With the Kids

Motivating Kids to Help With Chores

Last week, my husband asked me, “What are the hardest things about being a mom?”  No, he wasn’t trying to get some action.  Nor, did he just get some.  He was asked to speak in church on Mother’s Day, and was hard at work, preparing his talk.  Reasons aside, I’ll always jump at the chance to have a heartfelt moment with the hubs, so this was fun.  “Well,” I said, “one thing that’s hard, right now, is never really feeling like I’m making progress, day to day.”  He asked me to elaborate.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my marriage, it’s that my husband loves a good comparison, something he can wrap his brilliant manly mind around.  So, since he is a finish carpenter, I threw out, “Suppose you go trim out a home, and are proud that you’ve finished the family room.  You’ve done the mantle, railing, columns, whatever, and move onto the bedroom.  You come back to the family room to grab another box of nails and see that someone has torn apart everything that you just did.  So, you drop everything, redo the family room, and never make it to the bedroom before the day is over.   Everything you had on the schedule for the next day has to be pushed aside, so you can start with the bedroom the next day.  Needless to say, you arrive at the home, and once again…everything has been torn apart in the family room.  Basically, it just feels like you’re never getting anywhere.”

That really resonated with him, saying he was sure that situation would summon up violent tendencies buried deep inside, and was impressed that I have managed to not hurt the children.  It’s always nice to be appreciated.  J  That night, he came to me, after pondering our conversation, and said something so wonderful.  He basically said, “I know that it seems like you are never making progress, and that everything you do just gets torn apart.  But, I want you to know that the ‘behind the scenes’ work that you are doing: teaching, comforting, loving, and playing with the kids…those things will never be torn apart.  Every little bit you do is progress and is making a difference to our children.  So, while the house may be getting messy, just remember that you are building a strong foundation, that’s more important than dishes, any day.”  Now, I know that, but I also think a mother can never hear that enough.  All the tasks at hand can be so overwhelming, and a random refocus is always welcome.

But, that’s not what this post is about.  Unfortunately, it’s about cleaning the house.  I know.  Sorry.  As much as we need to value our roles as mothers, the dang dishes still need to get done…and, pretty much everything else.  Luckily, housework is a perfect opportunity to multi-task…get the chores done WHILE teaching the values of work ethic, cleanliness, sacrifice, empathy, and family unity.

There are several ways that kids can be inspired to be helpers (and, hopefully you’ll even enjoy each others company!):

–  My younger girls love taking ‘energy breaks’.  Whenever I give them a chore, they like to set out a snack in the kitchen.  They run and pick up a set number of items, then run back to the kitchen to get a little bite of ‘energy’.  They run back and forth until they’re done.  It’s really simple, but they think its fun and it seems to take their mind off the daunting task.

–  All of my kids love Scrubbing Day.  Have you seen Pippi LongStockings?  You know the part where they totally soak the floor and skate around in the bubbles, singing, “Scrubbing Day is my favorite day, cause on scrubbing day, we make everything get wet….”  Oh yes, the kids LOVE when I belt this out…not.  But, really.  They all love when I pull out the buckets, toss them all a few rags, and blare the 80’s rock.  Literally, my floors are never as sparkly as they are after my kids get ahold of them.  It kicks Swiffer’s trash, royally.  Everyone will take turns scrubbing and walking/scooting the towels across the floor, to dry everything up.  P.S.  Rock music is a natural motivator. J

–  Kids love to have a taste of authority.  And, giving them that chance also saves me time.  When I have the kids do their chores, I have them inspect each other’s work.  So, little Shane will go check little Caden’s work and tell him anything he missed and when it passes his inspection, and vice versa.  It’s one less thing I have to do, and it helps them be more perceptive to the things that need to be done in the house.

–  I’ve noticed that my children get really overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning a messy room.  Probably similar to the way I feel when the entire house is a wreck.  Sometimes, it makes you want to plop down and do nothing.  I get it.  So, it really seems to help them when I break it down into sections for them.  It takes more time, but not really…because it’s either get after them for hours, or just take a few minutes to teach them and show them how to segment the task.  Sometimes, I’ll even pull out a paper, and make a check list for them…. “dolls, LEGOS, Lincoln Logs, dress-ups,” etc.  After they complete a section of the room, they check-mark the paper.  Another fun way to do it is have them pick up items of certain colors.

–  Anyone that reads my blog, knows I’m a total chart-mommy (see Craft Project Chore Motivator, Getting Kids to Stay on Their Beds, Kids & Chores).   I think it’s hereditary.  But, I’ll print up a chart for everything under the rainbow…potty training, clean rooms, reading, chores, you name it.  Between stickers, diligence, and a reward, they have been so helpful to me.  The kids get excited about them, which makes for less nagging.  Yay.

–  It’s always fun for kids to have something their working towards.  Sometimes, when we have a lot to do, we’ll set a goal that if we can finish by a certain time we will go to the movies, or get an ice cream, or invite lots of friends over.  Other times, I don’t need to offer a reward, I just set a timer and tell them to beat the clock.

– To get Dad involved, we had a Family Night on ‘Developing Home Skills‘.  We both picked 3 household chores that we thought the kids could do, if we taught them, and held 6 mini-classes.  They rotated through the little classes and it was actually a lot of fun!  Besides, family time with treats is always a hit.

The truth is, there’s actually several chores that my kids jump at the chance to do…I just have to ask.  Sometimes, I think it’s easier to do certain things myself.  But, when I take a few moments to really teach them how to complete a chore, it really pays off.  And, like I said, there are some chores that kids actually WANT to do…so, we’ve got to take advantage!  My kids fight over who gets to sort the clean laundry into everyone’s basket.  Because, whoever gets that job, gets to watch a tv show while they do it.  Whoever waters the plants, gets to stick the water meter in each one, which they think is super cool.   They love helping me cook dinner, doing yard work with me, or setting the table.  They love grocery shopping, filling up bird feeders, or anything that involves a spray bottle (which is LOTS of things!)  Of course, there are always jobs that bring about groans, but I try to pair them with a job that they enjoy.

Lastly, I think praising your children for doing THEIR best is so important.  It makes them feel valued, capable, and inspires them to work hard, which is all part of motherhood…building that strong foundation.  And, that’s not even including the lessons that can be learned from actually doing the chores.  Thank heavens for housework, to help us teach our children.

Please remind me that I wrote this when I’m crying over spilled milk, tomorrow.

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  1. Thanks for writing this. We always introduce a new chore at half and full birthdays. The kids feel proud to get a new responsibility. Also, Ox-cart Man (by Donald Hall) is a great book for introducing chores to young children. It is a simple story about a family living out in the country and everyone has a way in which they contribute.

  2. Going to copy those lovely words from your mr. & hand them to mine. Sometimes black & white works best! Awesome thing to say to a mom!

  3. Wow the post was beautiful and really hit home for me tonight. I love the beginning part about the conversation with you and your husband, it actually made me get a little teary eyed because I could relate so well with you! Thanks for sharing this, it’s just what I needed to hear and be reminded of. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for this post! It made me smile and lifted my heard. I have dishes and laundry to do and screens to put up in the windows and… oh it never ends. Thank you for the reminder that it’s never wasted!

  5. I really liked your article, especially the bit about the what the husband said.
    I feel like I could hear that more and maybe I should say it more too.

  6. I completely agree with you. I have been trying to teach my kids to do chores too. We have so many days that feel like nothing has been done. Vacumming the floor 5 times or washing clean laundry that was thown back in the hamper. This blog was such an encourangment for me today and a reminder of things I knew but forget on a daily basis. I cannot tell you how blessed I felt by it. God has given us our children to grow up in his ways, and part of that is teaching them. Thank you for your post today it was a blessing.

    1. Thank YOU, Abigail. I love that my husband was asked to give that church talk. :) It really got him thinking about motherhood, and in turn, got me thinking too. I always wonder if I’m getting a little to personal in my posts, but I’m glad I did, now that I know it meant something to you. Thanks for commenting.

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