How to Get Kids to Help Out With Chores

The struggle to get kids to help out around the house is real. But don't give up! Research shows that kids learn valuable life skills from doing chores at home. 

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #590

Today's kids are so involved with academic pressures, music and art clubs, AAU teams, competing to place on a school sports team, never mind figuring out how to juggle a part-time job, friends, and land in a decent college. Whew! It's more than a full plate.

Though we may want to coddle our overscheduled kids, we aren't doing them any favors by giving them a free pass when it comes to helping out with standard family chores.

If you're on the fence about enlisting your children's help with chores around the house, take comfort in knowing that duties are not only necessary, but they will have a positive impact throughout their life.

Consider this info from an article called The Benefits of Chores from the Center for Parenting Education.

Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.

Chores are a regular part of family life. They're necessary for the upkeep of our homes, but more importantly, they teach responsibility.

Many parents are frustrated when their kids don't stay on task with assigned chores. If you've struggled with getting your kids to help do chores around the house, you're in luck. I have some great ways to make your life easier and more organized all while getting your kids to pitch in and do their share.

We're all in this together—chores teach teamwork

I'll never forget the defining moment I decided my children needed to contribute to the upkeep of our home. At the time, I only (only!) had six kids. Baby number seven was on the way, and I sat surrounded by bucketloads of unfolded laundry, wall-to-wall toys scattered everywhere, and a tower of dishes with dried food caked on. Never mind the dust bunnies that were multiplying by the dozens under every nook and cranny in our main living space.

Enough was enough. Hiring a maid was not in our budget, so I decided my small army of kids were going to need to step up and do their share. It wasn't perfect, but within a week my little gang was in charge of picking up their toys and helping put laundry away. And I soon discovered they loved mopping up those hibernating dust bunnies.

Teamwork is the foundation of strong leadership. Teams work towards a common goal.

Teamwork has countless benefits for any child. It teaches a child to cooperate all while he learns to value another's point of view. It's the foundation of strong leadership. Teams work towards a common goal. In the case of family chores, each child's contribution is helping the family achieve a cleaner, more organized living space. A neat and orderly home offers the family a sense of pride and satisfaction.

Chores also encourage taking turns and compromising. For instance, scraping the dishes and loading the dishwasher is not high on the list of my eight kids, but eating a delicious meal together is. Dirty dishes come with the territory! When they were younger, I explained how important it was for everyone to chip in with cleanup so I could continue cooking yummy meals. They realized it was a win/win for all of us. (Now that they're older, several of my kids love to cook. Not only do I have regular help with dishes, I also have help with meal preparations!)

We make dish-duty fun by cranking up the music. The kids can clear the table, put the extra food away, and correctly load all the dishes in the dishwasher in the time it takes to listen to about three great tunes.

Age-appropriate chores

Don't assume that your four-year-old knows how to put away his toys in their proper places if he's never had to do it before. Invest the time and some positive energy into teaching him about where things belong so he'll not only learn to do it right and by himself, but he'll ultimately learn about the benefits of organization for other aspects of his life as well.

I credit the concept of having fun while doing chores as the reason my eight kids didn't squawk (too much) when I implemented family chores over twenty years ago. Today, I have an 18-month old grandson. He's already learning to put his toys away at the end of the day. Here's a super fun video with a catchy song that he listens to when beginning his clean-up each night.

Create a Command Center

A picture is worth a thousand words, and so is a visual chore chart. Create a chore chart and keep it in a central location where it's highly visible, such as the kitchen or the mudroom. In my home, I designate this area as the command center.

Our command center is located in the kitchen. Here, I post our family meals for the week, our calendar, and our chore chart. Check out this great video about how to create your own family command center.

There are many free chore chart templates available online. Or you can create your own. In our household, we have four main daily jobs: dishes, garbage, laundry, stock-up. We rotate these four main jobs amongst our kids, which works well because this way no one feels they're getting stuck with one particular task.

No matter what the job is, I set firm expectations about what it entails. Dishes, for example, mean rinsing the dishes, loading the dishwasher, and unloading. In addition to the four main daily chores, weekly tasks such as mowing the lawn and cleaning the bathrooms rotate between the kids as well.

Remember: Your kids will probably never do the chore precisely as you would, but it's so vital for them to have the regular opportunity to try. Not only does it ease your daily burden, but it also teaches them responsibility as well as building your relationship as a family and a team.

The goal for family chores is not only to have your kids help out but to coach, teach, and support them in gaining independence so they can become dependable, responsible adults.

Tweens and teens learn time management skills

Anyone with teens knows it can be a nightmare to enlist their help regularly, but with the right coaching, it's doable!

If you have teens who give you a hard time about helping around the house, don't give up! Set some time aside to share why they must start helping with chores such as laundry or loading the dishwasher properly. If you "show and tell" instead of nagging about how sick and tired you are of doing everything by yourself, you'll have a much better chance of getting your teen on board.

Teens feel like there are a million things to do on any given day, and fitting it all in can be a challenge. Chores help older kids and teens build good habits early. Juggling school work, deadlines, housework, and their social lives helps them learn to set priorities and manage their time, essential skills for the working world.

Don't forget to praise your kids for trying. Kids want to please, so be genuinely appreciative.

In my house, I offer incentives such as movie money or gift cards when they help out willingly and without constant reminders. I expect them to follow their chores regularly, but when I don't have to offer constant reminders, I want to let them know I've noticed and appreciate their efforts.

Don't forget to praise your kids for at least trying. Kids want to please, so be genuinely appreciative when you see your child doing one of his chores, and if he isn't doing it correctly, use it as a "teaching moment," so he'll learn through helpful feedback, not criticism.

An organized home is a happy home

You don't want to send your child to college not knowing how to do laundry or have your third-grader spend the night at a friend's and be at a loss when asked to help with the dishes. Children raised doing chores learn life skills to take care of themselves, but also to contribute to society.

As the mother of eight kids, one thing I know for sure is that an organized home is a happy home! Dive in and help your fantastic household thrive under chaos. Keep it simple and watch your daily routine flourish.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.