Battle-Free Housework

Battle-Free Housework | 6 Ways to Get Children to Help Around the House

It is an age-old battle: parents try to get children to help around the house, and children find every reason why not to pitch in with household chores.

It seems like the list of tasks that need to get done is never ending. And, in a world where social media pressures parents to be perfect in every way, a stack of undone dishes and dirty laundry can feel like one more thing you are failing at while no one else seems to care.

Don’t despair! There are ways you can get the whole family involved in keeping up with the loads of work that come with running a home.

ONE: Start Young.
Children as young as two are hungry to please and help. But because they aren’t very capable, it feels less like they’re helpful and more like they are in the way. But, if we wait until they’re older, they may be less willing to jump into the work.

When we establish routines and expectations when children are young, they often form habits that are easier to maintain as they age. Here are some ideas on how to involve very young children in meaningful work.

  • Matching Socks: When laundry comes out of the dryer, drop socks in a basket. Young children can find the ones that match and pair them up for you.
  • Washing silverware: Put your forks and spoons and soapy water in a tub. Young children can wash it. They can also sort silverware once it’s dry and ready to be put away.
  • Sorting recycling: If your city requires you to sort your recycling, young children can help with that, too. Simply start the piles and they can add the new items. They’ll also really enjoy breaking down the cardboard boxes.
  • Dust floorboards: Spray a safe mix of water and soap on dust clothes. Children can dust those low areas that are perfect for their height and level of flexibility.
  • Set the table: If you give children the pieces, they can set them out around the table before dinner.

TWO: Define Tasks.
Sometimes, our ideas as to how something should be done differs from those of another. A room might seem perfectly clean to one person and continue to be a mess in the view of another. “Doing the dishes” may only involve washing the actual dishes to one, while another might expect that this includes clearing the table, wiping the counters, and taking out the garbage. When assigning tasks, make sure that everyone has the same understanding of what needs to be done.

THREE: Rotate Jobs.
Sit as a family once a month and decide who is going to do what chore. Make a list of the chores that need to be done on a regular basis. Rotate around and allow each person to pick one from the list. Continue until all the tasks are selected. This way everyone knows if they have a chore they really hate, they get to drop it in 30 days.

FOUR: Make It Fun.
Find ways to make clean-up tasks a little more fun. Laundry is more fun when everyone tries to throw the clothing into a basket or washing machine. Set up a timer and challenge the whole family to have everything picked up before it hits zero.

FIVE: Provide Consequences.
If older children leave their stuff lying around the house, collect it and make them earn it back by doing some other tasks around the house. Until children finish a task they do not enjoy (for example, loading the dishwasher), hold off on a task they do like (for example, watching a favorite show). Children are experts at tuning out the fussing and reminders that often accompany their lack of follow-through on household tasks. At times, there need to be real consequences to help them learn to take seriously their role in maintaining the household.

SIX: Express Gratitude.
Even though being a parent is often a thankless job, you can still model an attitude of gratitude when your children do pitch in and help. Make sure to thank children in very specific language for their work. For example, “thanks for doing the dishes. It’s so much nicer to walk through the kitchen when it’s clean and smells fresh.”

The most important step you can take in reducing stress around housework is to cut yourself some slack. As long as children’s needs are being met, most will not remember or value that the house was spotless when they are all grown up. They will, however, remember if the adults in their lives were too wrapped up in tasks to spend meaningful time with them. And, when you are all gathered together with your noses in a good story – who will even notice what is happening in the rest of the house?