Our kids are people too. Their motivations differ just as much as your motivations differ from those of your colleagues, partner, friends or even from yourself (if you’re like me) from one minute to the next.
So advice such as “just make them” or “rewards charts” or “pocket money”, are all great when they work, but rarely work consistently across all children/families/days of the week.
What *will* get them to do the jobs you want them to do is not as complicated as we tend to make it seem. What do we all want? To feel good about ourselves.
Getting our kids to do something by feeling bad about themselves is only going to lead to them resisting doing these things in the future as they develop an association between the bad feeling and the task.
How can we make something boring and unpleasant such as chores feel good?
Here are 10 things you can do to do just that and finally get your kids helping out.
This goes for any chores, from decluttering to tidying up to doing the full laundry process. (and it might even work on the big kid you sleep next to as well *shh*)
- Lead by example – many of us do the housework when the kids aren’t home or while they’re asleep. We have good reasons for this and you’ll likely continue to do so, but for the sake of the children, let them SEE YOU DO IT at least some of the time. Even the smartest and oldest children can be oblivious to the work behind the magic of walking into a clean and tidy home if they never see behind the curtain.
- Understand your child – What works for one child might not work for another. Understanding how your child learns and processes new information will save you both a lot of time and stress. One of my children likes/needs lots of detail and can remember a whole lot of information if he believes it to be important or interesting, the other needs basic information in bite-sized pieces and lots of practice and reminding to keep her on track.
- Ask for HELP and tell them WHY – your household is a team and everyone has a role to play to move the team forward. Rather than demanding or bribing your fellow teammates to do chores, ask them to help you with the things everyone needs to be done. We all need clean clothes, clean dishes, space to play, time to rest yadda yadda yadda, so everyone helps where they can. “I’m going to be late home, could you please help me by taking the load of clothes in off the line before it gets dark?”, “I need the dinner table cleared in 5 minutes when I serve, can you do that for me please?”
- Be seen as part of the team – Especially as they are developing their own personal strength and a little rebellious streak, it’s important that they don’t feel like they’re to only one being asked to work. Combining steps 1 and 3, let them see that EVERYONE is contributing where they can. You might have to make a real point of this as tweens and teens are, by nature, very self-centred and will not see how others are contributing. “I am doing this, I’ve just asked your sister to do that, could you please do this other thing and then we can all sit down and watch that show together.”
- Be clear about your expectations – When they’re just starting out, you can’t just tell your tween to “put the laundry on” and expect them to do it. You might as well ask your husband to jump in the car, drive to the shops and buy you a whole new kit of makeup – he might fluke it but you’ll likely end up looking like your make-up gun was set to whore (bonus points if you got that TV reference). Give them specific directions, walk them through the whole process and what you expect them to do at each step. Eg. “I want you to take all of the towels out of the bathroom and put them in the washing machine. Tell me when you’ve done that and I’ll show you the next step.”
- Make like Elsa and Let It Goooo! (your perfectionism) – I never tire of that song. Seriously though, drop the perfectionism. If you have followed point number two and made your expectations fair and clear, be content with how they choose to meet those expectations. They may not hang the laundry exactly the way you would, or they may not prioritise the tasks with the same urgency you would, that’s ok. As long as the laundry dries and the bin made it to the road on time – AND YOU DIDN’T DO IT – that’s a success.
- Believe they can and you’re halfway there – If you believe your child can do the job, they probably can. If you DON’T believe it, you’re probably right. Consider each step of the process and decide if your child is physically capable of completing it. If they can’t lift the vacuum cleaner or reach the clothesline, maybe those tasks are unfair or you need to provide some extra help (my son used to use a step ladder to hang the clothes out until he was tall enough to reach the line). If your child IS physically capable, there is no reason they cannot do the job with the right guidance from you. Believe in them and support them to achieve.
- Be their biggest fan and cheerleader – building their confidence in their own ability makes these tasks feel easier and even more rewarding. Once *you* believe in them (step 5), you need *them* to believe in themselves. Try saying things like, “I know this is a challenge for you but I know you can do it. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you if you need it.”
- Listen – If your child is getting grumpy or refusing to help, try to keep your cool and take some time to listen to their concerns. Even if you are doing everything “right”, they might still be receiving a different message than you are putting out. Listen carefully and learn where you can communicate better. Maybe they feel too much pressure to do things your way. Do they feel like they are trying their best but still aren’t getting the recognition they deserve? Could it be that they feel like more is expected of them than of their younger siblings or parent? Whatever they feel is not wrong, hear them out then find a gentle way to show them your point of view.
- Reward with respect – I am not opposed to pocket money or screen-time rewards, I am a huge fan of doing whatever works for you, but by far the most effective and universal reward for a job well done is respect and appreciation. Acknowledge the EFFORT they put in and how much it helped you/the household. Respect that the time they spent helping out was not fun and they deserve some fun or down-time to refill their bucket. Respect that they have shown responsibility and should be allowed other responsibilities/freedoms too, maybe they can walk to the shops alone? Or choose their own clothes? Don’t forget to express the connection between the two behaviours. “You’ve been such a big help at home lately, I think you can choose what’s for dinner tonight.” Before long they’ll be making it for you… and then shopping for the ingredients too.
Teaching your tweens, teens or children at any age to help out around the house is a challenge well worth your attention. Not only will they benefit from the experience but you will eventually declutter some of these tasks off your own to-do list and finally make more time for YOU!
Find out more about making room for you in your life with a membership to Simplicity with Lauren Winzar or level up your kid goals by helping them to declutter their toys (or anything else) with my DIY mini-course Combatting Toy Clutter available now.