It’s hard to make kids help out with cleaning, because… well, because they know cleaning sucks. Acknowledging that, however, isn’t making the room any cleaner.
So, the best way to motivate kids to help, at least by a little, is by making the whole process more entertaining than it actually is. It sounds like a very difficult thing to do, but here are a few easy ways to contribute to your great cause.
Pick the Right Chores
The first and most important thing you have to start with is to make your kid accustomed to chores from an early age. For this purpose, you have to start with tiny tasks and later move to more challenging ones.
Here are a few examples.
Chores for 3-year-olds
- Picking up toys and putting them away;
- Picking up clothes and putting them in the hamper;
- Helping sort and load laundry;
- Helping clean up spills.
Chores for 5-year-olds
- Helping bring groceries;
- Helping set the table;
- Helping clean the table;
- Helping with leaf raking;
- Picking weeds.
Chores for 8-year-olds
- Cleaning up the room;
- Making the bed;
- Taking out the trash;
- Putting laundry away;
- Sorting laundry;
- Sweeping garage.
Chores for 10-year-olds
- Walking the dog;
- Making simple meals;
- Cleaning the toilet;
- Washing dishes/using dishwasher;
- Cleaning kitchen;
- Washing windows;
- Changing bed sheets.
Of course, every new set of chores does not disqualify the previous ones. Introduce your child to newer tasks gradually.
How to Motivate Your Child to Do Chores
Teach them that labour pays… in candy, money, wi-fi, brand new toy, or anything else they want.
To make it even more interesting, make a whole niche of rewards, like stickers or badges, to create a sense of achievement.
You can also give them money for the job they did, but be careful with the amount – show them how hard it is to earn money so they can learn about their value.
We are not trying to bribe the kids. What we’re doing is giving them incentives. It’s also a valuable life lesson, that as long as they work hard, they can get what they want. With some luck, this attitude will keep their school grades up and will later prepare them for their challenging career.
Include the whole family
Your child is already used to seeing you do chores every day, but that doesn’t mean the same applies to them. If you give them chores while you’re not doing anything during that time, they will note the unfairness of it all.
So, to avoid any negative memories, make sure to keep working alongside them. Include the whole family in the process to create a sense of teamwork. This way, when you’re all done, the feeling will be a lot more rewarding.
Introduce a game
Competitiveness is kids’ language, especially if they are already competitively inclined. “Lets see how many toys you can put in the box in one minute!”, or “Whoever wipes the most surfaces wins!”. Be creative. At some point, kids might start thinking up cleaning games on their own.
Keep it short
Star Domestic Cleaners suggests keeping the whole cleaning process short. No kid wants to spend too much time cleaning around the house. A chore should be something a child should be done with and then be able to go back to their own interests. So, no more than half an hour tops.
Think up tools they can handle easily
This is optional and it’s for particularly young kids. If you want to make your 4 or 5-year-old learn how to help you out with cleaning, make an easier environment for the child to work in. Give it small tasks and find some lighter tools it can use (like a pint-sized broom with a plastic hollow handle).
Add music to the mix
There is nothing more motivating to make you do anything than some fast dance music. Physical activity at its peak will make everyone not only work hard, but also fast. In addition, it will also feel like a good workout. Everyone will come out smiling at the end.
And, that’s important. On a subconscious level, kids (and everyone else) notice your positive attitude when doing something in particular. Later on, they will associate with these positive emotions when presented to do the same task.
This will make them easier to convince when asked to help around the house. If you keep this up and also present rewards for a job well done, doing chores may become a thing they do on autopilot, without complaints.
Break tasks into smaller steps
Sometimes, there are tasks that would take up too much time, even with all the help of your family. And there goes the rule of only limiting chore-time to 30 minutes or less.
However, you can always organise the whole workload into small steps, with small breaks in- between. These breaks should not be longer than 15 minutes as later on your kid might not be in the mood to pick up the chore again.
If the job is so complex that it cannot be broken into small steps, then it’s not a job for your kid.
Clean in the morning
It it proven that people are most productive in the morning after a good night sleep. This is why it’s best to leave cleaning for that time. Not only will you find this easier to do, but also the rest of your day will be completely free and you can do whatever you want.
If your child is still not doing chores, you can always have a seat and talk to them like you would to a responsible adult. You’ll be surprised how much kids like this. Every child wants to grow up and not be treated like a child. If you start doing this from an early age, you may not only have a cleaning helper at home, but also establish an even stronger emotional bond than before.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Don’t start with “I need you to…”
Words like this give out your vulnerability and lack of confidence. And that’s ok. There are times when you have to lower your guard and present yourself as a relatively fragile human being in order to build a better emotional connection.
Asking your kid to do chores is not one of those times. Chores have to be done at some point, so don’t give your child an opportunity to argue or start a discussion. You’ll only waste time.
Don’t be a martyr
Sometimes, when you ask for a chore to be done, your child will say “no”. They will repeat their rejection, might even moan a little, scream, or be cross. The worst thing you can do in such a case is to try to play with their sense of guilt.
Avoid telling them how ungrateful they are for your care. This will never work well. It might do something short-term. They might eventually agree to do the chore, but you don’t want your child to grow up with the feeling they owe you something. It may cause problems in the future.
Don’t use negative counter-attacks
Instead of calling on their guilt, answer with something positive. Your child is already used to your rewards. So, the reason they say no is because they don’t need those rewards at this point. This is the chance to introduce something else.
It doesn’t have to be a new reward. Let it be something like “more free time if we finish this chore now”. Make sure to describe how fun more free time would be – they can have more time to play videogames, go out with friends, or do something else they like. Explain that it will obviously be better if the cleaning chore is done faster. You might get a few more moans, but a smart child knows this is for the better.
Of course, this strategy will work on older kids. Younger ones might not be swayed so easily.
Don’t turn chores into punishment
We already established that a chore well done will earn a reward and maybe even build character long-term. If you give a chore as a punishment, you will ruin this whole life lesson. Not only will you subconsciously create a negative attitude towards chores, but there will also be the notion that work does not pay. Work is here to simply make your life worse. You do not want your child to believe this.
Don’t do their chores
There are times when kids will simply not do their chores. They won’t clean up their room, they won’t put their laundry in the basket, they won’t do anything at all. Don’t do it for them. Show them that problems won’t be settled if they just ignore them. This is yet another important life lesson you need to teach them.
Ultimately, motivating your kids to do chores from a young age will make them better prepared for life. Never forget to keep a positive attitude and treat them like the intelligent young people that they are.