Struggling with getting kids to do chores?
Try a "Love and Logic " approach:

How can you get kids to do chores when they don't want to? All the fancy chore charts and checklists in the world won't get a single task done without one key ingredient: your willing child. You need “leverage,” which we first learned from the good folks at the Love and Logic Institute . We strongly endorse their books and courses—do yourself a favor and check them out.

There are two ways to get your reluctant kid to buy in to your new chore system. Technically, they're known as “rewards” and “punishments” - but let's call a spade a spade, shall we? They might as well be called “bribes” and “threats,” or “carrot” and “stick.”

Generally, we agree with the Love and Logic philosophy of allowing natural consequences take place, and these next tips highlight their effectiveness. When they're young, though, it's “what's in it for me?” For younger kids who might need a boost, we use a reward chart to give an additional incentive. Our oldest (age 11) has grown out of this, though, so use your judgement with your own kids. Ultimately, with time and maturity, kids evolve into a more “doing it to help the family” perspective.

But there will come times when the reward isn't working and stronger incentives are required. How can you effectively apply “the stick” when the carrot isn't working? Try these five ideas to get kids to do chores, all of which are Love and Logic nuggets.

  • 1. Stay calm throughout the process – if you show anger, you're inviting your child to focus their resentment on you.

  • 2. Link completion of the chore to something real and desirable to your child. Keep using “reward” language to describe what is really a consequence – for example, “We'll be eating dinner in ten minutes. You can join us as soon as your toys are put away.”

  • 3. Where possible, choose consequences that are appropriate to the situation. Take a peek at what we do in our family when our kids leave their stuff lying around .

  • 4. Create a structure they can succeed in. In our family, we have had success getting our kids to do chores just before meals. The regularity of this schedule helps form the habit of doing the chores, and the meals ensure that a convenient form of leverage is always present.

  • 5. But let them fail when appropriate. We all mess up from time to time – it's what makes us human, and it's how we learn. Don't be afraid to let this happen.

The one big “don't” to keep in mind is inconsistency - never let them off the hook by reneging on a consequence. If you threaten them with a consequence, it must arrive more or less when and how you said it would. Because this can be hard, you may find it better to avoid threats entirely. In the example above, you're trying not to tell them in advance that they won't get to eat dinner until these toys are put away. Instead, you wait until dinner is ready, then tell them, “Dinner is starting. You can join us when your toys are picked up.”

One great thing about all of this is that, for most kids, an occasional reminder is all that's required. When you've demonstrated that not doing their chores leads to unpleasant things, it won't take as much to keep them on track in the future.

The next time you have trouble getting your kids to do chores, try some Love and Logic to diffuse the stress and to get kids on board.

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