I don’t want to do the chores! How to strategically get your kids to help around the house
No kid wants to do the chores asked of them in and around the house -- (many adults may not want to either) -- and sometimes it can be hard getting them to do what they're asked, but here are some ideas on how parents of young kids and even teenagers can use to ensure the chores gets done.
To find out what works, what doesn't work as well as how chores teaches that sense of responsibility and accountability we want our kids to have before they become adults, I spoke with Dr. Adam Sagot, M.D., a Child Psychiatrist with Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
Do things like bribery, incentives, tricks, etc. work some of the time, all of the time or rarely in getting kids to do chores or tasks in or around the house?
Dr. Sagot recommends first knowing what usually motivates your son or daughter to get things done.
"Are they someone that underhands that feeling good is something that is good? And how can we instill that in them?," Dr. Sagot tells Townsquare Media News. "If mom is stressed because she's making dinner, do they get a sense of joy by being able to help mom by doing something around the house that makes mom feel better? Having a positive impact on others is trying to do something that we want to instill in children at a very young age to try and improve that internal sense of motivation."
If your son or daughter isn't usually as motivated or it's hard to get them motivated, Dr. Sagot recommends using positive reinforcement when they do one chore or task or something else to be able to encourage them to do them more often.
"We like the idea of behavior charts or calendars where we can mark things down where someone has done something they're supposed to do whether it was a chore, whether it was their homework, whether it was a good day at school," Dr. Sagot said. "In terms of incentives, I'm not really big on trying to provide signifiant tangible rewards, I don't really want to try to spoil children in that way but I do think it's reasonable to start considering additional time on preferred activities. I find that setting limits on screen time is a very effective starter, setting limits on when they're allowed to go out and with whom and if there able to demonstrate through good behavior doing the things that they're asked to do then these things can become concessions and incentives."
If that works, then Dr. Sagot says then perhaps you can extend the amount of time your son or daughter is watching TV, going outside, playing video games, etc.
How can doing chores and other tasks asked of and assigned to your sons and daughters help them develop a sense of responsibility and accountability?
For parents, trying to teach your sons and daughters responsibility and the importance of being accountable for your actions and non-actions may prove difficult in the younger, perhaps under 7 crowd, but as they get older and certainly by the time they're teenagers, while challenging, they'll be able to grasp the concept better.
"I think it's a lot harder with the younger kids to really see this sense of responsibility when they're so accustomed to their parents and even their older siblings just taking care of things around them," Dr. Sagot said.
However, it is an important lesson to teach your children even if/when you have to use examples or potential scenarios and lay them out to your sons and daughters of what could happen if things don't get done and they refuse.
"I think there needs to be some level of accountability pushed onto the child to realize that if they keep pushing negatively, mom or dad are just going to do it eventually," Dr. Sagot said. "We really have to get to the point where they understand that there needs to be some proactivity on their end, they need to be accountable and one of those things goes back to reinforcement models -- if that means they're not trying to take care of themselves, what are the things that they enjoy in their lives that they wouldn't be able to do."
Dr. Sagot stresses the idea that if the chores or tasks you're asking your son or daughter to do don't get done, then maybe you have to limit or take away their TV time, or time outside with friends, video game time, etc.
When your son or daughter says 'no', what are the best ways to convince them to do the chores? If they are saying no, could there be a reason why?
Sometimes no can just mean no because they don't feel like or have no desire to clean their room, take out the trash, mow the lawn, etc. but there also lies a possibility of something more bothering them especially if it seems out of character.
"Teenagers are teenagers, pre-teens are pre-teens -- they're just discovering themselves, discovering their own identity -- earlier in their life, the way their brain is organized, they really are the center of their own universe so after totally discovering that they have an opinion that has value and that opinion differs from mom and dad, you want to look at the patterns of behavior," Dr. Sagot said. "If they're consistently refusing chores, if they're consistently saying 'no' to any sort of non-preferred task, then I think it's time to start looking deeper."
It's a situation by situation scenario, Dr. Sagot explains and sometimes you just need to sit down and talk with them and in terms of doing chores try and negotiate with them by telling them it needs to get done and then find out when they would like to do it while reminding them that no is not an answer.
If the 'no' response persists and you talk with your son or daughter and still nothing to the point where their behavior is filled with opposition and defiance, then it may be time to dig deeper into what's causing it.
"One of the ways we avoid some of these scenarios to begin with is in establishing a routine," Dr. Sagot said. "The more routine we can make a child's life, the more reasonable expectations can become and the less oppositionality we see in response to non-preferred requests like doing chores."
A couple ways to help keep things organized, Dr. Sagot recommends, are putting together a chore chart for kids as well as for mom and dad.
How can parents not have to ask their son or daughter to do chores?
Parents would agree that it's nice when their children do things on a first request or even better yet, when they do something without being asked or told to do so.
Positive encouragement and feedback -- long-form.
"When we tell you to tell your children say 'you did a good job there', that's not really enough, we want specific praise," Dr. Sagot said. "If somebody does a chore, somebody takes out the trash when they weren't asked, say 'hey, Johnny, that was really good, I'm really glad to see you took out the trash without being asked, that was a really good thing', the more specific we can make the praise, the more effective it becomes."