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How to Stop the Chore War & Get Kids to Love (or Tolerate) Cleaning

Son Helping Father To Wash Dishes In Kitchen Sink

Is getting your kids on board to do their chores a struggle? Do you fight with them to complete simple tasks, which causes you to think, “maybe I should have just done it myself in the first place?!” Do you wonder why the process of children doing chores is so difficult?

In my experience, as both a seasoned educator and a mom of two kids, don’t always know what is expected of them. But it’s my belief that kids do want to help. They want to be grown up and do “big kid stuff. “While we may complain and groan at the mere thought of emptying the dishwasher or doing a load of laundry, kids often find these tasks enjoyable—if we set them off on the right foot.

There are many ways to make completing chores more about fun than work. You just have to give it a try, and see what works best for your family. The more you make it enjoyable, (easier said than done, I know), the less frustration you’ll encounter. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned—of course, not everything works for everyone, but I hope at least one of these ideas will help you stop the chore war at home.

Start early

From a very young age, children are interested in the workings of a household. They have been watching you since they were born. Doing your housework while the baby is awake not only stimulates them by seeing movement and activity, but actually introduces them to the simple chores they soon will be able to have fun helping mommy and daddy complete.

Newly-toddling toddlers often love to clean. They will take a tissue or napkin and just wipe it around. Spritz a little vinegar water on a towel and let your baby wipe the table, floor, or counter. They actually find this fun! Heck, since they sell toy versions of cleaning products, you might as well give them the real thing. As soon as your little one shows an interest in watching or following along with whatever chore you may be doing, let them help.

Give them a chance

Children are not able to make everything spotless. There may be a sock in the wrong drawer or the sweeping didn’t catch every crumb. Try to not be nit-picky. Kids are not Mr. Clean, as we know, and their best will be far from the best that you yourself could have done. As tempting as it may be to fix what they are doing or even show them a different way of doing it, back off for a little bit and applaud their effort.

Certainly it is fine to guide them along if they are not sure how to complete a specific chore, but do not do the work for them. If you tell yourself ahead of time that things will not be perfect, that the bowls may be stacked small-to-big or the towels may not be folded crisply, that may help you to not immediately correct their hard work. You can always fix it later (when they are not looking!) or, even better, leave it. It can help remind you that done is better than perfect, too.

Work as a team

If you have multiple children, put them to work together! School-aged children can wash and dry dishes together, make the beds (we all know that’s easier with two people!), or take out the garbage as a team.

Yes, there may be some fighting involved— but they will have to work it out with each other (so try to not step in). Working as a team builds cooperation skills and teaches kids how to accomplish tasks in tandem with someone else. If you are lucky, it can also turn into a bonding moment. When all televisions and phones are off and away, your kids might start talking to each other as they rake the leaves or dust the house.

It’s all about independence

Kids of all ages strive to be independent. Even if your child is a little clingy, they still look for feeling of being a little more grown up (even if you have to hold their hand while they do so). Foster their desire to be Miss or Mister Independent by giving them age appropriate chores that they can complete with zero help from you. Their sense of accomplishment upon completing their task will put a smile on both of your faces.

Chore charts often work wonders for children. They complete a chore to earn a sticker on their chart. Once their chart is filled up with stickers, they get a toy. It gives them something to look forward to. If you have older kids, there is nothing wrong with paying them a little bit to do their chores. We are not talking big bucks here, but each chore can be worth something.

Make it a game

Remember those basketball hoop laundry baskets (don’t we all still want one of those?!). Take a cue from that product, and make games out of chores, like laundry basketball. Race and see who can clean up their rooms the fastest (that can even be you cleaning the living room while your child cleans his room). Get them to wash the tub as “window washers” while they bathe. You can even have a vacuum dance party!

The possibilities are endless. Spark your child’s imagination while getting them to help with cleaning up, and you might find that your chores are not such as chore anymore. And that is what it is all about—teaching responsibility while having a good time as a family—with the added bonus of a (mostly) clean house.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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