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Ever wondered the secret behind getting kids to help at home?  Parents are incredibly busy – and much of that time is spent running around after your children.  However, when you ask your kids to do even the smallest of jobs,  you may have heard some of these responses:

The things kids say when asked to help at home!

There’s no doubt about it – getting kids to help at home can be frustrating. Whilst you see the importance of, and the value behind it. kids see doing jobs as  boring stuff grown-ups should do and they get in the way of them doing what they are enjoying.

Having high expectations of your kids helping at home is great. It does not mean you’re denying them their childhood because you asked them to set the table or make their bed. Having a job and taking responsibility for completing this job to an acceptable standard, enables greater self-esteem in children.  By taking responsibility for a job, they know that they are contributing and this helps everyone in the family. In this way, they play an important role in something bigger than themselves. Knowing that their contributions are valued can show children how to be helpful to others in different situations, such as at school or with their friends.  By helping others, they learn that helping can make them feel good – and it makes others feel good too.

Here are 7 secrets to making it happen:

  1. Choices

It’s flattering if someone asks for our help, and children are no different. Talk about how there are lots of things that make home life run smoothly, and show them a list of some of the things you do for them and the whole family. Explain that everyone has a part to play and that’s non-negotiable. Together, and asking for all their ideas, make a list of the things they could do to help. Let them choose the one or two things they like. The fact that they need to help the family is non-negotiable – what they do to help, is their choice.

  1. Age appropriate and Time managed

Their ideas need to be age appropriate – making their bed, tidying toys, setting the table are suitable for younger children, whereas walking the dog or doing the dishwasher is more complex. Additionally, make it a time managed activity; hoovering up can take time – feeding the dog is quickly and easily done. Agree: 1) the amount of time these job/s will take 2) on what days they are to be done – and when. Again, as long as the job is done before they go to bed or before an after-school activity, is perhaps less important than it being done at a particular time. For older children and teens, knowing the expectation and then having the choice of when to do it will make life easier for them – and you.

  1. Show them how to help at home

Spend the time showing them how to do the job properly – do it together for a few times and even take photos or make a chart to show them what to do, so they can compare their efforts to the photos each time. This way they will know if they’ve got it to the correct standard. Throwing the duvet on the bed might be acceptable to them – it might not be to you. Agree what it should look like so there are no arguments.  Accept that showing them will take longer than doing it for yourself, however, the point is they learn to do it for themselves. Furthermore, it isn’t going to be done as well as if you were doing it – which is why agreeing what it should look like will really help.

  1. Make it fun

Let’s be honest, housework isn’t always fun – but make it fun for them so they enjoy it more, and it makes them feel good. Laughing and giggling while they tidy up will only make the job more interactive and make time fly. Play some “tidy up time” music or do a silly dance – anything that works for your family. On this note, reminders aren’t cheating and can be done in a light-hearted and fun manner too.

  1. Saying thank you and praise

Recognising when they have done their job is important – thank them and give them a big smile. Praise them for doing the job on time, independently, they got it exactly the way it should be (even if it’s not perfect), they were grown up etc. Praise all the positives you want to see again, rather than the generic, “well done.” When praising children, identify the things you want to see more of – and they will follow. Kids love to be praised and its time well spent.

  1. Consequences

Kids know that if they spend long enough dragging their heels, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll give in and do the job. Not any more – it’s your expectation that they do it and that’s final. No paying them to earn money, no bribery, no paying in advance for jobs you know won’t get done – oh no – the job gets done on the agreed terms, and then they get rewarded (more on that in number 7). What are the consequences of a job not being done? Go back to that long list of things you do for them – it’s their turn to contribute too.

Consequences need to be clearly articulated– ask them (more choices) what would work as a consequence – e.g. no iPad for the evening, no TV for the night. Make them clear, simple, effective and appropriate – and that happen ON THE DAY. Consequences that happen at the end of the week are meaningless, consequences that don’t happen are meaningless and consequences that are unrealistic and cannot be implemented (you’re grounded for a whole month!) are meaningless. Kids will tell you what will be effective as a punishment – agree them and stick to them.

On the paying kids to do jobs – threatening to withdraw money for jobs not done, can back-fire. Children will often turn down the money if they know they get out of doing the job – and then you have to stick to not paying for things for them for the rest of the week.

  1. Track their progress and reward them

In the resources section of this website are 2 resources you might find helpful; one is a Reminder Planner (in lots of different colours) to remind all the family what job is being done, by who and when. Kids will need reminding, so make sure the chart is at their eye level and somewhere they can use it to help them. You can also have a Reminder chart to join in the fun! The second is a Star Chart that they can use to track when they have completed their job. As soon as it’s done, they let you know, you “inspect” their job and then they colour or sign the star chart. This way everyone knows what’s being done and they can see the progress they are making. When they have done their job 10 times, the family get a reward, such as playing a game together or going to the cinema. Again, have the children choose what rewards they would like.

Put an end to the feeling of nagging, negotiating or even begging kids to help at home – it’s good for them, good for you and great for family togetherness. Let me know how you get on!