18 minute read

In this episode we talk about chores around the house and as I reviewed this episode I was surprised at all the tips and tricks we share which can be used to motivate and help children (and parents) enjoy keeping up on the day to day chores which need to be done around the house. If you have struggled with getting chores done around the house or if you are looking for some new techniques, this episode can help.



  1. Nature of kids
  2. Is it worth it?
  3. Benefits of teaching kids responsibilities
  4. Parents set the tone
  5. Should kids get paid to do chores?
  6. Being committed

Nature of Kids

Kids come with positive and negative qualities.

Kids lack judgement knowing how much work it takes to keep the house running, how much work it takes to feed the family a meal and clean up afterwards, or how much laundry is done to keep everyone in clean clothes. Kids just don’t realize how much a parent does to keep the family running every day.

Kids are kind of impulsive. They want what they want when they want it. Everything is based on how fun it is.

Kids are naturally self absorbed, so they need to be taught to be aware of the needs of others. That’s very important to teach children in a family to be aware of the needs of everyone, not just themselves, but that needs to be taught.

Understanding this nature in kids helps adults realize their child’s natural tendencies are normal.

On the other hand, when kids are little they love being with their parents. They follow you everywhere you go. They love mimicking parents. When they are little, they also naturally love helping. That fades as they get older and into the teen years, so capitalize on those natural positive attributes of children when they are little.

Blue child was so helpful when he was younger, so we gave him a little plastic hammer, and every time Dave or Amy would be fixing something, Blue child was right there doing his best to help with his little hammer.

Mitchells had a hard floor lightweight vacuum for their kitchen floor, and anytime Blue child heard that turn on, he’d come running from anywhere he was in the house, and say “I want to help. I want to help.” He just loved to vacuum, so we’d hand it over to him and let him finish getting the crumbs under the table and vacuuming the last of the kitchen floor.

If kids want to help, let them help.

Sad story – Dave’s grandfather was known by a phrase when his children were little and he was raising them. He would often say, “If you want to help, don’t help.” Don’t stifle that enthusiasm that kids have, rather nurture it when they are young.

It’s easy for parents to think ‘They are kind of in the way. They are slowing things down.’ Don’t get caught up in the short term vision of getting things done. Keep an eye on the big picture and let them be with you and help you.

As kids get older they get busier and they just aren’t around to help as much anymore. The trick is allowing them to help in the home when they are in the home and wanting to help, and then that will carry through into the stages when they aren’t as willing to help and too busy to help, but they can still be a contributing member of the family.

Amy read an article that said when parents shift all their focus on their child’s athletics and academic activities and have no other responsibilities for them, they are kind of saying that is the most important thing. So if the child doesn’t make the winning shot in basketball or doesn’t do well on a test, they have nothing successful to fall back on. The article said children need several “pillars of competency” so when one pillar goes out from under them, they have other pillars still holding them up. It might give the child a boost knowing they can provide a successful dinner for the family or help make the yard look good by mowing it. Anyway, Amy thought that was an interesting idea of why kids need chores in the home.

Is it Worth it?

Keep the long term perspective. Our job as parents is really just to teach kids the skills that will help them be successful adults when they leave the home. It’s hard when you just look at the day to day struggles of whining and complaining when asked to do chores.

It’s a tragedy when college kids don’t know how to do their own laundry, sew on a button or make a healthy meal with vegetables and side dishes and main dishes. Parents do a disservice to their kids by over indulging them and doing everything for them.

Parents may do this because they think their child is too busy, or they don’t want to damage the relationship when the child starts complaining about doing chores. Sometimes the parents get too busy to follow through on chores with kids. Or sometimes the parents just don’t realize how capable children are at a younger age. Children can make their bed at 3 and 4-years old. They can sweep and sort the silverware when emptying the dishwasher. Some parents are still zipping up their kids’ coats and pouring the juice for their kids when they are in elementary school.

Blue child was 2-years old when he was vacuuming, hammering, and flipping pancakes. He would also refill family members’ cups when he noticed they finished their drinks. He was little and had to stand on his chair to reach, but Mitchells knew he was capable and allowed him that chance to help others on his own. They didn’t scold him and tell him he had to sit down or he was going to spill and get water everywhere. That boosted his self esteem and helped empower the other Mitchell children, helping them realize they too could do many things to help in the family.

So is it worth? Yes, definitely. Parents need to teach kids life skills to help better prepare them for life on their own, and build their self-esteem by contributing in the home and being part of something great – a family.

We only have these kids in our home for 18-20 years, and then they are off for the next 60 years or so.

Benefits of Giving Kids Chores

Giving kids chores helps kids delay their own personal gratification for the satisfaction of helping someone else as well.

A study was done “that researched about 84 children at the age of preschool, 10, 15 and 20. They found that the kids who started chores when they were 3 and 4-years old were most likely to have good relationships, achieve academic success, and be more self sufficient than those who didn’t start till they were teens or who never did chores” fatherly.

Teaching kids chores as early as 3 or 4 had such long term benefits to academics and realtionships, and succes in life. It’s not just a matter of having a clean house. It’s bigger than that.

Parents Set the Tone

Parents set the tone of attitudes towards chores by the attitude they show towards their own chores. If it’s a more positive experience, then the kids will have a positive experience.

It’s too bad when a parent tells their kids “Go do the dishes!” and then they sit and watch the TV. That sends the message that you are the slave and I’m the boss.

But if the parent gets involved in helping with the chores, then it’s a more positive experience.

Using the EDGE method of teaching chores will also lead to better results.

E – Explain D – Demonstrate G – Guide E – Enable

  1. Explain to your child how to do the chore. Explain why we do that chore.
  2. Demonstrate to the child how you expect the chore to be completed. When kids are young, they love to mimic what parents do. Kids often play cooking, cleaning and mowing, because they like to mimic adults. So demonstrate exaclty how you want the chore completed.
  3. Guide them in the process. You’ve demonstrated how, so now they do the chore with you beside them and correct if needed till they can do it as expected. you can also work along side them in case they need a little help as they are learning the chore.
  4. Enable the child by giving them the opportunity to do the chore all by themselves. You may check on them occassionally to make sure they have it right or if they need any help or have any questions.

An example of this was when Amy was trying to teach the kids how to mow the lawn. When they were all little, they would often hold Amy’s hand and wallk alongside her while she was mowing. When they started getting older and taller they would hold the handle of the lawn mower, so Amy was still doing the turning and maneuvering, but they were right there behind the mower. Then when they could push by themselves, Amy would have them do the straight rows, and then she would help them turn the mower back around on the ends and also on the narrow mow strip. Now they can do all the mowing while Amy is off weeding with the other kids or working somewhere else in the yard.

Parents need to realize every step is important in teaching kids how to do the chores exactly how you want it done.

These steps are also helpful when teaching how to shoot a basketball or balance a checkbook or so many other applications.

Parents set the tone of chores by their attitude too. If a parent grumbles about having to vacuum, then their children are going to think vacuuming is not a fun chore. But if the parent plays fun music and makes a game out of it, then the kids are going to catch on that it is something fun to do.

As kids do chores, keep it fun. Make it a game. Give rewards for good efforts, like maybe they get to choose the dinner that night or the dessert.

Dave grew up where his family did most of their chores on Saturday morning before they could play. He did not like that. Amy doesn’t like Saturday morning chores, because after doing all the chores Saturday morning, and then having the whole family home all weekend, it just looks so lived in by Sunday night that you can’t tell that everything was just cleaned the day before.

Mitchells do their big house cleaning on Monday after school. Their kids get out of school an hour earlier on Mondays, which gives them time to do their homework and chores and still have time to play. Amy likes this schedule for a couple of reasons:

  1. It starts the week out with a clean house.
  2. Mondays the kids have a little more time with that extra hour out early on Mondays.
  3. Mitchells have family time on Monday nights, and Amy loves doing that in a clean home. It helps improve the atmosphere and spirit in the home for their evening activities together.

Mondays kids come home, do their homework real quick, and then fun music goes on and everyone is doing chores. Amy sets aside that time to help kids who need help with chores and being available if they need it. Having a set time to do chores makes sure it gets done. Also when kids know that is to be expected every week, there is less complaining and grumbling. They know that is just what they do.

Daily chores are also part of the Mitchell routine. Each child has a kitchen chore like setting the table, cleaning the table, doing dishes, putting food away, sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, taking out the trash, etc. Other chores in the kitchen include cleaning out the inside of the microwave, wiping down the fridge, etc.

Mitchells split up their chores so that each child has a daily kitchen chore, daiy personal chores like keeping their personal space cleaned up, and a once a week clean part of the house chore. They also have one yard chore in the summer like mow, weed, edge, trim…

Mealtimes create the biggest mess on a regular basis, so everyone helps pitch in on that. The Mitchells have a family motto. “If you eat here, you work here.”

Friends know that motto too when they come over. It’s the same for everybody. The whole neighborhood knows that. The neighbor kids often help, so Amy doesn’t mind feeding them peanut butter sandwiches and apple slices after the work is done and they’ve pitched in.

When you have friends come over, make a mess, and eat all your food, do you love having them over? Not as much.

Mitchells have set rules and boundaries for neighbors as well as their own kids. They love having lots of extra kids over, because those neighbor kids are great at cleaning up when they are done playing. They are also great to pitch in and help with some responsibilities while they are here.

Mitchells have capitalized on that window of time when kids love to help, so when a neighbor kid walks by and sees the Mitchells out working in their yard, they ask if they can help too. Amy never turns them down. She’ll say, “You bet, grab a rake, or grab a shovel and help us out.” Kids love to work with a group of friends. They love to be part of something, contributing and feeling good about that. And they also like thinking maybe they will get a popsicle or something when they are done.

Let kids get involved in the planning of chores. Amy has found that after awhile, a chore chart gets kind of old, and kids are less enthusiastic about doing their chores. It’s okay to switch it up. Make a new chart. Amy asks the kids which chores they don’t want to have on the next chart. If that suggested chore isn’t a big deal, then Amy doesn’t add it to the next chore chart. Then she’ll ask what chores the kids do like and add that one. Some chores are essential and are always on the chart though. If kids are invested in the process they will take more ownership. This investment idea also applies to adults in many situations too.

You can make a circle chart, a sticker chart, a mark it off chart, or any kind of chart that helps you keep track of chores. And feel free to change it up any time it starts getting dull.

The phrases you use after chores are completed also impact the kids. Instead of saying, “Good job” as a general complement, try saying “I love how you contribute to this family.” That gives a sense of contributing which is one of the goals of chores. The Mitchell’s chore charts don’t even says “chores” at the top. Their title on every chart is “This is how I contribute to my family.” Be aware of the phrases you use to build them up as a contributing member of your family.

Should Kids Get Paid To Do Chores?

There are many different philosophies on this:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Sometimes

Phiosophy #1: Yes kids should get paid because that’s like real life. When you get a job you get paid for the work you do. If you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid.

Philosophy #2: No. Kids should do chores because they are part of a family. They shouldn’t be paid to pick up their dirty clothes. Mom doesn’t get paid to drive kids arround or do laundry.

Philosophy #3: Combination of the two, where they feel kids need to have their own money to practice making good financal choices, but kids should complete chores as part of a contributing member of the family, and not get paid for each chore. It is important for kids to have experiences making money mistakes when the stakes are lower and parents are nearby to help learn lessons.

Mitchells started out by not paying their kids money to do chores because they were younger. Then they started paying their kids the same amount for each little chore so they could have some of their own money. As the kids got older they realized they earned the same amount for quickly wiping the table clean as they did for cleaning the bathroom which included washing the mirror, the sink, the toilet, the tub… Some of their kids would then opt out of cleaning the bathroom and feel fine not getting that little amount of money. They were wisening up to the system. They were getting their cost-benefit ratios all figured out. Amy didn’t like that leverage, because she still wanted those chores done, but it wasn’t worth it to the kids.

A couple of years ago, Amy read a book called “Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats” by Love and Logic author Jim Fay and Kristan Leatherman where she was first introduced to the idea of not paying kids. That was a whole new idea to her, which took some adjusting to. Then Dave and Amy took a Dave Ramsey class where he also says kids shouldn’t be paid for each little chore, yet still get some money on a regular basis based on their contributing efforts. If they worked without complaint they got the full amount. If they didn’t do much they didn’t get the full amount, yet it still wasn’t attached to each individual chore, but rather to their overall contribution and effort.

Dave Ramsey said kids need some of their own play money where they can practice good decisions and bad decisions when there is only $5 on the line versus $5,000 on the line. Kids need to have money in their hands that they have complete control over to learn good money saving, spending and charity giving habits.

Mitchells started reevaluating how to pay their kids. They leaned towards paying the older kids more because more was expected of them. At the same time, older kids were busier and not around as much to do chores, so they needed leverage to help the kids be motivated to do the chores. For example, Red child gets asked out for a date on Friday night. Amy prefers having those big chores completed on Monday, but now that Red child is in high school she doesn’t come home earlier and doesn’t have extra time on Monday. Amy is fine if Red child just completes that chore before her date on Friday. Red child likes having the freedom to choose when she can fit in the time to get chores done that works better for her. The idea of going out is incentive enough to make sure that chore gets done.

Mitchells have combined Dave Ramsey’s money management principles of giving kids money to learn skills with at a young age with the Love and Logic principle of giving kids as many opportunities to make choices as possible. Dave compares it to an inverted pyramid where you try to give kids more and more chances to make choices and freedoms and learn from those experiences. A 13 year old has more freedom and choices than a 3 year old.

The Mitchells use a simple system to pay their kids. When the child is 6 years old they get $6. When the child is 18-year-old, they gets $18. When the 6-year-old is doing the dishes, Mom is probably still helping a lot more, but when the 18-year-old is doing the dishes, they are doing it all on their own. The older they are the more money they get and the higher the expectations are.

It isn’t a lot of money for the kids. By the time they pay to a charity, and half to savings, there isn’t a lot left to spend. But they learn lessons with their own money about delaying gratification, saving for future purchases, the value of hard work, and contributing to the family.

Every family is different. What works for one family won’t work for another. Just find a system that works for you, is easy to keep up with, and improves the relationships in the home as these kids are preparing for adulthood.

Being Committed in this Endeavor of Chores in the Family

On a side note, kids have different reactions to being asked to do chores. One kid may be very vocal and grumble and complain. Another child may say “yeah just a minute” and then never get to it. And the third child may just get the chore done so they can get on to playing.

If a parent has in mind the importance and sees the benefits of doing chores, then when issues of nagging and complaining come up, it won’t beat them down so they feel like giving up. Chores are a necessary part of contributing to the family and being a better adult.

Parents can get a little discouraged when we are nagging all the time, so being able to recognize the different stages kids go through and realizing that it’s a part of their lives will help parents stand firm in following through. Give children some flexibility on when to do chores and which ones to do, and recognize their needs in addition to the needs of the whole family. That will help get chores done in a positive way.

Children may not thank you today for teaching them how to do chores. But if a parent realizes that your job is not just to make sure your kids are happy all the time and having fun, but rather that they are preparing their kids with life skills, then years down the road, those children may come back and thank you for teaching them how to change the oil in their car or how to cook a meal. They may not thank us today, but down the road they will see the value in it and appreciate what they were taught.

Children not only mimic parents when they are little, but as they get older and start raising their own kids, they may follow your example in how you taught them how to do chores.

Photo is “Chores” by David Reber, https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidreber/3582520405

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