Wondering how to get children to do their chores? This is the first of a series of articles about how to raise helpful children originally published on May 24, 2017.
With these simple positive parenting tips, you can learn why and how to get kids to help with household chores, gardening, yard work, and other tasks and duties. Believe it or not, children are born to help–and today, there is research to prove it. Use the ideas below to raise independent, intrinsically motivated children who WANT help with chores and other household duties.
Related: 15 Ways to Raise a Helper
How to Raise Children That Help with Chores
One of our primary duties as parents is to care for our children until they learn to take care of themselves. In other words, we are responsible for teaching our children how to take care of themselves–household chores and all.
However, this does not mean that we are in charge of doing everything for our children for the remainder of their lives–could you imagine!? When we refuse to teach our kids how to take care of themselves and help out around the house, they will continue to need us to do everything for them. How’s that for motivation? Encourage, invite, and allow children to help with household chores when they start toddling about to ensure this does not happen.
When your child starts copying things you do or asking, they are ready to start helping. For example, as I was watering the raspberries one day, my 18-month old walked up to me and squealed, “I try,” so I let her–and took a picture instead! There’s no sense in denying an eager helper to do it all by yourself–that’s plain silly! So let them help you as soon as they start asking, even if you think they can’t, or they might stop asking.
Children are Born to Help
One morning, I was in the kitchen doing the dishes when my then 3-year-old daughter burst in to grab the step stool and ran out the back door. I watched her struggle to open it as I continued to spy on her out the kitchen window and wonder what she was up to.
When she ran off and came back with her cleaning kit, I smiled silently to myself as I excitedly realized, “Oh my goodness–she’s going to wash the windows!”
I continued to secretly watch her out the kitchen window as she pulled the stepping stool up to the back door, climbed up, and began cleaning. I was in shock for a moment until I realized that this was perfectly normal.
Self-motivated behavior happens every day when you raise an intrinsically motivated helper who likes household chores. Children view helping as a privilege, not as a punishment. Do your best to help them maintain this point of view, and you will have a helper for life!
Chores for Kids: Encouraging Your Helping Hand
Everyone wants to raise children that help out around the house, but how do you raise children that help with the chores? The most important thing you can do to raise a helper that will assist you with household duties is to allow your child to watch you work and help.
Yup, it’s that simple! Okay–maybe simple was the wrong word.
Modeling how work should be done and assisting your child can be challenging. Sometimes it can even be painful. Or is that just me?
I know it’s much easier to do all of the household chores yourself when they are young. Please don’t. You will be doing yourself (and your child) a grave disservice in the long run if you don’t allow them to help with chores.
Remember, not only is it our job to show children how to do things, and allow them to give it a try on their own. But, we must also learn how to gracefully tolerate the enormous amount of mistakes they will make without yelling or getting upset. And, that’s no easy job for either of us as parents or children. So, we do the best we can, apologize when needed, and keep on keeping on.
Visual Routine Cards and Home & School Tools for Kids can help provide the support you need to guide children to get their chores and schoolwork finished without tears. Or, learn more about our signature program, Organizing Life with Kids!
The Helper “Stage” is Biologically Based
Since the original publication of this article on May 24, 2017, a research study that supports the idea that children are born to help was completed. The study also backs up the claim that children thrive when they are allowed to help. When viewed from this perspective, you begin to understand that children don’t see helping as a punishment–they see it as a privilege! Following is the research abstract by David F Lancy:
In most of the world’s distinct cultures, children–from toddlerhood–eagerly volunteer to help others with their chores. Laboratory research in child psychology supports the claim that the helper “stage” is biologically based. This Element examines the development of helping in varied cultural contexts, in particular, reviewing evidence for supportive environments in the ethnographic record versus an environment that extinguishes the drive to be helpful in WEIRD children. In the last section, the beneﬁts of the helper stage are discussed, speciﬁcally the development of an ability to work and learn collaboratively.David F. Lancy
Helping is Inborn, Let Them!
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers thrive when adults allow them to follow them around and copy everything they do. Children are natural imitators. They learn everything by watching us. When we tell children to leave us alone when doing a chore, we teach them that they aren’t good enough to help.
When we turn an eager helper away, we also teach them that they don’t need to help and continue to do everything for them. But, worst of all, we don’t give them the chance to learn by watching us.
Is it any wonder that when we want them to help when they get older, not only do they not know how to help–they no longer want to? I’d rather suffer through the early years of allowing children to help with chores than suffer because they don’t end up helping at all.
I know that allowing kids to help with chores is more of a hindrance at first. But trust me when I tell you that those long moments of assisting them to help you don’t last. Instead, it gets more manageable, and then they start helping with the chores!
However, sometimes children need a little guidance and support when learning to meet their commitments. Use Visual Routine Cards and Home & School Tools for Kids to help. Or, learn more about our signature program, Organizing Life with Kids!
Related: Outdoor Activities for Kids
How to Create a Habit of Helping with the Chores
Encouraging, inviting, and allowing children to help with chores is the best way to teach our children how to take care of themselves and get kids motivated to help out around the house.
When children start helping with the chores at a young age, it can quickly become a positive habit that they can maintain for life. A “habit” is something that is done or practiced regularly. Once something becomes a habit, it becomes hard to give up. And, when chores become a family habit, life gets a lot easier for everyone in the household!
Don’t you want your children to have the habit of helping with the chores? They don’t view work the way that we do yet. Shh–don’t tell them it’s no fun, or you might ruin it–keep up the illusion for as long as possible, and you might fool them into helping forever!
Kids Helping with Chores
Our daughter has been around us, working and helping with the chores since she was a baby. She has been getting in the way and trying to help us, if you could call it that, since the moment she could walk just like every other toddler out there.
Instead of turning her away, we have done our best to encourage, invite, and allow her to watch and help with chores and household DIY projects. There are pictures of our little girl helping with household tasks and DIY projects all over this website!
No, it hasn’t been all butterflies and rainbows. Sometimes I wish I could do it myself–but here’s the thing. My husband and I want our daughter to feel that she is good enough to help. We also want to encourage her efforts because we know this will make her want to repeat them in the future and continue to help with chores throughout her lifetime.
Instead of finding something else for her to do (like I’ve wanted to a hundred times), I do my best to ask her to do simple things to help with household chores. But, of course, with her help, this means that most household tasks will usually take longer to do.
It also means that your children might make mistakes–but so will we. Mistakes are how we learn to do better the next time.
As parents, we not only model how to do household chores and other home life skills. We also provide an example of how to recover and move on when we make mistakes–especially when we get upset.
Some of the best photos of kids helping with chores, along with more tips for raising intrinsically motivated children, are listed below:
- 15 Ways to Raise a Helper
- DIY Chemical Free Cleaning Kit for Kids
- Tools for Raising Helpers
- DIY Outdoor Chalkboard
- How to Make a Fairy Garden
- DIY Outdoor Art Table & Mud Kitchen
- Planting Spring Flowers
- How to Plant a Tree (photo below)
How to Raise Kids that Enjoy Helping with the Chores
Young children love to feel useful and want to help around the house. Allowing them to help, even when it makes it harder for us, encourages this aspect of their nature.
Don’t forget to pop over to have a look at the other articles in this series about raising helpful children:
- 15 Ways to Raise a Helper–learn our favorite tips and tricks to get children to help with chores!
- Tools for Raising Helpers
- How to Use Visual Routine Cards
- Positive Discipline Books for Parents and Educators
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!