One of the most common reasons families fight is chores. Everybody has been in this situation at least once. The mother is yelling: “When are you going to help me with the cleaning?” to her child, who is in another room playing computer games and either ignoring her or yelling back, “Later!”
We can’t really blame them. Adults don’t like doing chores either. They can be excruciatingly boring; maybe they’re the most mundane aspect of our existence. And that’s not even the worst of it – tasks that involve bending over repeatedly (which describes up to 80% of all household chores) cause back and joint pain. Annoying indeed.
So how can we motivate children when we ourselves sometimes barely have it in us to get chores done? Here are our 5 secrets to motivation, as well as some motivation killers to avoid.
Also Read: Dealing with Your Children’s Bad Behavior
1. Work as a Team
Doing chores with your child is an easy and efficient way to make the tasks more exciting. By getting down to work yourself, you’re inspiring your child to follow your lead. Another advantage of this approach is that you’re sure the tasks will be done right – you’re there to show them!
2. Involve Chocolate
This one probably isn’t surprising because there are few things chocolate won’t stimulate kids to do. We don’t mean giving them chocolate as a reward, though. Rather, introduce an element of anticipation by writing chores on stickers and sticking them on chocolate bars. Have the children pick bars. It should be different kinds of chocolate or filling so it feels like there is a choice. This works if you have at least two children.
3. Assign Harder Tasks
Reward stickers work only temporarily. A much better idea is giving your children challenging chores, like getting them to clean their room faster each time or to plant flowers instead of merely cleaning the garden. Don’t worry about tiring them – kids have a lot more energy than we do and this is a constructive way to spend it.
4. Make Them Feel Appreciated
When children are allowed to take part in something that has a purpose beyond their own daily life, this creates stronger motivation. Children may act like they don’t care about what happens in the household, but they (like adults) want to feel connected, needed, and important. You need to offer some praise and encouragement. Tell them you appreciate their help. They’ll remember and be more likely to help out next time, even with something as boring as putting away clean dishes or folding laundry.
5. Time Them
Timing is a constructive approach that has proven quite effective. You could tell your son he has 15 minutes to tidy his room. If he hasn’t done it in 15 minutes, you could reduce his allowance, tell him he has to go to bed earlier, or reduce play or TV time. His foot-dragging now has a price. This approach works because you’re just keeping time, not just nagging and complaining. The next time his room is due for tidying again, you can remind him he didn’t like his allowance reduced, so he should make a bigger effort to get the job done in time.
Just like there are approaches to increase motivation, there are motivation killers. We’ve covered some major ones below.
Paying Children to Do Chores
Paying children to do chores is a very controversial topic that we’ll touch upon here. What do we think? It’s not a good idea. Why? The Fiscal Times reports that more than 90% of kids have to do some chores to get an allowance. The problem is that eventually, many of them decide it’s not worth it just for the money. They’ll either ask for more money or stop doing chores.
If we decide to pay them more, they might keep asking for more and more. They might expect payment or material things for doing anything you ask of them at one point, even studying for school or doing homework.
The alternative is to stop asking them to help with housework. Then, we’re back where we started, aren’t we? This has happened to quite a few parents. The kids will just say no. Let’s say your daughter wants a new phone, but when you tell her you’ll buy her one if she helps around the house more, she suddenly doesn’t want the phone so much anymore.
Ultimately, motivating children to do chores with money or other material things won’t have the effect you hoped for. Money will become their sole motivation, effectively eliminating any source of intrinsic motivation.
Chores Shouldn’t Be a Punishment
You shouldn’t punish children for bad behavior, a low grade, or another misstep by making them do chores. This will totally kill their motivation (that was low to begin with) because now, they’re associating chores with something bad. This attitude might persist into their teens and adulthood. While it’s understandable that a child wouldn’t want to clean their room or do the dishes, an adult that won’t is downright deplorable!
If a child does a sibling wrong, it’s ok to ask them to do that sibling’s chores as a way of apologizing and making amends. It’s like they’re saying, “I shouldn’t have done that and I’ll do your chore for you to show you that I really am sorry.” We believe that’s the only time parents should use chores as something more than a job that needs to be done.
Last Resort: Ask Questions!
If nothing is working – your child simply refuses to help around the house – consider using one of the many listening strategies psychologists recommend. When a child refused to listen, you can have a serious talk with them. Turn their TV, computer, phone etc. off, get their attention and ask why they don’t want to help. Avoid yes/no questions. Ask them what is keeping them from doing the chores you’re assigning to them. Ask what they want to do after they’re done with their tasks and point out that the faster they finish, the sooner they can do or go back to doing what they want.
Amy Petrou is a content advocate at GenMindful.com, and a mother of two. In her free time you will find her writing on her blog, reading and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection.