Household Chores

Vacuums don’t clean houses. People clean houses.
—Lew Schneider, American writer

If you wish your child helped out more at home, you’re not alone. According to research from Arizona State University, the four most common tensions about household chores include parents wishing kids would: (1) clean their rooms, (2) pick up their dirty clothes, (3) put their dirty dishes in the sink, and (4) hang up wet towels. The same research study also found that kids between the ages of 6 and 18 do about 12 percent of household chores—leaving 88 percent to the parents. How can you get everyone to help with household chores? Consider these ideas.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • Create a chore list: list all the chores that need to be done and when, and then divide family chores up between family members. Or create a job jar: list chores one by one on slips of paper, fold them, and put them in a jar. Then have family members choose a piece of paper and get to work.
    • Set aside a time when everyone does chores together, such as a Saturday morning or a part of a Saturday afternoon. Explain that everyone will do chores at the same time and no one can do anything else until all the chores are completed. Encourage family members to help each other out to get chores finished sooner.
    • Be patient. Very few people enjoy doing chores, so expect kids to take short cuts and not always complete a chore to your liking. Continue having high expectation but don’t expect kids to start out with enthusiasm or great mastery.
    • Talk about why doing household chores is important. Chores keep your home clean and enjoyable. They teach responsibility and help you make decisions. You can take pride in doing a job well, and everyone in a family is happier when everyone does his or her share.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Find chores that are age appropriate for your kids. For example, get a big feather duster and let your child dust. Or let your child set the table by placing the silverware next to place settings.
    • Encourage kids to pick up after themselves. Use a toy bucket and make time every day for you and your child to pick up the toys and place them in the bucket.
    • Stick with kids during chore times. They often get distracted by other things and need reminding to stay on task. They’re also more likely to finish their tasks if you work side by side with them.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Place your child in charge of the chores during chore time. If you have a job jar, let your child choose one slip of paper to give to each family member. Then ask your child what advice he or she has before everyone starts.
    • Make chore time fun by playing music. You can also learn and sing the song “Whistle While You Work“ from the movie Snow White.
    • Figure out ways that kids can help out with parts of chores. For example, show kids where each family member’s sock drawer is. Then when the laundry is folded, have your kids put each family member’s socks away.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Teach your child more complex household chores as they grow. For example, 10- and 11-year-olds can learn how to strip the bed and put the sheets and pillowcases into the chute or laundry hamper. Teach 13- to 15-year olds how to do laundry.
    • If you have a yard, teach kids how to help with outside chores, such as raking leaves, pulling weeds, shoveling snow, and mowing the lawn. Kids are more likely to stick with chores if family members are out doing them together.
    • Talk about how household chores and homework are important responsibilities. Even if you don’t enjoy doing them, it’s often helpful to do these tasks first and then have fun later. Or if there are too many chores (or too much homework), do some for 30 minutes, take a break for 30 minutes, and then come back and do some more.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • If it seems to you that your older teenager does fewer chores at this age then at a younger age, you are not alone. According to Arizona State University research, the amount of household chores done by this age group declines sharply due to more challenging schoolwork, more complex schedules, part-time jobs, and other demanding activities. Some parents allow older teenager to do fewer household chores as long as they keep their grades up and are involved in other activities. Other parents believe that older teenagers still need to participate in a few household chores.
    • If your teenager gets into a money jam (such as dropping his iPod into the toilet and completely ruining it) and you don’t want your teenager to get a job, consider creating household chores for your teenager to do for money. Instead of choosing everyday chores (such as washing dishes or picking up the house), figure out special projects, such as cleaning out a closet and donating things you don’t use to Goodwill, helping to erect a trellis, or digging up a new flower bed outside.
  • Older teenagers usually can’t wait to be an adult. Make it clear that responsibilities go hand in hand with the freedoms of adulthood. For example, maybe you require your 18 year old to do his or her wash each week. Or maybe you insist that your 18 year old has to cook for the family once a week. Be creative, but be consistent.

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