Getting Children To Help Around The House or Dayhome

Parents and caregivers alike expect children to share household and cleanup chores.  The toughest part of the process for us adults is curbing our impatience to have the job done quickly and understanding that the some completed chores many not live up to our standards.  What really counts is the time and effort we took in teaching our children that contributing to the family/child care facility workload is an important investment in building a spirit of cooperation and responsibility.  Some words of advice:

Start When They Are Young

The age at which you should children to pick up their toys, make their beds, wash the dishes, etc., varies with each child's ability and interest.  Be sure to keep small, uncomplicated chores for young children.  Even three-year olds can do something to help.  Usually they are not only delighted to do their part but feel left out if everyone has a job except them.  If a task seems to complex or difficult, try breaking it down into smaller steps and celebrate the completion of each step.  As he or she finishes one part of the task, it becomes easier to do the next.

Don't expect young children to do things independently.  When a child can do a task without help, parents often assume he or she can be responsible for doing it alone.  But the child may not be ready because she hasn't yet developed the "habit".  And that usually takes much longer than developing the skill.

Assign Chores According to Age and Preferences

Switch jobs around occasionally so children can expand their skills.  Share unattractive and tedious chores and rotate hard or unpleasant jobs.  Offer choices where possible, but tasks should not fit traditional sex stereotypes.  Everyone physically able to do so should help with the dishwashing, setting and clearing the table, raking, etc.

Offer Praise

Children learn better from encouragement than from criticism.  The simplest form of encouragement is praise.  Be specific in your praise.  You can even praise the effort a child is making before the job is completed.  For example, "I like the way you put the storybook away before I even asked!"

Offer Reinforcement

Most people, adults and children, need some help beginning new habits or learning new skills.  Offering a suitable reward can be an incentive.  It may be something tangible or it may be extra time you spend reading a favorite story or playing a game.


From:  The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs: A resource for parents and caregivers: Getting Kids to Help Out Around the House.

Resources:  Pick up Your Socks, A Practical Guide to Raising Responsible Children, by Elizabeth Crary, Parenting Press Inc., P.O. Box 75267, Seattle, WA 98125