21 Ways to Win the Chore Wars Today

This post was submitted by Nicole Robinson.

Many of us buy into the idea that chores are good for kids. It teaches them responsibility, teamwork, and practical skills, not to mention, a little help might free you up to finish a book, a meal, or even a sentence. If chores are so fabulous, why do so few children do them? I’ll tell you why. Chores are a pain in the butt. Even if you extract a load of laundry from your child, the conflict can make you wonder if it was worth it.

Below you’ll find 21 tips to end the drama and get the help you need around the house.

21 Ways to Win the Chore Wars

1. Don’t obsess about gender equality. If your son enjoys yard work, and your daughter appreciates the Zen of dusting, let them have at it.

2. Schedule regular family meetings to develop a chore schedule.

3. Give each child a voice and a choice.

4. Apps like ChoreMonster and My Job Chart make it easy to create an online chore chart and reward system. Best of all, they’re free.

5. Have your child pick out fun cleaning supplies (e.g. Dora rubber gloves, child-sized broom, etc.)

6. Admit that there are hard jobs and easy jobs. Let kids negotiate with you or their siblings until everyone has a comparable workload.

7. Make time for training. Don’t wait for a laundry disaster to teach your child how to check pockets. They’ll feel bad. You’ll feel frustrated.

8. Give specific instructions. “Clean the family room” is vague and kids need specific directions. Vacuum the floor and polish the end tables are clear instructions that kids will understand.

9. Embrace the imperfection of a child’s work.

10. Try not to redo your child’s work. Instead, play up the positive.

11. Avoid using chores as a punishment. How will your kids appreciate the value of work if chores are used as a weapon? Instead of punishing your child, introduce them to the law of natural consequences.

12. Stick to your guns. The natural consequence of not making it to the restroom is wet undergarments. The natural consequence of missing a homework assignment is a poor grade. If your child failed to clean the coat closet, as promised, you may fail to drive them to the baseball game.

13. When possible, let your child choose the time that they complete their chores. They may want to wake up a half hour early to get the job done. Bonus: while they’re busy, you score some extra alone time in the morning.

14. Turn off the television. Without the distraction, kids will maximize cleaning time. They’ll likely work faster to get the boob tube back on.

15. Rock out to your child’s favorite songs while cleaning. Opt for motivational, upbeat music.

16. Place storage bins around the house. Teach kids to toss in runaway toys, clothes and other items. A few minutes of tidying up could cut down on larger scale cleaning jobs.

17. Make a game of it. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes to see who can get their room clean. Don’t do the “timer” game with washing dishes. You’ll find last night’s spaghetti living in your cabinet.

18. Realize that you don’t have to handle chores the way your parents did.

19. Let your kids know how much their work has helped you. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.

20. Give your child a few “get out chores” passes each year. They’ll feel like they are getting away with something. Those leaves can get raked tomorrow.

21. Be flexible. You are not enslaved to the chore chart. If things aren’t working out, call an emergency family meeting.


Readers: Do you pay for chores? What are your tips, tricks, and vents when it comes to kids and chores?

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  1. says

    great article. Kids and chores is always a fun conversation. Currently I have a 17 yr old and 10 yr old who do chores but after next yr it will just be my 10 yr old doing chores and he is already voicing his complaints. We have one more kids but she is 6 and helps dust a little but she isn’t at the age where she can be effective in my opinion. I do compensate my kids for chores with money and additional privileges.

    • says

      Thanks, Rob. Your poor 10 year old, left to do more chores once your oldest leaves. He’s going to have a chance to build his skills of negotiation. Maybe you tell him that if he teaches the six year old how to do certain tasks, that means less work for him.

  2. says

    Teaching kids to do chores is great. Both our boys do some kind of chore each week whether it’s picking up their room, emptying the dishwasher, trash, picking weeds, they have to pick a chore. It’s funny our youngest loves to help at 7 years old but I know he will so out grow helping mommy and daddy. Too bad, because he’s actually pretty good at cleaning :)

  3. says

    These are great suggestions! As a family of 5 we all have things we’re good at and certain responsibilities. It really increases the kids’ self esteem to feel as if they help benefit the family unit!

    • says

      Thank you, Marcie. You bring up a great point. Kids learn practical skills from chores. They also learn the bigger lesson that families work together, and that they are an important, unique member of the household.

    • says

      LOL, Liz. You might have lost the chore war with your kids, but just think of the grandkids to come. You’re going to have so much fun watching your kids manage chores with their families.

  4. says

    Those are fantastic tips although I don’t think I could get my 17 year old son to wear Dora gloves! I really appreciated the app introduction, that would be perfect for our family. I have four children–5, 8, 12, 17–and all are computer savvy, they would love to be able to track their chores using my phone or a computer! Thanks for the great post!

    • says

      Thank you, Jennifer. Sounds like you’ve got a nice army of workers there (four children–5, 8, 12, 17). The apps are a neat idea. I like that they let you set up a rewards system, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be cash.

  5. says

    Fantastic list! Ours are six and three, so there’s only so much they can do right now, but they love to be mommy’s little helper!

    • says

      Thank you, Hanan. You’re right, there’s only so much kids can do when they’re really young. But it’s so sweet when they look for ways to help mommy. My toddler loves to help me pack my lunch.

  6. says

    I do not pay for chores.
    To avoid the argument of who does what my friend uses a chore jar, and everyone just sticks their hand in and picks.

  7. says

    After learning from my own personal experiences, we always recommend that parents use storage bins to teach their kids about cleaning up after themselves. It’s simple for your kids to just toss all of their toys into a plastic bin and just put that bin back in the closet or under the bed when they’re finished. Many years ago I learned that if you just provide a simple way for them to do their chores (in this case, cleaning up after themselves), they will most likely take advantage of it. If you don’t give them the necessary tools or supplies to complete their chores, you will be stuck doing it for them…

  8. says

    My daughter’s only 4 so I don’t pay for chores…yet. I would really love to follow some of these tips to get her more used to doing things around the house and contributing. Right now her only job is cleaning up the toys in the living room that she gets out during the day. I think her room needs to be next on the list.

    • says

      Good on you, Kelly. It’s great that you have her clean up her toys. You’re teaching her so many lessons (e.g. take care of your belongings, be responsible for your play area, etc.)

  9. says

    Great list!! My kids have a set list of chores they have to do, but they get to choose which days to do them. They also have a vacation day every week. They seem much more willing to do chores when they have chosen which ones to do when.

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