Chores are a great opportunity to teach kids responsibility and the benefits of engaging in tasks that benefit the community, and in this case, the family. This also allows kids to learn independent living skills that they will need in the future, such as vacuuming, mopping, doing laundry and cooking.
The sooner you start working on these skills the better. Doing chores at a young age increases competence, self-confidence and a sense of community. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, gives parents some tips about getting their kids to do chores.
How do chores vary by age? At what age can you start?
For younger kids, about age 3-5, they can definitely begin clearing their place at the table, cleaning up snack wrappers and cleaning up toys. As kids progress in age, you can begin to add things like small cooking tasks, vacuuming, and once kids are 10 and older, adding in more comprehensive cleaning tasks and starting to teach laundry.
How do we get started with chores?
Make chores a part of the routine. Set up a chore so that it happens at the same time during the daily routine, and it is more likely to get done.
Break it down and teach the chore. You may need to go step by step, and slowly fade away your engagement/support. You may want to start with a small part of the bigger chore, and focus on mastery of that, before moving to the next step (such as breaking down cleaning up your room).
Focus on independent living skills and what your child will need to do on his or her own in the future.
Make sure you are providing praise and positive reinforcement for doing chores. This doesn’t have to be a present/allowance every time they do a chore. Consider using praise and delayed gratifications, such as a chore chart or sticker chart, to earn bigger rewards.
What are your thoughts on a chore chart?
I like chore charts to provide consistent and clear expectations, and a visual reminder of what needs to be done. In addition, you can set up rewards for each chore that gets done. For example, if a child has three chores per day, and there are seven days in a week when all three chores must be completed, then there are 21 opportunities to earn a sticker or other token. Then, provide rewards of differing levels, some for smaller amounts of stickers (3-5) and then other middle-sized and larger ones.
A three-sticker reward might be choosing a special cereal at the grocery store, or earning a few extra minutes before bedtime, whereas 20-30 stickers could be saved up for a special day out with a parent or a bigger toy or something the child is looking forward to. Allowance is an additional option, where you could earn $5 for a full week of chores completed. Make sure to review these with your child and choose together what they want to earn.
Most important, make sure your child has mastered the one chore and has received praises and rewards before adding any more. Take it slow, and make sure your child feels positively about chores before adding more complicated tasks.
What happens if a chore isn’t getting done?
It is time to provide a consequence. If you have set up a chore chart, then the child doesn’t get the reward. For older kids and adolescents, this may mean removing a privilege, such as not being able to do something or taking away screen time. Better yet, use chores to earn screen time!
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D.