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Chores and Children

Motivating Kids to do Their Share

Four things influence the process of motivating children to do their chores, John Covey said.

  • Parents must model being responsible by doing housework themselves.

  • Parents must have a caring relationship with each child in the family.

  • The culture in the home must be cooperative. Do you do things together? Do you help each other?

  • Parents must see chores as an opportunity to teach their children both important life skills and values.

    Surprisingly, Covey, the father of 10, suggests that parents sometimes negotiate with their teenagers about chores. "The big thing is to listen to the child when they don't want to do a job, or listen any time, really," he said. "Don't just use force. Force, in the long run, doesn't build the relationship. Although, it gets results in the short run." Chores shouldn't be a burden or a punishment, Goldscheider added.

    At different ages, children need different levels of help and support while doing their chores, according to Covey. Parents should work side-by-side with young children, washing the dishes as the child clears plates from the dinner table, for example. The more you do with them when they're young, the more they can do by themselves later. "The older they get, they don't want you hovering over them while they do their work," Covey said.

    Chores and Allowance -- Keeping Them Separate

    Part of the rewards for doing chores should be the sense of accomplishment the child feels when the job is completed. Covey and Goldscheider agree that an allowance probably shouldn't be connected to fundamental chores. "They're very separate things," Goldscheider said. Chores are part of the basic responsibilities that family members have toward one another, Goldscheider said. Occasional tasks that the child does, however, can be compensated.

    The important point here is that parents are not just trying to get their houses clean or the lawn mowed or the snow shoveled, Covey said. The goal is to help the children develop values such as taking care of other people, finding pleasure in work, and being responsible and productive.

    This article was excerpted from National PTA's magazine, Our Children.

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