How to Motivate Kids for Doing Household Chores

How to Motivate Kids for Doing Household Chores

So you say to your child, “I want you to get in there and clean that messy room of yours. You’re supposed to do it every week, you know.” And, as always, you hear in response, “But, Mom, why?” Well, you can confidently, without any guilt or reservation, say what you usually do: “It’s for your own good.” Because it is.

Using data collected over a 25-year period, University of Mississippi’s Marty Rossmann set out to determine whether having household chores from the age of 3 or 4 was a reliable predictor of a person’s success as a young adult.  Her findings? People who had regular household chores as children were better adjusted, had better relationships with friends and family, and were more successful career-wise.

Doing chores instills in kids a sense of accomplishment, which in turn builds self-esteem, and helps them understand the mutual obligations inherent in family life and social life. I talked to my sister who also has a cleaning service in Portland called Mess Maid Right NW, and here is what we came up with!

Start Early and Make It Age-Appropriate

Child experts advocate starting early, claiming that kids as young as 18 months to two years old can handle some simple chores. You just need to make sure the chores you assign are age-appropriate.

Parents often delay giving younger kids chores because they don’t know how or aren’t ready yet, but that’s a little backward. It’s the actual doing of the chores that teaches them how and gets them ready. Very young children, for example, are perfectly capable of putting dishes in the dishwasher or folding washcloths. We don’t need to go into great depth on this here – just Google “chores for kids,” and you’ll find of ton of lists and charts for age-appropriate chores.

Jettison Perfectionism and Offer Praise

Kids are, well, kids, and they won’t do a job the same way you would. So put aside your adult perfectionism and allow them to make mistakes and even do what you would consider a sloppy job. And resist the temptation to jump in and do it for them so the outcome will suit you. If you do, you will be defeating the whole purpose of having your kids do chores.

And don’t stint on the praise and give it early and often. Lavish praise on your child while she is engaged in the task and don’t wait till it is completed. This builds momentum that carries through, and positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative reinforcement.

Cleaning tips with kids

Lean On Intrinsic (Not Extrinsic) Motivation

This key is arguably the most important and, without a doubt, the most controversial. Should you or should you not give your kids an allowance for doing chores? The consensus is . . . probably not (sort of maybe).

It will certainly teach the economic necessity of the connection between work and money – that if they want something, they’ll have to work for it. It doesn’t, however, teach the value of work for its own sake.

What’s the difference?

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside, an allowance, for example. With extrinsic motivation, the satisfaction gained from accomplishing a task lies not in the task itself, but in the reward. And, very often, if you remove the reward, the behavior (doing chores) ceases.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within. You do something because you want to (or discover that you want to after having done it) because it interests you or you enjoy it or it aligns with your values. Intrinsic motivation, unlike extrinsic, fosters a sense of wellbeing because it is fueled by the fulfillment of three basic needs: competence, relatedness, and autonomy.

And paying your kids to do chores usually doesn’t accomplish the same thing.

Which is better?

Expecting kids to do chores simply because it is expected of them is likely the better course. This will provide a better opportunity to learn responsibility and competence while contributing to family life because it is a good and satisfying thing to do.

This article is written by Elizabeth from She loves to write about crafts, DIY, parenting, lifestyle and travelling.


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