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8 ways to get kids to help with chores – and even turn the lights off

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Published on 14/03/2022

If you’re a parent who has never struggled to get your kids to help with the household chores or turn the lights off, then you’re a very lucky – and rare – parent indeed.

Like most of us, children don’t enjoy helping around the house, and often simply don’t see it as their job. After all, when they were tiny tots they didn’t have to empty the dishwasher or tidy their room, so why should they have to do it once they get a bit bigger?

There are many reasons children should help around the house, even from a very young age. Anyone who lives in a house should contribute to its upkeep if they can, and if children don’t learn how to do chores, they won’t have a clue how to look after a home once they eventually move out.

However, although the principle of getting kids to help around the house is a sound one, it can be another thing entirely to persuade them to do chores. But it’s all in the way you ask them, insists Kavin Wadhar, founder of the KidCoachApp, which helps parents have thought-provoking conversations with their children.

“Chores, housework, spring cleaning, whatever we call it, it’s got to be done,” says Wadhar. “If you ask your kids to help but get the usual ‘urgh, do I have to?’ and ‘yeah, later’ responses, then consider how you’re approaching them about the doing.”

Here Wadhar, and child behaviour specialist Olivia Tarry, an expert on the Bloss parenting platform, give their tips on how to get kids to help with chores, and be even more helpful by switching off the lights regularly too…

1.  Make sure chores are age-appropriate

Don’t ask too much of your kids. “We need to have realistic expectations of our children,” stresses Tarry. “A younger child won’t be able to tidy a whole playroom without any help – they might need to be given smaller, more focused tasks, and have the assistance of ‘tidy-up’ music or timers.”

(Alamy/PA)

2.  Ask questions

Statements like ‘Because I told you so’ don’t help children achieve anything, explains Wadhar, but two-way conversations through asking kids questions can help them grow critical thinking skills and change their habits.

 

“By asking children questions about why they should do something or how to best achieve goals, we can help them grow in confidence and develop essential skills,” he says. “Two-way conversations, rather than just being told what to do, teach our children to be responsible and productive and help support success and make sound future choices,

“Encourage questions – if you make time for conversation daily, asking your kids ‘why you do this,’ and ‘how can we do better,’ etc, you’ll find you need fewer of the ‘just do it’ orders in the future.”

3.  Make sure they understand why

Wadhar stresses that good communication is an important tool in getting children to help around the house. “Communication is a vital developmental skill and kids, like adults, need to understand why they’re doing something. Understanding why – not just knowing – helps them take action. They also want to feel empowered and listened to, not just told what to do.”

 4.  Storage is key

Youngsters will find it much easier to tidy up if it’s obvious where things go, so make sure you’ve provided obvious storage solutions. “If we want children to put things away, we need to have clear homes for things,” explains Tarry. “We can help them by providing tubs with labels on them, and low-level hooks, etc.”

5.  Include kids in decision-making

Make sure children feel they’ve been involved with decisions about what’s done, and can suggest ideas, advises Wadhar. “We can elevate our kids to our level by speaking to them in a way that lets them know their thoughts and voices are valued,” he says. “Let your kids in on decision-making, let them know their hard work will be appreciated and has a genuine purpose.”

(Alamy/PA)

He says an extra benefit to speaking to kids like this when it comes to chores is they may surprise you with excellent ideas. “Kids are smart and like to think outside the box,” he points out. “Maybe they’ll come up with a faster way to put away the shopping.

“Kids never fail to surprise us with their creative and thoughtful ideas. It also opens up discussion with our kids, and all this chat helps them think for themselves and do things without being told.”

6.  It’s not bribery, it’s expectation

Tarry says it’s “completely acceptable” to only allow iPads or TV-time once daily routines have been completed. “This is not a bribe, it’s an expectation,” she insists. “If you say something like ‘After dinner we sweep the floor and wipe the table and, when that’s done, we can watch TV’, sticking to these routines really pays off in the long-run, as children know what’s expected of them and it becomes a habit.”

7. Draw up a timetable

(Alamy/PA)

Get the kids to help you make a timetable of which chores are done when, and stick it somewhere very visible. “I’m a big fan of visual timetables,” says Tarry. “Children can see exactly what’s coming next/expected of them, and it saves on your vocal chords too!”

8.  Help them understand why they need to turn lights off

If your kids never turn the lights off, make sure you model this behaviour yourself. “Every time you turn a light off, make a point of it and ask your child why we turn off the lights,” suggests Tarry.

And Wadhar adds: “Encourage them to ask questions like why are energy prices going up and how much money do we spend every month? All humans are more motivated when they truly understand why they need to do something – even something as simple as switching lights off.

“Also, don’t be afraid to discuss the electricity bill and consumption with your kids. Ask how they think you can reduce it and why it’s important. If kids are involved in suggesting ideas and checking the bills, they’re more likely to engage in helping – it’s far more effective than just telling them to switch lights off.”

What chores do you get your kids to help you with? Let us know in the comment section below!

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