Being a parent of a sassy, spirited, or strong-willed child is a ton of work!  If only that were our only responsibility.  Unfortunately, we also have the enormous responsibility of running a household as well.  Wouldn’t it be such a relief if we could get our kids to help out more around the house so we didn’t have to do it alone?  Have you ever wondered how to do that?

In this episode you are going to learn how to share the responsibility of caring for the home with your children.  We have specific tips for those extra stubborn kids who are very reluctant to help.


Mike Fitch, CMHC

For more ideas on getting your kids to help around the house, click here.

How doing chores helps your kids

Children need to feel like they belong to a group, that they can identify with a family.  This is why kids look to friends and gangs for community. You want your kids to feel like they belong to YOUR family.  One of the best ways to do that is by having them contribute to your family home. Even though your kids may not enjoy doing chores, subconsciously, their contribution helps them feel like a part of your family.

Chores also teach your children that they need to pull their own weight.  How much of their life will be spent working with others? A lot of it. They need to learn to contribute to whatever group they are working with whether that be at home, work, or school.  Doing chores at home helps them learn how to contribute.

Next, being assigned a chore and completing it can help a child’s self-esteem.  It’s good for them to see that they have the capacity to do hard things, to follow through with tasks, to be in charge.

Who knew scrubbing toilets could be so good for our kids?

Here are some tips for getting your strong-willed kids to help around the house.

Tip #1 Understand common chore issues for strong-willed kids

  1. Strong-willed kids seem really focused on fairness.  They want all the chores to be equal for everyone in the home.  They may not understand that a younger child can’t do the same chore as an older child.  You may have to explain things to them a lot.
  2. Strong-willed kids also like to do things on their own time table.  They may not want to do chores when you tell them to. You can give them some choice in what chores they need to complete and what time they need to complete them.
  3. Some strong-willed kids are also considered “Oppositional Defiant” meaning they’re going to dig their heels in just because you asked them to do something.  There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s not interrupting something necessarily just that it’s an authority issue.

Tip #2 Be aware of your child’s capabilities

Make sure the chores that you assign your children are age appropriate.  You could accidentally expect too much or too little from your children.

There are a lot of “Chores by age” charts online.  You may want to check some of those out to get an idea of what your child should be doing by what age.

You might be surprised by how much your kids can do with a little bit of coaching and guidance.  Children used to have HUGE responsibilities at a really young age. Try to give your child something that will challenge them a little, but that they can do a good job with.  It’s really all about finding a good balance.

Some of you may wonder how old a child needs to be before you can ask them to help with chores.  I say, start as soon as you can. A toddler can help pick up toys, put placemats away, or put laundry in their drawers.  

Plus, the younger you start, the better.  It’s easier to get a teenager to do chores if they’ve always had to do chores versus trying to get a teenager to do chores that’s never had to do chores.

Tip #3 Give positive reinforcement to your kids when they help with chores

If all the emotions around chores are negative, your kids aren’t going to want to help.  Conversely, if your kids receive some positive attention from you when they’re doing their chores, they may learn to enjoy chores a little more.  So really cheer them on. Tell them how much it helps you to have them contribute. Let them know they’ve done well.

Tip #4 Keep chores shorter on the weekdays

Something to consider is how time consuming the chores are.  Not only do you need to look at the level of difficulty, but you need to evaluate if a chore is going to take up too much of your child’s time.  

If your child gets home from school to find out that there’s so many chores that he won’t get a chance to play with friends, he probably won’t be happy.

I suggest you keep weekday chores to a maximum of 20-30 minutes.  You can break that time up into smaller chunks if you want or have the child do it all at one time.  Whatever works best for your family.

The weekends are a perfect time to have the kids help with some bigger chores.  There’s usually fewer commitments and more time to do chores without missing out on some down time.

Tip #5 Make it clear how you want the chore to be done

Let’s be real.  Sometimes kids will rush through chores because they want to get on to the next thing.  If you want the chore to be done right, you need to teach them how to do it right, then not let them move on to the next thing until they’ve done their chore right.

This means that you will need to show your child how to do the chore, help them do the chore, then when they are ready…you get to just check that the chore was done correctly.

It’s important to help your child until you know they can do it on their own.  Otherwise, your child could feel very defeated and discouraged while trying to do something they don’t know how to do.

Consider breaking chores down into a step-by-step process.  You may even want to type up the steps in the process. A checklist could help break bigger chores up into smaller, manageable pieces.  A checklist also ensures that it’s clear what your kids are supposed to be doing. Then they can’t say “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that” or “That’s not part of cleaning the kitchen!”

For younger kids, you could make chore charts with pictures if they’re not old enough to read.  Just be creative and find what will work best for your family.

Tip #6 Make routines for chores

Routines are an awesome tool that parents can use with strong-willed kids.  You can learn all about avoiding power struggles by using routines here.

Have your child designate times that they will do their chores.  

For example:

Your child may want to empty garbages right after school on Thursdays.  That’s great. Now every Thursday you can say “Welcome back from school, do you remember what your chore is today?”  

The great thing about routines, is they get to be the bad guy instead of you.  Also, letting your child help establish the routine, gives them an opportunity to have some healthy control in their own life.  Strong-willed kids like control and don’t like being told what to do. A routine gives them both of those things.

Tip #7 Choose your battles wisely

You may wonder when you should be more firm about chores and when you should be more relaxed.  You may not want to feel like you’re fighting your kids about chores all the time.

I tend to think that you can pick and choose which things to be more relaxed about.  For example, is it most important that a chore gets done anytime during the week or at a certain time.  It may not matter which days the toilet gets cleaned as long as it gets cleaned once a week. Whereas, it does matter that the dinner dishes are completed after dinner.

So look at your personal family and decide which things you need to be firm on and which you can be more flexible.

Tip # 8  Occasionally surprise those that have finished their chore with a little incentive

I like to use this on occasion when my kids have been dragging their feet getting chores done.  This happens the most with Saturday chores. I will give my kids a thirty minute job to complete and they will take HOURS to complete it.  So on occasion, I will say “Oh look, it’s noon. I’m taking whoever is done with chores out to get a slurpee. See the rest of you later.” Doing something like that spontaneously can motivate your kids to move a little faster if they think there’s a chance they’ll get an incentive.

What I’m trying to say, is be creative and try to find positive ways to motivate your kids.  Chores aren’t fun for anyone when you’re nagging.

Tip #9 Have a cut-off time and a reasonable consequence

One of the other therapists interviewed for the Parent with a Pro podcast has assigned each of his kids specific chores that need to be done each day.  For his oldest, it is the dinner dishes. The dinner dishes have to be done before the oldest goes to bed or he doesn’t get his phone for the next day. Because the therapist and his wife ar absolutely consistent in following through with consequences, their oldest is absolutely consistent in doing the dishes before bed.

They report that they’ll hear their son come home from a date, do the dishes, then go to bed.  They’ve only had to take his phone away twice. They often tell their son how much they appreciate his contribution to the family.

The things that I love about what that therapist is doing is:

  1. He has been clear about the expectation
  2. He has been clear about the consequences
  3. He has left the responsibility to get the chores done on the son’s shoulders
  4. He has to say very little.  No nagging, no begging, no threatening.  He just follows through when he needs to.
  5. He follows up with positive praise for the help that his son gives the family.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have to say so little and still have the chores be completed?  Wouldn’t that be so much happier for everyone in the home.

Final thoughts

Take what tips you’ve liked and try them out.  If they don’t work, try some other tips we’ve mentioned instead.  Be creative, but do teach your children to contribute to the home.

What tips do you have for getting kids to help around the house?  Share in the comments below.


Happy parenting!


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