Having Trouble Getting Your Kids To Help Out Around The House? Try This.

If you are anything like me, you have spent all day cleaning your house only to turn around and see your kids mess it up 5 minutes later.

Or you have spent a half hour searching for a lost shoe for one of your kids. For the last time.

You have yelled and threatened your children within an inch of their lives and given them a list of about a dozen things they need to do every day. Or else.

And you are able to maintain that for approximately 4 hours.

And then, unable to keep up with all the things you vowed you were going to make your children do consistently, everything just went to hell in a handbasket again until about a month later when you inevitably lose your shit again.

I started thinking about this a couple weeks ago.

I started thinking about how I have done complete overhauls on myself in the exercise department. How I have taken on too much at once and while I can maintain that for a short time, I don’t last for very long.

And I go from working out for two hours a day to not working out at all for a couple months.

It wasn’t until I implemented habits gradually in the workout department that it totally became a habit.

A manageable one.

So I have applied this to my kids’ chores too.

And it’s been working very well.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about how I refuse to give my kids an allowance, but how I want them to learn how to handle money responsibly.

And how I want to give them opportunities to earn money that are more in line with how things work in the real world.

I started two weeks ago.

There are jobs around the house that I expect the kids to do no matter what.

Things like keep their rooms clean.

Clean the bathrooms they use.

Fold their clothes and put them away.

Load and unload the dishwasher.

There are other areas of the house that I want them to take care of, too. But I wasn’t having much success getting them to do these things without wanting to stick an ice pick in my eye. Repeatedly.

So I broke them down into smaller tasks.

And I started with just two of the kids.

Once I got their mini jobs established, I’d move on to two more kids. Attack them in waves.

And since it’s summer, I have a little more time to help them establish these routines.

So I started with Number 3 and Number 4.

And I picked to areas that really bother me in the house.

The mudroom where people are constantly going in and out, and the garbage can area of my kitchen.

The mudroom can get overloaded with shoes to the point that nobody can find a pair or you are tripping over sneakers and crocs and flip flops trying to get out the door.

And the recycling bins and the garbage can in the kitchen can get pretty nasty.

So I assigned them those tasks.

I gave Number 3 the job of emptying the recycling bins, rinsing them out, and then washing off the garbage can in the kitchen.

And Number 4 is on shoe duty in the mudroom as well as vacuuming the rugs.

Two weeks in, they are doing these things mostly automatically.

There are times when I have to remind them, but for the most part, they take care of their tasks first thing.

And they do a pretty good job.

Here is what the recycling bins looked like tonight:


I know one is completely falling apart, but the fact that there isn’t brown goo on the bottom of both of them is somewhat miraculous.

Here’s what the garbage can in the kitchen looked like this morning:


I know it’s dented to hell because one of the kids sort of kicked the shit out of it, but that area is fairly clean.

Even if the rest of my kitchen is a mess, that makes me feel good.

Here was the mudroom this afternoon:


Now we aren’t in the middle of the school year or the middle of winter, so the jackets and bags and boots aren’t as bad as they will be in January, but that makes this the perfect time to have Number 4 start this mini job. Less things to worry about.

The kids are learning to be responsible. But they are learning that by taking less than ten minutes each day to do these tasks, nothing  has the chance to get out of control.

How do I get them to do these things? Well, they can’t go swim or play outside or do the fun stuff they want to do until they get their jobs done.

And if someone happens to spontaneously invite them over, if the jobs aren’t done, they can’t go.

That’s incentive enough for them.

I will spend this week continuing to reinforce these jobs, and then next week, I will assign something small to two more kids.

Breaking it up like this isn’t only easier for the kids; it’s much more manageable for me.

But what about teaching them about how to earn money?

Well, here is what I did.

I started posting jobs.

Jobs that are above the regular household responsibilities I want the kids to have.


I explained that the jobs are up for grabs. That in order to get paid, they must be done well. And that they can’t reserve jobs. That they are on a first come, first served basis.

I explained that some of the jobs might be recurring. That some weeks there might be more work than others.

Just like in real life.

I wasn’t surprised by who got right to work today.




Number 4 weeded this whole thing by herself. She loaded everything she pulled out of the ground into a wheelbarrow.

(My dad wheeled the wheelbarrow down and emptied it and turned the dirt over in the garden bed).

But Number 4 worked hard, and she did a great job.

She learned about jumping on the job she wanted before it got snatched up by someone, she helped me out, and she made some money.

If you are having trouble getting your kids to help out, try breaking the things you want them to do into smaller steps.

You might find yourself cracking the whip less, and cracking a smile more.

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5 replies
  1. elise
    elise says:

    Reminds me of one of my daughters’ favorite stories, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. She was very wise, that bunny, and so are you.

  2. Amoya
    Amoya says:

    This is amazing advice and I can’t wait to try it. I am so tired of pulling my hair out trying to get my kids to help out more! Thanks for the tips!


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