Saturday, October 27, 2012

3 Strategies for Getting Kids to Help with Housework

I once asked a good friend how I would know when my kids were old enough to help out more with housework. Her reply: "When their arms are long enough to reach all the way into the dryer."

Indeed. Besides wanting a little help with the many day-to-day chores of running a household, I also want my kids to understand that helping around the house is a way to show respect for themselves and for the rest of the family. For those reasons, I have been putting some creative strategies into place to get them to help, and they seem to be working. Of course, to make things go smoothly, adjust the chores to the child's age, and be really specific about what the task is and how you want to see it done.

Strategy #1: Limit the Time of the Chores

Use a timer to limit kids' chore time and motivate them to beat the clock

Play into the fact that kids usually have an abstract view of time. When you say they have to spend "some time" helping to clean up the kitchen, that could seem like an eternity. Instead, take out an old school kitchen timer if you have one and set it for the amount of time that the child must spend helping. Here's what they will appreciate: the task is guaranteed to NOT go on forever, plus they are now in a game of beat the clock, which can make the chores feel like a game.

Parent Ground Rules:
  • Choose a specific task that can be completed or at least well-tackled in the allotted time, such as folding laundry or putting away toys. Anything bigger or more nebulous (like "clean your room") may leave you and your kid feeling disappointed with the results. 
  • Pick reasonable amounts of time - a minute per year of age is a good place to start. Do not go over 15 minutes for any age. When the time is up, the work stops.
Kid Ground Rule: 
  • He/she must spend the entire time doing the task at hand. 

Strategy #2: Trade Chores for Screen Time

Create chores lists for kids that must be completed to earn screen time

If you live in a household where screen time, whether it's with an iPad, a DS, the Wii or just TV is requested more than you'd like, then trading housework for screen time might be a good approach for you. I use this strategy when all homework is completed, all sports are done and a good amount of outside time has already happened. What you see here are what I call "tickets," as in "your ticket to use a screen."

Parent Ground Rules:
  • Create "tickets" for kids with maybe 1-3 specific, age appropriate tasks.
  • Be clear about how much screen time they earn for completing a ticket. Thirty minutes total works for us, and consistency in timekeeping is key.  Be sure you watch the clock and call time when screen time is up.
Kid Ground Rule: 
  • Explain that the tasks must be completed to your satisfaction before the screen time can be earned. 
  • Set the expectation that there should be no whining or complaining about "almost reaching the next level" or similar when time's up.

Strategy #3: Create a "Buy-back" Program to Control Clutter

Claim kids' clutter and make them pay to get it back at end of week

Our kids have too much stuff, and inevitably there are orphaned games, hair accessories, toys, books and more that are enjoyed occasionally and then as good as invisible when it's time to put them away. To help control clutter and make you feel like less of a nag, I have an approach that might work. At the end of every evening, ask kids to pick up and put away anything of theirs that's laying around. Explain that anything that has still not been picked up and put away by your specified time will go into a special bin like the one pictured. Then, explain that at the end of the week, the items in the bin may be bought back by the kid for $.10 (or more if you have older kids). If they don't want the item badly enough to take care of it in the first place or pay to have it again, then it's an item better off in the Goodwill bag.

Parent Ground Rules:
  • Have a family meeting before creating this program to calmly explain how it will work.
Kid Ground Rule: 
  • Kids must wait until the end of the week for the buy-back option. Consider this a cooling-off period when they will find out if the item really means something to them and can think carefully about parting with money for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment