The Ultimate Guide for Getting Your Kids on a Chore Routine

Back to Routine

Afternoons after school can be a hectic, hot mess if you want to implement structure and discipline, but the kids want to zone out and decompress. The children understandably probably want to come home after the structure and routine of school and numb out by napping, watching tv, or talking to their friends on their phones. After all, adults want to numb out, too, after a long day at work. However, it’s important to perpetuate routine, structure, and accountability in the family, even on the hard days, even after school.

So, here are ways you can get the kids to help with the chores.

Before You Implement the List, Remember…

  • Begin with a positive step. Only introduce chores to the children if you can do so positively. The last thing you want to do is send your kids running for the hills terrified of the dread of chores. Establish habit and routine in chores in a way that exposes chores in a positive light. Using chores as punishment will undoubtedly drive your kids further away from them. Don’t threaten them with chores when they do something wrong. Instead focus on creating a solid foundation on which they can grow and thrive.
  • Find daily routine. Let the kids grab a quick snack after school to fill their tummies and then encourage them to get their afternoon chores done as quickly as possible. Marking chores “done” earlier in the day frees up the rest of the night for homework, dinner, and socializing. Procrastinating a chore list will be more challenging as the family begins winding down for the evening, thus becoming more tired.
  • It’s OK to say “no,” especially to electronics. If TV or phones create challenges for getting chores done, say “no” to them until the chores are done.
  • Routines establish wonderful, long-term habits. The more regular the family is with chores, the easier it is overtime. Negotiating begins dwindling, and soon enough, the kids will automatically begin cleaning up after themselves.
  • Don’t let yourself feel mom guilt for holding your children accountable to their messes. It’s OK to teach a child that they should clean up after themselves without expecting someone else to clean up after them, or without expecting to be convinced to clean up after themselves. You’re not their personal maid.
  • If the kids need an extra pep in their step while doing chores, play their favorite Disney songs and let them sing and dance while they do their chores. Or, let them take turns playing their favorite songs while they clean. Additionally, you can turn chores into a competition where the first one done with the chores gets to watch their favorite show.
  • Do not forget to praise your children when they complete their chores successfully. Positive reinforcement will motivate positive behaviors. The is an important addition to the weekly rewards. Your children need daily reminders of how proud you are of him, so please do not forget to praise them.

How to Implement Your New Chore List

To begin, I suggest children between 4 and 5 years old pick 1 chore, between 6 and 11 years old pick two chores, and 12 and above pick three chores from the above chore list every week to complete daily. For the younger children, their chore/s should be completed immediately after school. For the older kids, one chore should be completed before school (if possible), one chore should be completed when the children come home from school, and the last after dinner.

Spreading chores throughout the day implements a real-life practice that chores aren’t just one-and-done, and that they should be accomplished as messes are made. When chores are completed progressively during the day, this allows the child to make connections between making messes, cleaning, and personal responsibility. Additionally, encouraging your children to do chores throughout the day offers them the opportunity to do chores alongside you. After all, aren’t you doing chores throughout the day? Aren’t you cleaning up after family members? Cleaning up as you go? Prepping for the following day? Feeding the family and the pets? Well, why shouldn’t the children gently join you in these daily tasks? When you set the example and allow the child to see practice in real-life scenarios, learning from you becomes much easier for the kids.

The point is to make this leap into a chore routine as natural and age-appropriate as possible. Your children (hopefully) don’t see you, the parents, bargaining with each other to get tasks done every day, or begging, negotiating, threatening, or just throwing your hands up. Your children (hopefully) see you guys working as a team. Remember, monkey see, monkey do! As parents and homemakers, it’s our responsibility to prepare our children for real life.

Daily bargaining battles and power struggles to get our children to help with chores are not natural and should not become the norm. Battling and struggling with the kids to pick up after themselves and to contribute to the upkeep of the family environment also isn’t a good dynamic to your relationship, and will undoubtedly make things a bit rocky.

Follow These Steps

1) Have your children pick out one to three chores (depending on their age) each week that they feel confident they can accomplish every day. It’s a great idea to use these same chores throughout the week for a couple of reasons:

It’s easier for the child to accomplish something that becomes routine.

It allows the child the opportunity to become proficient at the task and then to become quicker as she continues over time.

2) After every single task is completed, have your child place a mark, heart, sticker, stamp or whatever you choose under the chore and date they accomplished this. This is a visual representation for your child to see how much they’ve accomplished. For your child, the more they fill up on the page, the more accomplished they feel. This is motivation in itself to keep going

3) Offer an incentive at the end of the week for a job well done. I’m not a huge fan of allowances, but that’s not because it hasn’t personally worked for me. I only have a toddler so allowances don’t make sense for us. As a foster mom, I also had mostly babies. So, while allowances may work for you, and I won’t discredit that, I prefer to broaden the spectrum of the rewards to include more than just money.

I had a six year old foster daughter once who actually preferred shopping for fun things like dress up clothes over money. During the week, she would take the time to decide what she wanted as a reward, and usually by the weekend it was a shopping trip to the thrift store for fun costume items.

Rewarding your child with experiences like these over money also has a long-term positive benefit. You’re able to make good memories with your children. It also mimics adulthood. Don’t you enjoy rewarding yourself with fun experiences after a week of work? Perhaps you treat yourself to a coffee on Saturdays, or you go for a hike, or treat yourself to a movie or getting your nails done.

Of course, money is always an amazing motivator and incentivizer. I have met many a mother and grandmother who has successfully raised responsible children who clean up and do their chores and who prefer a weekly allowance.

However your child chooses to be rewarded, you must follow through if the weekly chart is successfully filled out. As I mentioned before, failing to reward will result in failure for your kids to follow through.

I hope this chore chart is what your family was looking for, and I certainly hope these tips are helpful in getting you started!

  • Take out the trash and sort the recycling
  • Put toys away and tidy up a playspace
  • Tidy up throw pillows and blankets in common areas like the living room and den
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Load the dishwasher
  • Match clean socks and put them away
  • Fold towels and washcloths
  • Wipe down counters in the kitchen, bathroom, and the dining room table
  • Pick up pine cones
  • Pull weeds
  • Dust shelves, dressers, and other furniture
  • Sweep and mop
  • Watch younger siblings
  • Make beds
  • Tidy up their bedrooms
  • Assist in meal prepping, or if they like, to help make dinner
  • Make lunches and snacks for the next day’s lunch boxes
  • Vacuum the carpet
  • Feed pets

If everyone picks two chores from this list daily, the house will be better maintained and you guys will be able to enjoy each other more! Happy cleaning!