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Getting your kids to do chores, Part 3

May 26th, 2009

In the first 2 parts of this series in answer to a reader’s question, ““I would LOVE to hear some tips on how to get the kids to do their chores. You know, without making me turn into the Wicked Witch of the West???”, I wrote about 2 fundamental principles:

1. Stop Nagging!

2. The right way to assign chores.

The 3rd principle of getting your kids to do chores is – Be consistent yet flexible.

I started a chore chart “road” for my daughter. She colors in a “brick” on the road whenever she does her chores, and an extra brick when she does it on time. When she reaches the end of the road, there is a prize.

The building of the road was very slow going for a while. Maybe this is not going to work, I thought. Should I change course, or should I be consistent?

Here is what I learned about working with any chore accountability system that you set up:

1. If the system is discouraging, it’s time to change course.

The road I set up for my daughter was too demanding. The extraordinary effort it took to earn one brick for the road was discouraging her. If you see your child’s genuine effort, but the system you’ve set up is not giving her enough positive reinforcement, then it’s a problem with the system, not with your child.

2. If the system is too easy, don’t change course.

So with my daughter, I lightened up the requirements to get to the reward, swung too far the other way, and she got to the reward easily in a couple of days. I did not regret the change.

It is a good thing to allow your children to experience success quickly. It gives them encouragement to continue with their chores. In the next round of charts, I did make it a little harder. But having had a taste of victory, my daughter was motivated to work a little harder.

3. If it’s getting your child to do the chores, even if he doesn’t love it, don’t change course.

Chores by definition is not going to be a lot of fun. No matter what system you have to make it amusing, it will eventually lose its appeal. With my daughter, once she got her prize, she got a little lazy to build another “road”. Maybe she thought I would lighten up again. But I didn’t. I saw she wasn’t even trying, so she did not get her reward at the end of the week. 

4. If things come up, be flexible and allow for change.

When there are unexpected events, such as relatives in town, or a particularly demanding project for school, I give my daughter a couple of “free” bricks for her road. I also change the reward as I see fit. If my daughter sees something she wants at the store, I ask her, “Do you want to change your reward to this?” Be open to making adjustments to the system to keep it fresh and motivating without losing its intent. Don’t feel you have to “stick to the rules.”

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