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Motivating Kids to Do Chores

If you have kids, you’ll know how hard it can be to get them to lend a hand around the home.

And amidst the craziness of modern family life, their reluctance to ‘pull their weight’ can really start to grind the gears of even the most patient parent.

But you’re not alone. In fact, a study by Braun Research in 2014 found that 82% (of 1,001 parents who participated) did chores as kids, but only 28% required their kids to do chores.

And if you’re from the UK, a breakthrough study recently revealed that youngsters in the UK were among the worst in the world for doing chores!

So what’s changed?

Kids are really busy.  (Face it, we’re all busy trying to ‘keep up’ – but that’s a topic for another blog…).

Between after school activities, homework, revision, dinner and sleep, kids find themselves with less and less free time for themselves.  Let alone family duties like mowing the lawn.

Thus, parents are often reluctant to assign chores, believing their kids already have enough to contend with.  (Especially when it comes to academic pressures).

Quite often, extracurricular activities have come to dominate family schedules. Sure, we don’t want our kids to miss out – particularly if the activity contributes to academic prowess or excelling in an interest they may have.

(And, as busy parents, clubs can be a handy way to get kids out of our hair for an hour or so – so that we can catch up chores, errands, etc).

Instead, chores and family contributions fall off the list.

So we just stop assigning kids regular chores.  (In fact, you might even feel like you’re asking your child for a favour when you ask him or her to do the dishes).

Parents place “a high value on their children’s right to pursue their individual desires. It’s as if children’s “rights” obscure children’s obligations.”

– Elinor Ochs, Professor of Anthropology at UCLA & Director of the Center on the Everyday Lives of Families.

Is this the best approach?


That’s according to Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist, who believes doing chores is a better strategy for achieving long-term academic success.

According to Rende,

Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success—and that’s household chores.”

What can parents do instead?

Let’s acknowledge that our kids are under constant pressure to achieve.

Let’s praise their hard work and tenacity – not just their achievements.

Let’s help our kids understand they are vital to the unity of a happy, functioning family. For example, find times where a quick chore can easily become part of the daily routine – making their beds in the morning or laying the table before supper for instance.

And let’s motivate them.

How to motivate your child

Motivation: “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way” – Oxford Dictionary

The truth is, not every form of motivation will work with your child. Also, what works for one child may not for another.

Here are a few things you can try to help motivate kids to do chores:

  1. Use descriptive praise. Kids love praise – of the right kind.  Praising a specific behaviour (‘descriptive praise’) is more effective than vague and judgmental compliments (‘evaluative praise’), such as ‘good boy’ or ‘clever girl’.
    • By describing the positive things that a child does, parents clearly convey what behaviours will gain approval.
    • All of us, child or adult, distractible or not, can be motivated by approval that feels sincere, specific and non-judgemental.
    • Simply put, descriptive praise kicks off a powerful cycle of positive motivation, constructive habits, and intrinsic self-confidence.
  2. Offer incentives. Most kids are motivated by rewards – and they don’t have to be large or involve money. You can reward your children by:
    • Spending time with them doing an activity they enjoy.
    • Reading to them.
    • Playing games with them.
    • Curling up and watching a movie together.

What’s the best way to identify a good reward?  Ask your kids!

  1. Lead by example. Show your kids that regular tasks can be rewarding. For example, seeing raw ingredients brought during the weekly shop transform into delicious cookies.  Or dancing to music while doing tidying the kitchen shows them how to make jobs fun.
  2. Actively demonstrate your love and respect for your kids.  Get involved in their lives. If your child is really interested in something, do it with them!  Showing kids you appreciate them and respect their choices will build a deeper bond between you. When you ask them to get something done, they’ll be more likely to do it because of the mutual respect they have for you.

Motivating your kids isn’t always easy.

While it may seem easier to throw in the towel and do things yourself, standing steadfast and finding new ways to motivate your kids is much more likely to help them become productive, responsible adults.

Remember, children are motivated by the same things that motivate us all. A chore app for kids is just one of many solutions to motivate.  Things like love, attention, pleasure, rewards, and recognition top the list of things children crave. Heaping these essential motivators on your kids will provide great rewards throughout their lives.

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