How to engage kids in chores, from a mom who despises cleaning

From extra allowance to special gifts, there are plenty of ideas for encouraging kids to help out around the house.

While those techniques may work for many families — and I encourage you to do what’s best for yours — I have found other approaches work best for my own brood.

I should mention having a picture-perfect home is far from a priority for me. I myself am the type who’s desk is often scattered with papers, and I rarely make my own bed. I am hardly an expert when it comes to “keeping a home.”

Knowing all this, and you want to bail, I understand, otherwise continue reading for some tips from a messy mom like me.

Keep Chores And Allowance Separate

My oldest child, age 8, receives two dollars per week as allowance. I give him the choice of having the money as cash or to put it into his own savings account. Almost always, he chooses the savings account. My son receives this money as a way to teach him about finances and money management. At 8 he is more than capable of understanding the basic concepts of saving, investing and budgeting.

My youngest, age 5, does not yet receive an allowance, as he is just starting to grasp the concept of money. I will likely start giving him an allowance within the next year or so.

Both my oldest and youngest, regardless of what allowance they get or don’t get are expected to help out around the house.

My kids do not get extra money for doing things everyone in our home is expected to do. As I told my oldest, if he wants more money, he is free to come up with his own business model.

To me, cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry and tidying up one’s room are something we do as a family to make our home a more enjoyable place to live in. Again, I am far from a picture-perfect homemaker, so my expectations are low, yet I still strive to instill in my children a sense of responsibility toward keeping our home comfortable and clean.

Ditch The Bribes

Similarly to not tying allowance to chores, I avoid bribing my kids to help around the house.

Again, I want my kids to understand the value of contributing to the well-being of the family, and not condition them to expect a “reward” any time they help wipe down a sink or put their laundry away.

Still, some days nobody feels like cleaning and motivation can be tough. Sometimes a bit of re-thinking is in order.

While a bribe might be framed as: I’ll let you watch an extra 30 minutes of T.V., if you clean up your room, I go a different route.

Instead, I tell my kids we need to complete certain tasks before any of us (including myself and my husband) can go on to do more “fun” activities. In doing so, I aim to help my kids understand how we all need to take care of our responsibilities.

Make It Fun

I will admit, no amount of singing will make me love scrubbing toilets. However, Mary Poppins had the right idea about finding ways to make doing chores more enjoyable.

Playing upbeat music, holding a friendly cleaning competition or turning a task into a game, can all make performing household tasks more pleasant.

Recently, my kids and I took a cue from Generosity For Every Season (available here), and tried the “Donation Scavenger Hunt.” Searching for items on the list was a fun way to clear out clutter from our home and do something meaningful.

Printable List For Gathering Items For Donation

Focus On What Gets Done, Not What’s Left To Do

We all know as soon as one task is completed, three more are waiting to be tackled. Chores are endless and can overwhelm even the most cool-headed among us.

I myself have been guilty of focusing on all the household chores still needing to get done, instead of taking the time to appreciate all I have accomplished. Shifting my mindset to focus on all that I have done makes me feel good, and helps my kids feel the same.

Often, I give them a few specific tasks to complete, such as cleaning their bathroom, doing their laundry and vacuuming the stairs. When those chores are completed, I express my gratitude for their help. If I see they have more energy, I will encourage them to help out more, but if not, I let them stop.

As they both get older the expectations will increase, but for now I am grateful for all the help I can get.

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