How to get your kids to do chores with minimal complaining

Getting your kids to do their chores can be a chore in and of itself, as all too many parents know. Here are four tips to help you manage that battle of the wills.

Avoid procrastinating and gender stereotyping with these tips from parenting columnist Julie Freedman Smith

Kids are more than capable of helping out at home by the time they're old enough for preschool, says parenting columnist Julie Freedman Smith. (Getty Images)

Getting your kids to do their chores can be a chore in and of itself, as all too many parents know. 

Besides keeping the house in order, household responsibilities are important because they help give kids a sense of purpose, and they build confidence, said Julie Freedman Smith of Parenting Power

"Chores are how they contribute to family," she told CBC Calgary's The Homestretch.

So how do you manage that challenging battle of wills? Here are four tips that might help. 

1. Set clear expectations

Step one is to be crystal clear with your kids what you expect and when you expect it to be done, says Freedman Smith. 

To start with, take the time to do it with them so that they're comfortable and feeling confident about their ability to do what you've asked them to do.

Freedman Smith then recommends taking a picture to set a standard.

"Here's what your room looks like when it's clean. Let's put these pictures on the back of your door. Now you check. Does that corner look like the picture of what that corner is supposed to look like?" she offered. 

Julie Freedman Smith recommends using photos to help give your kids a reference point for what things should look like once their chores are complete. (Getty Images)

2. Hold your kids accountable

After you've agreed on a set standard, you need to establish some consequences, Freedman Smith said. 

"We need to hold them accountable to that, because if we just say it and don't hold them accountable, then they learn to not do it."

If you find your kids in the habit of complaining or procrastinating, you might need to sit down and have a conversation about responsibilities and consequences.

Follow through is critical, says Freedman Smith. Make sure that your kids complete their tasks when they're supposed to, and that the appropriate consequences are in place if they don't. (Getty Images)

3. Be realistic 

Don't give your kids chores to do that you know they're never going to do, Freedman Smith said. 

"If you like those perfect hospital corners on beds, and your kids aren't going to do it, and then you're going to go in and do it afterwards? Totally defeating the purpose, because it's sending a message to the child that they can't do it," Freedman Smith said. 

She also cautions against dressing chores up so they seem like play. 

"Not everything has to be fun," Freedman Smith said.

"There are lots of things that we do in our lives that are not particularly fun and need to get done. If we start early, then we set up a pattern, and kids get into the habit of doing it.

"Then we go on and do the fun stuff."

To avoid perpetuating gender stereotypes with the way you assign chores, alternate who does what on a monthly, or bi-monthly basis, says Freedman Smith. (Getty Images)

4. Mix it up

What's expected of a three-year-old is completely different than what's expected of an 18-year-old, and parents shouldn't be afraid to update their standards as children learn the tasks and how to do them better. 

"Start small. Pick a few. Get them working well. Then as they get better, you can add to it," Freedman Smith said. 

To avoid falling into gender stereotypes when it comes to chores, she recommends alternating who does what.

For example, January could be garbage duty for one child this month, and dish duty for the other, and in February the two switch. 

Most importantly, if it's not working, try something else. 

"Do it in a way that's going to work for your family so that you will stick to it."


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