lived on a farm, according to the Maryland Population Research Center, today’s 6-12 year-old child spends only about 24 minutes a day doing chores. This represents a 25% drop even since 1981. When kids do help around the house, it’s frequently done under duress; parents often have to plead, bribe, and threaten to get their children to do basic things like taking out the trash or cleaning up after dinner.

Anthropologists studying child-rearing across cultures have noted that this “chore strike” by children is primarily a Western phenomenon. In developing societies, children are almost universally eager to help out and be useful. For example, in the remote Guarra settlement in Nepal, children as young as 18 months carry firewood and water. Young boys of the Nuer people of Southern Sudan and Western Ethiopia can be found herding sheep and goats without any cajoling from their parents. And infants in a community in Zaire are taught to use even “dangerous” tools like the machete with skill:

The contributions of children in developing countries can be crucial to their family’s survival. But doing chores is still important for kids living in the suburbs of America; while their responsibilities may not be central to the livelihood of their households, they are essential in helping them grow up in an unselfish and well-adjusted way and shaping them into fully-functioning adults and contributing members of society.

Last month we ran a series on the basic life skills a young man would need to know as he headed out on his own — they were the things I wish I had learned before leaving home. While it’s never too late to learn those skills, in an ideal world, you would master them as you grew up. So, unsurprising, writing that series got me interested in what I can do now as a dad to help my young son Gus grow into a more competent young man than I was. Below I share some of the benefits of giving your kids chores, as well as what we can do as fathers to get our kids to do the chores we assign them. (Along with some pictures of how we’ve incorporated these ideas in encouraging Gus’ desire to pitch in around the house).

The Benefits of Chores

Gus putting the tops to our Pyrex dishes away in a drawer.

There are two systems that emerge in adolescence that propel young folks into adulthood. One is motivation and emotion — as young adults move into the teen years they seek new rewards and want to branch out, travel, spend time with friends, develop ideals, compete hard in sports, get into good schools — see and do as much as possible. And they feel things very intensely. The other system is control — the prefrontal lobes develop, acting as a check to the newly surging emotions and aiding the adolescent in making good decisions, planning, and delaying gratification. These skills develop through trial and error — through the gaining of life experience.

Human beings have the longest and latest adolescence in the animal world — and spend that time under the watchful guidance of their parents for more than a decade (and these days two). This protected and protracted adolescence allowed the two developmental systems to emerge in tandem: young adults got practice at grown-up responsibilities, but did so under the watchful eye of parents and elders who could assist and guide them when they made mistakes. Professor of Psychology Alison Gopnik explains how the two systems have now gotten out-of-sync and how this has affected the development of young adults:

“In the past, to become a good gatherer or hunter, cook or caregiver, you would actually practice gathering, hunting, cooking and taking care of children all through middle childhood and early adolescence—tuning up just the prefrontal wiring you’d need as an adult. But you’d do all that under expert adult supervision and in the protected world of childhood, where the impact of your inevitable failures would be blunted. When the motivational juice of puberty arrived, you’d be ready to go after the real rewards, in the world outside, with new intensity and exuberance, but you’d also have the skill and control to do it effectively and reasonably safely.

In contemporary life, the relationship between these two systems has changed dramatically. Puberty arrives earlier, and the motivational system kicks in earlier too.

At the same time, contemporary children have very little experience with the kinds of tasks that they’ll have to perform as grown-ups. Children have increasingly little chance to practice even basic skills like cooking and caregiving. Contemporary adolescents and pre-adolescents often don’t do much of anything except go to school. Even the paper route and the baby-sitting job have largely disappeared.

The experience of trying to achieve a real goal in real time in the real world is increasingly delayed, and the growth of the control system depends on just those experiences. The pediatrician and developmental psychologist Ronald Dahl at the University of California, Berkeley, has a good metaphor for the result: Today’s adolescents develop an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.

This doesn’t mean that adolescents are stupider than they used to be. In many ways, they are much smarter. An ever longer protected period of immaturity and dependence—a childhood that extends through college—means that young humans can learn more than ever before. There is strong evidence that IQ has increased dramatically as more children spend more time in school, and there is even some evidence that higher IQ is correlated with delayed frontal lobe development.

All that school means that children know more about more different subjects than they ever did in the days of apprenticeships. Becoming a really expert cook doesn’t tell you about the nature of heat or the chemical composition of salt—the sorts of things you learn in school.

But there are different ways of being smart. Knowing physics and chemistry is no help with a soufflé. Wide-ranging, flexible and broad learning, the kind we encourage in high-school and college, may actually be in tension with the ability to develop finely-honed, controlled, focused expertise in a particular skill, the kind of learning that once routinely took place in human societies. For most of our history, children have started their internships when they were seven, not 27.”

I want Gus to be book smart. But I want him to be “street” smart too, and know how to do the laundry, how to clean a house, how to cook — how to function like an independent adult. Chores give children hands-on training in the basic life skills they’ll need to thrive when they head out on their own, while also developing crucial traits like hard work, responsibility, and delayed gratification.

Gus calls the vacuum the “namu.”

In truth, manual tasks and higher learning go hand-in-hand. Doing chores has been shown to develop children’s large and fine motor skills; sorting laundry, sweeping, and digging in the dirt are great ways for children to develop and practice these skills. And this in turn makes them smarter. Studies show that young children who take part in hands-on activities, like chores, develop the parts of the brain that are needed for more abstract thinking like reading, writing, and math.

To sum up: expecting your kids to do chores from an early age helps shape them into self-sufficient, responsible, well-rounded and well-adjusted adults. And studies bear this out. Alice Rossi, a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that doing chores as a child was a major independent predictor of whether that child would do volunteer work as an adult, and research by Marty Rossman, a professor at the University of Minnesota, has shown that one of the best predictors of success as an adult is whether that person started regular household chores at an early age.

How to Get Your Kid to Do Their Chores

Gus helps empty the dishwasher. Careful with that plate Gus!

Start early.  The most important thing you can do to help ensure your kids do their chores is to start them as early as possibleideally  when they’re just 18 months old. Psychologists  have observed that children naturally want to start helping at around this age. Michael Tomasello notes in his book Why We Cooperate that children as young as 18 months who see an adult having trouble opening a door or picking up a dropped clothespin will immediately lend their little hand in assistance.

I noticed this sudden urge to help in Gus at about that age, too. When I was emptying out the dishwasher one morning, Gus came waddling over and started handing me dishes. He also started helping Kate with the laundry. He’d gather clothes off the floor and put them in the laundry basket and help her put clothes in the washer.

The main thing that squelches this nascent desire to pitch in before it has a chance to fully take root is that kids are unhelpfully helpful. Their “assistance” makes the chore take a lot longer, and they often mess things up, leading parents to just want to do it themselves and quickly get it over with.

Fight the urge to shoo your toddler away when he begins to naturally volunteer to help with chores. Yes, it will take longer to unload your dishwasher, but it’s much easier to instill the chore habit when your kids are young than when they’re surly teenagers. Time invested now will reap rich dividends down the road.

Begin giving your kids age-appropriate chores as soon as you notice them wanting to help and add to that list as they get older and can handle more complex tasks. A lot of parents have very low expectations of what their children can handle chore-wise — but even the littlest kids can really surprise you. Give them new tasks to try, and if they can’t do them, reintroduce them a little ways down the road.

Gus loves to read, but we make sure he puts all his books back when he’s done. Note Gus’ amazing baby mullet; Mom didn’t want to cut his hair for as long as possible, much to Dad’s chagrin. But his glorious rat tail was finally snipped a few weeks ago.

Here’s a good breakdown of age-appropriate chores for your kiddos:

Ages 18 months to 3 years old

  • Pick up books and toys
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Help unload the dishwasher (take out any sharp utensils first!)
  • Help sort and load laundry
  • Help put away groceries
  • Help clean up spills
  • Water flowers
  • Put a sock on their hand and let them dust tables and door knobs

Ages 4 to 5 

Any of the above chores, and:

  • Help make the bed
  • Bring things from the car to house
  • Help set and clean the table
  • Pick weeds
  • Help with leaf raking
  • Help with simple tasks in meal-preparation

Ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, and:

  • Make their bed on their own
  • Vacuum rooms
  • Keep own room clean and tidy
  • Empty indoor trash cans
  • Put their laundry away
  • Sweep garage
  • Sort laundry

Ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, and:

  • Take pet for walk
  • Make simple snacks and meals
  • Clean the toilet
  • Load and unload dishwasher
  • Collect garbage and take it to the curb

Ages 10 and older:

Any of the above chores, and:

  • Wash car
  • Clean kitchen
  • Change bedsheets
  • Wash windows
  • Mow yard (with adult supervision at first)
  • Clean shower
  • Make a complete meal

Make it routine. Kids thrive on routine. If you want chore-doing to stick when they’re young, make it a routine part of life. Kate and I have been trying to do this with Gus. For example, after Gus eats breakfast, I’ll have Gus take his bowl over to the sink and then we unload the dishwasher together and sweep up any detritus he might have created while eating.

Gus really enjoys cleaning out the lint from the dryer. Next thing I need to do is show him how to use said lint as a fire starter.

Offer praise. It’s easier to get your kids to do something by praising the good things they do than by reprimanding them after they make mistakes. Whenever your tyke makes an effort to help, tell him what a good job he did.

Make it a game. Today’s behavioral scientists are uncovering the power “gamification” has in our lives. Gamification involves using game mechanics in non-game contexts. Researchers have found that turning everyday tasks like exercise, studying, and working into a game-like experience boosts productivity and motivation. You can harness the motivating benefits of gamification with your kids’ chores. There are a few apps on the market that help you turn your kid’s chores list into a fun game with points and level-ups.

Chore Wars is a free role-playing game that allows your kids to earn XP (experience points) and level up their character as they complete chores. You get to control how many points each chore earns. Chore Wars is free.

HighScore House is another free online app that allows you to assign points for each of your kid’s chores. She can then use the points she earns from doing chores to “buy” rewards, like a half hour of television. Parents sometimes do an analog version of this kind of reward system by placing some sort of token into a jar when the kid does her chores. Once the child earns enough tokens, she can “cash” them in for rewards like video game playing time. This system, along with the idea of paying kids for chores, seems quite effective and logical on the surface, but does have some drawbacks, as we’ll discuss next…

One of the many benefits of a push reel mower is that they’re safe enough to let Gus help me push — which he loves to do. Every day when we go to the garage, Gus will head straight to the mower saying, “Push! Push! Push!” even if I mowed just the day before. Because I have to go slow when Gus is “helping” mow, and the push reel mower requires some speed to get the blades spinning, I usually just go over the rows I’ve already mowed when Gus is assisting.

Allowance for chores? There’s a lot of debate as to whether you should or should not give your kids an allowance for completing chores. One of the benefits of giving your children money in exchange for doing chores is that it teaches them the connection between work and money. They learn that if they want something in life, they have to work for it.

But there are some possible downsides of trying to entice chore-completion with money, and they relate to the roots of human motivation. Psychologists break down motivation into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within — you want to do something because you enjoy it, it interests you, or it’s in line with your values. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the person — either someone is  making you do something, or you’re motivated by a reward like stickers or money. The problem with extrinsic motivation is that the satisfaction gained from a task moves from the task itself to the reward for the task. Thus, if the reward is taken away, the behavior ceases. Studies have shown that once children are offered a reward for an activity, their interest in that activity declines.

Intrinsic motivation leads to a greater sense of well-being and is fed by the fulfillment of 3 needs:

  • Competence. Sense that you can control the outcome of something and the feeling of mastery.
  • Relatedness. The desire to interact, connect with, and care for others.
  • Autonomy. The feeling of being the director of your own actions.

Paying kids money to do chores does not meet these needs nearly as well as expecting them to do chores simply because they are part of the family and need to be a contributing member of it. Kids will experience the reward as an external form of control, and as something that doesn’t have anything to do with membership in the family. And what happens if they decide the money offered isn’t worth it or Grandma slips them $100 for their birthday, and they don’t feel they need their chore allowance? Then the parent has to try to force them to do something for free they didn’t want to do for cash, creating a power struggle, and making the child feel decidedly un-autonomous. Perhaps most worrisome, offering money for doing chores can also create the sense in children that everything they do should be rewarded. This sense of entitlement can hinder their development later, when they discover that they must fulfill many adult responsibilities that don’t offer any immediate reward and simply have to be done to function independently. It can even stymy their interest in hobbies done solely for pleasure — kids taught to always look for an external reward may not see the point.

The better approach, at least in my opinion, is to expect kids to do chores from an early age simply because that’s what’s expected of them as members of the family; mom and dad don’t get paid for their chores, so neither do they. This will build their competence and relatedness and thus intrinsic motivation from an early age. But you still want to teach your kids about managing their money, so each week they get an allowance not tied to chores. With guidance from mom and dad, they’re allowed to spend and budget it as they’d like. If they want to buy something out of reach of their weekly allowance, they can save and budget, or they can talk to you and the Mrs. about doing extra jobs — chores outside the scope of their expected chores — for extra pay. With this system you still help them experience the connection between hard work and getting what they want, while boosting their autonomy and their competence in managing their money.

What are your tips for getting kids to do chores? Share them with us in the comments!

 

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

1 craig September 19, 2012 at 5:27 am

We have a system of the “free” chores that the kids are expected to do and once those are done they can earn cash with other jobs around the house. Naturally, they want it to work the other way around.

Checking out the Lightspeed Compound – looks excellent for car camping!

2 Brent September 19, 2012 at 5:47 am

A lighthearted, enjoyable post.

I am skeptic of whether gamifying truly harnesses motivation. It seems like another type of reward system, possibly to drift the child away from the instilled intrinsic motivation to the incentive of “XP”. Then once the child ceases to see the value of the reward of XP, the behavior will stop and intrinsic motivator will remain. In a real game, say a video game, you often enjoy the game intrinsically but will continue playing to gain XP to upgrade your gun/tank/car whatever. Then when you see gaining XP as no longer valuable (e.g. attained goal, no longer see goal as worthwhile), the motivation to play the game for the sake of the game never returns.

Thoughts?

3 Jack S September 19, 2012 at 6:16 am

Great article! Another good idea is to offer additional jobs that can be used to earn money on top of the standard chores.

4 Kevin V. September 19, 2012 at 6:32 am

Well Gus will grow up to be quite the man! A great reflection of his parents.

By the way, I think the link on the home page for this post is inactive. I couldn’t seem to click on the title, picture, or the “read the full article.” Went through archives to get here. Maybe it is just me.

5 Eric September 19, 2012 at 7:23 am

After reading this, it occurs to me why I had such a hard time getting my stepson to do the things that, as a child I did without any real issues (yes, I groaned and huffed, but never put off doing what I needed to do)… The in-laws (grandma in particular) were ALWAYS slipping him money every time they came up for a visit, or any time we went down to visit…

He never had the proper motivation to want to get things done since he always had an independent source of funding…

6 Drew September 19, 2012 at 7:40 am

There’s a new app out to help motivate kids to do their chores, and certainly “gamifies” chores.
It’s called ChoreMonster –
http://choremonster.com/

definitely worth checking out!

7 Mark Ruddick September 19, 2012 at 7:51 am

Great article.

Our kids started working on household chores as soon as they came into the house. We explaned, we all live in the house we all contribute.

For allowance they get $10 a week put into their bank accounts and can spend the money once a year when school ends. It associates the work for pay without them being able to play the I can do x and get z or just do y and get z-1.

For extra spending money they can do extra work arround the house above and beyond regular chores. (e.g. My son earned extra money this summer by filling the garbage bin with all of the construction material from a renovation.)

8 CowboyUP September 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

Learning at a young age to do “chores” helps teach personal responsibility and ingrains a work ethic and sense of accomplishment from doing a good job.
When I was a kid I had chores such as mowing the lawn, weeding, cleaning my room, washing my folks cars, etc…It’s not really that I wanted to spend my time doing that stuff but it was expected of me therefore I’d do it and try not to bitch about it too much…I didn’t receive an allowance for these tasks either. If I wanted money I’d have to make it on my own doing things like yard work for neighbors.

9 Father Muskrat September 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

Like Craig, the commenter above, we try to divide up some chores that are expected of them and a few that mean they get paid.

Good, helpful post you got here!

10 Sherry September 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

This article is so true. I know a family whose college-bound son asked his grandmother to teach him how to do laundry because his mom would never let the kids help with chores.

11 E September 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

Routine, which you mentioned, is what I find to be the most important factor. And not just for the kids, *your* routine as the parent is just as important to their success.

And I’d love to make a routine of firing up the GRILLIPUT + FIREBOWL. Minimal, portable and high utility. :)

12 Erin September 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

Mark, love that! I transfer money into my son’s account every other week but haven’t figured out how to instill in him a desire to save money.
I started having my son get his own place mat for meals and clean up toys and laundry when he was about 18 months and he LOVED it! He’s 9 now and takes out the trash, cleans his room, folds and puts away his own laundry, unloads the dishwasher, cleans up after meals, sets the table. I think dusting and vacuuming are next. :)

13 Dale September 19, 2012 at 8:19 am

When I was a kid we had chores too. If we didnt do the chores we would get an ass whipping. Works.

14 Ron Callahan September 19, 2012 at 8:21 am

We use something called “Daddy Dollars”. There’s a website where you can actually upload your picture and print a sheet of dollar bills with your face on it.

The kids get Daddy Dollars for chores, getting ready for bed on time and the like, and then they can redeem them for fun time (baseball game for Danny, “The Nutrcracker” for Katie, etc.).

I’m reluctant to pay with real money for things that they are expected to do as part of the family. Mom and Dad don’t get paid to take care of the house, why should the kids?

As far as Huckberrry – I like the Atmos shirt from Ministry of Supply.

15 Eimalou September 19, 2012 at 8:45 am

A person/child needs to taste a food seven times before their brain decides to like it or find it acceptable, and getting kids to do chores takes many, many many more times to get it through their head. Also, an 11 year old will be more competent, motivated, and willing than a 13 or 14 year old, so supervision goes on for a loooong time. (My oldest is out of school.) My point? Parents, don’t give up. I know it’s more work to teach a child how to do a chore, supervise them to make sure they do it and do it right, and be available for all the questions and smaller details than it would be to just do the work yourself. Your job as a parent IS to teach them and supervise them to competency. Your job is not to do the work for them, and out of exhaustion and frustration that happens a lot. I think the lists above are good, age-appropriate jobs, but each child needs to be challenged to learn and do more as they get older, which is more work for the parent. For example, as a mom, I felt it was important to have my son install my new car battery when he was 12. How often does the opportunity arise? But it meant I had to cancel my own plans because it was going to take extra time to teach him how to do it, and that’s something you have to accept as part of the job of being a parent.

16 Siegfried September 19, 2012 at 8:57 am

Great article.

I am grieved, however, by the commentary it provides regarding our current society and the lack of disciplined and focused parenting we now endure.

Thank you for at at least writing it and helping to address these issues.

17 Clint September 19, 2012 at 9:17 am

I loved reading this post. I completely agree with all points save one.
I personally believe that, Allowance = Welfare. Work = Money. No Work = No Money.

18 Matthew September 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

First off: “Baby mullet” … Hahaa!

Also, great post. And timely. I have a nine year old daughter and a five month old son, and I can’t wait to put some of this into action with them (not to mention share this with my parent-friends).

19 Nick Swan September 19, 2012 at 10:16 am

A buddy of mine came up with the free program that is a lifesaver in the chore department. TodaysChores.com was created to provide families with an easy way to manage chores, while at the same time reinforcing a strong work ethic through rewards and incentives. It sets up a very easy credit system for families that allows them to check off kids’ chores and build towards items or activities that are a priority to the kids. Very practical, very easy to use.

Check it out.

https://www.todayschores.com

20 Robin September 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

Our family with 5 kids had the allowance + required chores with the option of extra chores for extra $. It worked well. We all also had outside jobs starting around age 10, everything from babysitting to lawn mowing to one brother who was cooking in a restaurant at age 14 (he was supposed to be a busboy but talked his way into the kitchen). The lack of jobs for adolescents and teens is what alarms me. I know a lot of kids who never get their first real job until they are 18 and moving out at the same time, by that age I had held many jobs.

On the Huckberry contest, I would love to get the Rite in the Rain fly fishing journals, I am almost full in the one I have now!

21 Darius September 19, 2012 at 10:20 am

When I was growing up chores were not chores but privileges. Every birthday my parents told me that I was now old enough that I had the privilege of taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, or whatever chore was to be mine that year. I can’t believe how eager I was to get my new chore/privilege. It also helped having an older brother who I was easily jealous of because he was ‘allowed’ to do certain chores I wasn’t yet ‘old enough’ to do–couldn’t wait until the next birthday! I can’t believe how effective this strategy was with me.

22 Joel H September 19, 2012 at 10:26 am

Let’s now forget about the 16+ age group. I suppose some parents might just have their kids get an actual job at this point, but not my folks: painting, lawn sprinkler system install/repair, basic plumbing, landscaping (tree trimming, lawn re-sods, etc.), and other general handyman type work on rental properties kept my so busy in summer my girlfriend thought I was avoiding her (text messages and cell phones minutes weren’t unlimited back then).

Still, I learned valuable skills and definitely earned my “allowance,” which was really more like $4/hr plus gas reimbursement.

Point is, I think there is value in teaching advanced skills to high schoolers that a minimum wage job at fast food restaurant may not provide.

23 FlossBoss September 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

I am a father of 4 pre-adolescent children who, combined, do more chores around our house than most modern housewives do–without getting an allowance. It’s simply the way my wife and I want to raise our kids and that is all they have ever known from their earliest years–so there isn’t much whining and complaining along the way.

Before you start to bemoan my parenting skills and feel sorry for my children, you should know that we have very happy, well-adjusted children. It actually contradicts what you would think, but from experience children actually want to contribute to the welfare of the family. They want structure, discipline, and organization that ‘chores’ provide, but just don’t know it.

That’s where we as parents must show them the way. If we whine and complain about our jobs, or fail to do the basic household things that are necessary for a home, why wouldn’t they? Much more is caught than taught.

Dads have to be willing to model a work ethic even when it is something they don’t enjoy. I can make a lot more money per hour than I can to pay someone else to mow my lawn. But if you think that way, you are totally missing the point. It’s not about the economics, it’s about the training. I mow my own yard so that my children know how to work because they see dad doing it.

It drives me crazy to watch my neighbor have the lawn service come each week and mow while his 2 teenage boys are sitting inside playing video games! Where else are they going to learn how to work? You think they’re all the sudden going to learn in college when they take Work Ethic 101? He is well intentioned, but actually doing them a HUGE disservice.

It really comes down to the AoM mantra–You must be the man today that you desire your children to be someday.

24 Derek September 19, 2012 at 11:15 am

Great read. I agree that chores are part of keeping a household running, and kids should not be paid for them. As a kid, my brother and I had chores and we didn’t get paid for them. Like others have mentioned, there were “income-earning” jobs around the house. For example, every spring my mother wanted the woodwork in her house oiled (with lemon Pledge). I looked forward to that job because it was $20!

Now that I have a son, I’m trying to instill good habits to help him grow and be a responsible man. As kids get older, their realization of the value of money also grows. So, that $2.00 allowance when they were 5 doesn’t really fly at 10. So, I treat it like a raise in the work environment and try to apply the lesson. When my son comes to me asking me for a raise (and I just want to point out, I realize it’s time for a raise as well), I ask him to go back and think about why he needs a raise; write it down if necessary. Essentially, I’m asking him to show me a “business reason” for the raise. I’m not looking for anything grand, or in a powerpoint presentation. I just want him to begin thinking about his value. I think this will serve him well when he gets to the real world and he actually DOES have to justify to a hiring manager why he deserves Y instead of X.

25 neal September 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

There’s nothing that beats that picture of the toddler with the machete. It inclines me to shoo my two-year old out the door with a spear and say, “go hunt us up some dinner!”

I was a pretty single-minded student growing up, and my parents reinforced that by allowing me to avoid chores if I was doing schoolwork. I regret it now; I wish there had been more clear-cut expectations and fewer opportunities to shirk those kinds of duties.

26 CB September 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

Thanks for the article Brett & Kate!
I think I’m kind of looking forward to teaching my kid(s) to do chores. I believe I will have several chores that they must do because they are part of the family but there will be other chores that are tied to a dollar amount. I don’t know what those chores/dollar amounts will be yet but my daughter just turned one so I have a little bit of time yet!

27 Mark Ruddick September 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

@Erin – find something big ticket he loves. My daughter bought an iPad this summer and my son is saving up for two years to do a 2 week trip to Alberta next summer. (and a laptop)

28 Michael September 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

As a step parent, a great article to add to this would be How to Inspire transformation in a child to begin chores after 8 yrs old. Statistically the step parent is becoming the norm.

29 Patrick J. September 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Great article. We have a little one on the way, and this is the way I and my wife were both raised.

30 Steve September 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

You don’t know how much I wish I could turn the clock back and read this article and implement its ideas starting when my kids were small. I have good excuses (like multiple surgeries and chronic use of strong pain meds) as to why I didn’t follow the advice, but the truth is that I should have found a way. To those whose kids are small, please, please, please take the advice in the article. It won’t always be easy, but it will be well worth it.

31 Tiffany September 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I really enjoyed this article and completely agree with the idea of getting young children to start doing chores. My husband and I have a 14 month old daughter who already likes to help wipe up the top of her highchair after meals. We also noticed she has a fascination with putting things into containers, so we have her help put laundry in low drawers or put her toys in the toy bin. Right now our enthusiastic praise is the only incentive she needs to help. :-)

32 Todd Kent September 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

This may be a bit off topic, but we require our kids to put a full half of their earning into college/future savings. I have recently decided to incentivise them to same more by doing a 25 cent match for every dollar they put in…not unlike a 401K or something. I need to give it a little more time to see how well it works.

Thanks for the great article!

33 Joe September 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Great Info! …I tried to raise my kids the way my parents raised me…because it works…following most the tips listed here…but as time moved on I stopped using those time tested, parent tested strategies..why is that?
It seems when something works we stop using it…

34 Rob B. September 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

My three kids (going on four) love to help around the house. A few weeks ago, when the 2.5 year old pooped himself in epic fashion, the twins noticed that some had gotten on the floor. They informed their mother, who was upstairs bathing the little one. When she came down expecting to have to clean up, she found the twins wiping up the mess with paper napkins. All she had to do was spray the area with disinfectant (which they wiped up as well).

The best part of the story? When she thanked them for their help, my four year old son looked at her and said, “I’ll always help you, Mama.” :)

35 Brent Pittman September 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm

My toddler love helping and I hope he doesn’t grow out of it. I’m sure some system of rewards and punishments will have to come into play at some point, but for now modeling and teaching him that helping is normal goes a long way.

36 ebg September 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Great article! As I’m only 20, I went through this process not to long ago.
I think the ultimate goal should be doing chores purely out of duty, with no reward.
In regards to money, my siblings and I did receive an allowance growing up ($2 a week), but it was always clear that it was not payment for chores. Rather, it was more of a stipend for various costs that we were responsible for. For example, we had to pay for almost all fun activities that we wanted to do, including scouting and church events… This system led to great money management life lessons, and I am forever thankful for it.

37 Ryan September 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I butt heads with my parents on this issue. My mom was always good about delving out chores to us and encouraging us, but my dad would always call me and my sister slobs and always talk about how we didn’t do anything. That would just make me want to do them less. I’m not a slob, but not a neat freak. Also, my dad would tell me to wait to do chores so they usually wouldn’t get done til the next day. And he would also yell and get mad if we didn’t do them right. Definitely not the approach I will be taking when it’s my turn to be a parent.

38 Mark September 19, 2012 at 9:32 pm

The leathe key fob sure would be handy for camping with my Cub Scouts

39 Mike September 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I’ve come into a situation where I’m the father-figure of two children. One is 10, the other 13. Their actual mother never instilled a sense of importance in them whatsoever. So now, the girlfriend is raising them as she is their aunt. I have to say, getting a 10 year old to do some chores is hard and the 13 year old is worse. I do use rewards as a system, but never money. If they behave well, I go to a local used bookstore once a week and buy them a book they’ve wanted to read. The 10 year old just started football, so I’ll get him to help me with the yardwork so we have a nice area to practice (which he wants to do all the time). While I take the reward away if they’ve misbehaved, they still do the chores they’re assigned now that it’s become a regular thing. This is how my parents got me to do chores. They would find a constructive reward, such as a book or letting me participate in activities, and I would do it. Here’s the key though, it’s not just about chores. It’s about being a productive member of the family unit. I could’ve done all my chores, but if I acted up, I got nothing but a spanking and lost all my privileges. That’s my view.

40 John September 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Once again great article!! Thanks

41 Paul September 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I’m 24 and I still enjoy cleaning out the lint trap.

42 Miles September 21, 2012 at 12:49 am

Great article. I agree with a few people that chores should not be paid, they are just the work that everyone needs to contribute to keep the family running.

The motivation is pretty simple, you don’t work you don’t eat. We never have to encourage our kids to do their chores, and we never have to fight with them about cores either. It usually only takes them one or two meals to sort this out for themselves. The choice is completely theirs when they want to do them.

43 KambizAmini September 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Teaching boys taking responsibility at very young age is a great way preparing them for life. Not expecting them contributing to work at home makes them spoiled and lazy. But there is a great difference between teaching them taking responsibility and giving them order. The first makes them aware of their strength , the second reduce their decision-making capacity (a feeling of not being in charge of your own life). I strongly recommend this article: http://artofmanliness.com/2010/04/06/modern-maturity-create-more-consume-less/

44 Aubrey Marie September 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Wonderful article!
I was brought up this way doing chores from a very young age, and now I feel like a 1950′s housewife as opposed to many women today, and I appreciate the work ethic my chores instilled in me. I was given an weekly allowance and had 4 jars to split the money in based on percentages, college savings, short term savings, long term savings, and charity. I thinks its a great way to start teaching Gus the importance of budgeting and saving!
Keep up the amazing work!

45 Kevin September 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Nowadays, I’ve heard of parents using the wireless password as reward for completing work.

No work, no wireless password of the day! I think it teaches the whole work before play concept quite well.

46 Xyyme September 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Being 17, I have no children, though I’m very excited to have some in the future. I think that payment for chores is an excellent idea, whether it’s as points, or as money, as long as it’s treated similarly as money would be treated if they were an adult, this way they can manage their points effectively, teaching them money management…which sadly means having certain monthly fees. Maybe the monthly fee could be a “friend pass” so that if they make their payment, they can have friends over that month, though that could discourage friendships should the “payment” not be met. Just some thoughts from a 17 year old man who’s dream is to be a father :)

47 Levi September 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm

I teach, and part of that is Saturday detention duty. I did it for 2 full years, every week. It absolutely amazed me that I had to show kids the proper technique and application of a broom.

I can’t tell you the number of times I had to chop brush off a fenceline, haul hay, mow, cook, feed cows, hoe the garden, or any number of things while my friends were off in the woods camping and experimenting. Shelling peas was the most fun because we got to do it in front of the TV. My reward was dinner and a bed.

It never occurred to me how fortunate I was until 8th grade, when I beat five guys in a row in an armwrestling tournament. Seems silly, but I knew it was because of all those bushknife swings and haybale tosses. I’m still reminded of how fortunate I am when I remind myself to stop stalling and just get the dang job done.

At least I know HOW to hustle, and I have those neverending chores to thank. They laid the foundation for me to accomplish above and beyond what anyone else in my family ever had. I’d never deprive my children of that.

48 Adit September 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

How I wished my dad would read this. Now he passed away and the maid that used to serve us leave the house and my little brother couldn’t do anything, he just learned how to put his shirts into the washing machine and hang dry it and to wash his plates after his meal (after 5 months!) and he won’t clean his bedroom, not because I didn’t teach him, maybe just because it’s tiring and he’s never do it before. For me, I’m lucky to study abroad so I learned it all there.

Great article, I hope it can help younger couple to teach their children.

49 Ronnie September 26, 2012 at 12:31 am

Thanks a lot for this great article. This is very useful in my work as a school teacher in getting the parents to toughen their children so that they can do well in school and serve society in the future.

50 Nick W. October 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Thanks a lot for this article. I have my first little one on the way and my wife and I have been contemplating on what to do with the chore situation. This article will definitely further our discussions.

51 Zach November 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

These are such great articles! I do not have kids at the moment but I remember being a kid and having to do chores for free. My parents offered money to do chores after my two brothers did not want to do them for free. Once she did that, my appeal to get them done went up.. until she no longer wanted to give a reward for us doing them. After that, the house was a disaster area lol. Needless to say, I believe that giving money for chores diminishes the way little ones look at and are motivated to get things done.

Thanks again The Art Of Manliness!

52 Travis December 8, 2012 at 7:05 am

Even though I’m nowhere near ready to even think about starting a family, this is one of the biggest fears I have about raising a child.

These sound like great ideas and I look forward to maybe having the chance to try them out one day.

It seems to me though, that it might be more effective, instead of praising their work, which may lead them to believe they’re great at everything when they’re not and potentially disappointing themselves, that we should praise their effort, as well as the end result, to motivate them to strive for that result and inspire them to find more efficient means.

i.e. instead of “You did a good job emptying that dishwasher” (even though the 1 year old dropped every other dish), we might try “YAY! Now we have an empty dishwasher!” so that they have a positive association with the goal.

I also think it’s very important that children understand WHY we do anything so that they have a reason to do chores, and other things they don’t really WANT to do, so that when they move out on their own they’re not comforted by “well I don’t really NEED to clean my room, it’s not hurting anyone.”

53 c eyermann December 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm

My wife and I have 16 year old triplets that have been doing chores for many years. Each of them has chores for one week that include: dishes, set dinner table, feed animals, clean litterbox, take out trash and recycle. We do not pay for their chores.
However we have a time card system that each can do non-chore tasks and record them on a time card. This could be cleaning cars, sweeping floors, vacuuming, windows, etc.
we ask that they put down the time and when they complete an hour we pay. We started at 5$ and hour when they were 10 and now pay 10$ an hour.

54 Nathan Charles January 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

My parents had always just split the chores among my siblings and I, and despite moaning and groaning every time, and despite not getting allowance for our work, looking back I’m glad they made us do it.
I was amazed when I went to college and found that half the freshman class didn’t know how to do their laundry, or how to wash dishes by hand. I had the privilege of being a competent person living on my own, and I can thank my parents for that.
Also, despite no regular allowance, in our home my parents did do what Craig mentioned above – the more difficult tasks (fixing furniture, plumbing work, painting, etc) usually had a monetary incentive, which was a rare treat,

55 Nachiekth January 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

My mom used to pay me for a lil while then it became a habit for me i used to never leave the kitchen without washing the dishes….

56 TiredButHappy February 6, 2013 at 9:00 am
57 mariposadan March 17, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Pretty basic stuff. Don’t know too many families whos kids don’t do more than these chores. If I did I would certanly let them know.

58 courtney April 14, 2013 at 12:09 am

hey if my child did all the chores above how much should she get

59 James June 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm

This was a fantastic article to read, as me and my wife were discussing this issue regarding our 4-year old and 11-month old boys. Our oldest feeds the cat, picks up the trash, helps set the table, helps with the dishes, laundry, cleans his toy room, helps me mow the lawn, he’s very involved. We don’t plan on giving him an allowance, though we do let him keep any change he finds laying around in his little piggy bank.

60 Chaz September 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Teach your kids early. Otherwise they grow up to be sloppy roommates. It’s really the worst case scenario.

61 lucy September 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Great article, thank you. Very glad to have someone else advocate non-payment for home chores. Against the flow in Ireland I stuck to this principle but it was VERY hard to get teenagers to do anything. School takes up too much of their lives (they get very tired with long days and too much homework) so parents compensate by doing the jobs themselves and the children get less and less involved in the running of their own home. I think that’s sad.

62 Scott Martinez September 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

What happens if you try to instigate this later, like when the kids are 9 and 10? Any suggestions for that as far as reward and then what to do if they don’t do it?

63 Gregory Bolton November 13, 2013 at 9:33 am

When I was growing up I did not receive any allowance or payment for any chores.
It was just do the work or suffer the consequenses.

64 KH December 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Excellent article and so true! One extra thing to keep in mind is that kids often learn from their parents attitudes. If you have a positive attitude about doing chores and refrain from complaining, then so will they.

65 michelle December 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm

This article was a great read. My fiancé and I have been talking about having kids and the subject on how they will be raised wasn’t as much of an argument, but more of a debate. I was raised to do chores, and help out around the house without a money reward. My fiancé was raised to do nothing around the house and lets just say my mother in law and myself go at it often, as she fights that her son needs to grow up but she lays out his pajamas and towel for a shower at night. His younger brother is another story: so you all understand what I deal with: he is 13 years old just got out of his moms bed, does not lift a finger from the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep. He plays video games from early morning until late at night and does not do ANYTHING ELSE besides use the bathroom and shower. Which he just started to soap his own wash cloth. Sorry about that tangent and going off topic but all in all it is my point that chores and expecting things of your children helps them grow to be decent hard working human beings instead of lazy disrespectful adults. I do not see anything wrong in doing things with your kids, however when you put it in the perspective of god forbid your child gets left at home alone for a whole day and your kid sitting there dirty and hungry because he knows not how to survive on his own hurts my heart. I plan on being strict with my children, and letting them know 5 minutes means 5 minutes and now means now. Todays generation unfortunately and no disrespect to any of the parents on this site because you all seem to be doing a great job, but children rule households today and even though I am young, I would get my butt kicked if I acted the way some of these children do today. Positive attitudes and praise will go along way. Teach them at a early age and avoid the nightmare I just wrote about.

66 Karen February 27, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Tried choremonster.com and it literally worked for about 3 days, then the fun wore off. My child is 8 years old and she has been very defiant as of late, when it comes to doing what she is told including her chores. I really hope that it is just a phase because the old belt to the bottom that I got as a kid can’t readily be used nowadays because kids will call DSS on you. It’s really hard repeating myself over and over again to no avail whatsoever. I don’t feel as though there should be a reward system in place when it comes to chores. However I do believe consequences should be given for those not doing as they are told when they are told. As a child there should be no excuses as to why things cannot be done in a timely manner, other than if the tasks is too much for that particular age to handle.

I found this helpful and I wanted to thank you for the post. It’s a never ending feat trying to get a youngster to do what they are told sometimes.

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