5 Parenting Hacks to get Your Kids to do their Chores

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Some of the parenting books will tell you that intrinsic motivation is all that kids need to get their chores done. Just give them a list of tasks and they’ll feel good about contributing. Yeah, right. Kids don’t want to do laundry or unload the dishwasher any more than adults do. Convincing your kiddos to do their chores may have proven a daunting task until now, but never fear. We’ve got a set of five parenting hacks for you to try. Each one puts a unique spin on household duties –and the prep work can be fun for parents, too!

Read on for our five favorite chore hacks and the age-appropriate chores you can use with them.

The Hacks

Wifi Withdrawal

Change your home’s WiFi password each morning. If kids want to log-on, they have to complete their chore list.

This hack has proven most effective in my own family. Changing the password is simple. In most cases, it’s as easy as logging-in to your ISP’s website and clicking through a few screens. Once you’ve changed the password you can make a list of chores for each of your children. When the tasks are complete, mom or dad hands over the daily digits. Make WiFi Withdrawl part of your morning routine and sit back as the chores come roll 

Punch Card System

Don’t try to deny it. The thought of free coffee intrigues you. Or a free lunch. Or free dry cleaning. Or free anything. That’s why punch-card based loyalty systems still work. The catch is, your “free” item isn’t really free. It’s given to you after you do exactly what a business hopes you’ll do over a period of time.

Kids respond to the punch card system just like adults do. The closer they get to the reward, the more likely they are to complete the given assignment. We recommend a punch card with 10 or more hits. Start simple and increase the commitment level of each chore once you’re past the halfway mark.

Pinterest is a great place to search for customizable punch cards you can print at home.

Download a Chore App

Smartphone-savvy families can benefit from one of the free or inexpensive mobile apps built for chore tracking. We like the ChoreMonster/Mothership combo. Mothership is the administrative tool that allows parents to set up a system of chores & rewards while ChoreMonster provides the end user (i.e. your child) with their own interface. ChoreMonster and Mothership are available in the App Store and on Google Play. There’s also a web version at https://choremonster.com/.

Many parent reviews exist for ChoreMonster and Mothership. Some parents have reported that this app combo is suitable for kids up to age 12, but others have had success in using the apps to motivate their teens to be productive as well. The key to mastering Mothership is creating goals that are reasonable and attainable for your child.

Use a Tiered System

Set up three jars labeled as follows: Easy, Medium, and Difficult. Kids can choose three easy chores, two medium chores, or one difficult chore. Fill each jar with slips of paper listing a variety of chores at each level. What they draw is what they get for that day.

Following are some chore ideas:

  • Easy – Make your bed, water the house plants, let the dog out (and back in)
  • Medium – Pick up the living room, vacuum the staircase, wash/dry/put away all dishes
  • Difficult – Wash the kitchen windows, weed all gardens and flower beds, mow and trim the lawn (for older kids)
Cold, Hard Cash

Okay, so this isn’t really a hack, but it works. Back in the day kids used to receive a weekly allowance in return for their ongoing contribution to the family. It was usually something like five dollars, which went a long way back then. But that was when people commonly used cash to pay for things. Today we forget that dollars and coins are still a valid form of currency, and the form that makes the most sense to children. Consider reinstating the old-fashioned allowance system. If your charges do what’s asked of them during the week, they get cash on Friday.

How much cash does a little tike deserve in 2017? According to the United States government’s inflation calculator, $5 in 1987 has the same buying power as $10 today, so you could start there. Another approach would be a tiered system that makes use of the jars in Hack #4. Easy chores are worth $1, medium chores are worth $2, and difficult chores are worth $3. You can set a maximum weekly payout to avoid a parental budget crisis.

The Chores

Different ages, different stages. How do you know which chores to assign to your kiddo? Too easy would be a waste of a great opportunity, but too difficult might dissuade your little learners from helping out in the future.

Amazon offers a host of books on the topic, and many opinions exist on how much or how little responsibility and supervision children should receive.

We recommend further reading, such as Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Willis Wyma and Michael Gurian. However, if you’re in need of quick answers, here’s a list of some basic chores by age level:

Preschool (with Supervision)
  • Clean up spills
  • Pick up toys
  • Fill water and food bowls for pets
  • Bring their dirty clothes to the laundry basket
  • Morning routines (get dressed, brush teeth, etc. without supervision)
  • Make their own bed
  • Sort laundry
  • Bring in groceries
Middle School
  • Prepare dinner (may require supervision)
  • Set the table
  • Walk pets
  • Write thank-you notes after their birthday or other milestone event
  • Mow/trim the yard
  • Babysit younger siblings
  • Clean household appliances
  • Dust and vacuum

There you have it. Five parenting hacks to help you motivate your kids to become productive members of the family. Try the one that makes the most sense for you and comment with your results. The team at Ruoff Home Mortgage wishes you luck and a clean house by next weekend!

Download our home cleaning guide


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