I really believe kids should do chores. My son (age 9) is pretty good about doing what he’s asked. My 7 year old daughter, however, does not often get her chores done. I’m struggling with ways to motivate her. She doesn’t care much about consequences – no matter what I take away it doesn’t seem to change her behavior. Any suggestions?
Anonymous, in CA
There are definitely kids like that! Some people prize autonomy more than anything. By that I mean, they would rather decide what to do and what not to do at any given moment than listen to someone else’s rules or instructions. This isn’t a bad character trait in an adult; this self-confidence and make-my-own-rules attitude leads to a lot of leadership and opportunity.
However! Kids do need to follow the rules. If they choose not to as adults, that is up to them.
So how do you motivate your daughter to do her chores, when the “usual” consequences – time outs, losing privileges, getting grounded – don’t help? Here are a few different suggestions. I hope one of them will fit your philosophy and your daughter’s personality.
- Appeal to her desire for autonomy. Make it clear that everyone in the house has to pitch in to help. Make a list of ten chores she could do each week to contribute, and let her pick three for the month. If she likes to be “The Decider” this may be enough decision making to get her buy in.
- Take a cue from the Boy and Girl Scouts. Is she a “game” kid? Some kids are very goal oriented and really like “earning” things. Explain to her that she needs to learn how to do a bunch of things and prove her competence in them. Break up the chores into categories (see my free Age-by-Age Chore Chart for help with this) and let her earn “merit badges” in each category by doing these chores for a month at a time. She can’t advance in this game if she has to be reminded more than once.
- Make a responsibilities contract. Chances are very high that there are an awful lot of “chores” that you and your partner do for your daughter’s sake. Some chores are crucial for the whole family’s health and well-being, like cooking a meal or taking out the garbage. But some are just for your daughter. Do you make her lunch each night with thought for what she likes to eat? Do you go clothes shopping with her? Do you help with an activity she attends or volunteer at her school? Do you drive her places she’d like to go? Probably you do most of this and a bunch of other things as well. Make a list of all the things you do for her, and make a (probably much shorter) list of the things you want her to do. Link the nonessential but really lovely things you do for her to the things she needs to do. Make it clear that if she can’t help the family, you’re going to spend less time helping her – since you’ll have to do the things she isn’t doing.
The trick here is to set your expectations, make them clear to the whole family and then stop nagging. She doesn’t like you to nag, you don’t like to nag and it usually doesn’t help, right?
If none of these ring true for your family, I hope you’ll let me know so we can continue brainstorming. And if any of my awesome readers have a different suggestion, speak up! We could use some help with this at my house too!