The Gift of Chores

The Gift of Chores

Most parents want to raise responsible children and they wonder how to nurture this important quality.  We are here to tell you that one of the best ways to foster responsibility is by giving children responsibility.  This means giving them chores and then holding them accountable to actually do them.   It may help to shift your thinking about the word “chore.”   Chores tend to be viewed as unpleasant and burdensome.   What child (or person) would ever want to do something that is burdensome?  Instead, it may help to call chores “family contributions.”  This shift in language sends the message that everyone in the family is responsible and capable of pitching in to make things run smoothly. 

Chores create opportunities for children to feel valuable, powerful and competent.  Even young children can participate.  Preschoolers love to be helpful.  They can turn off lights, carry in the mail, set the table, put clothes in the dryer, and more.  It’s never too late to introduce the concept of family contributions.  Share your values with your kids about why everyone’s contributions to the family will be helpful.  Then, it is important for parents to hold their children accountable.  This means making sure children follow through despite busy schedules and heavy homework loads.  Below are a few tips for making your home successful when it comes to chores:

Set Yourself up for Success:

  • Give children as much choice as possible when it comes to chores.  Choices allow children to feel control which will increase the likelihood of cooperation.  Allow children to choose which chores they prefer to be responsible for.  If possible, give them a voice as to when a chore will be accomplished (i.e. “Garbage is picked up on Tuesday,what is your plan for getting the job done?”, “You have to pick up the blocks and load the dishwasher, which one would you rather do first?”)

  • Make chores fun.  For example, putting on music or turning a chore into a game is helpful.  Also, rotating chores among siblings offers variety.

  • Make sure chores are age-appropriate.Break large jobs into smaller tasks if children seem overwhelmed.

  • Spend time teaching a child how to do the chore. Use encouraging words.

  • Make sure you are not critical about how well they did the job.

  • Do not beg, nag or pay children to do chores. Use limit setting to hold them accountable.

 Enforcing Chores:

  • Do not argue about chores.  You will avoid power struggles when you eliminate demands or threats.  Instead of saying, “Do it now!”, you can offer choices.  “Will you be watering the garden before dinner or after dinner?  The choice is yours.

  • Avoid rescuing.  If your child does not put the dirty clothes in the hamper, leave them where they are.  Allow the child to experience distress because their favorite jeans or sports uniform is dirty.

  • Use enforceable statements:  “When your room is clean, you can go on the computer.” “Feel free to play with your friends, when your chores are done.”

  • Hold children accountable.  If the child does not do the chore and you do it because it needs to get done, expect the child to make the time up to you.

    For more information about our online parenting course or parent coaching, contact Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT at 312-330-3194, or Lauren Bondy, LCSW at 847-562-9503, Or, visit