One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me is the strong work ethic they taught me while I was growing up. Looking back, I realize how much this benefitted me.
I would not be where I am today — in this place with a successful business and blog — if not for what my parents instilled in me from a very young age.
I am always hesitant to share parenting advice, because I know I don’t have it all figured out and still have SO much to learn — especially since all of my children are still pretty young.
That being said, I share today from the perspective of how doing chores as a child impacted who I am today. Because of my background, I truly believe that having children do chores is one of the best gifts we can give them.
Since I talk about my children helping out around our house so often, I often receive questions on how to get kids to help out with chores. Here is what I’ve learned from seeing the growth in my own children as they’ve developed a work ethic through chores…
1. Have a Plan
If you want to teach your kids to work and do chores, you can’t just expect them to wake up and know what they’re supposed to do. Mom is the COO of the home, and you have to have a plan so that the kids know what to do. If you want your kids to learn how to work, you are the one who has to teach them.
For us, this has looked different over the years in different seasons of our lives. When my kids were younger, they had as many jobs as their age. (So a 2-year-old would have two responsibilities, and so on.) As they’ve gotten older, we’ve switched it up a little. We try to keep things really simple at our house.
Right now, we thrive on having separate jurisdictions. Our kids are in charge of the laundry (our mother’s helper comes twice a week and helps with the folding and putting away when she’s here), I’m in charge of the kitchen, main areas of the house, and some of the cooking, and Jesse is in charge of menu planning, grocery shopping, and the rest of the cooking. We all work together on the bigger areas of the house, and then Jesse and I in charge of our bedroom and the kids are in charge of their bedroom.
I also find that it helps to keep a clutter-free home. We try to clean up the whole house twice per day as a family — once after breakfast and once before dinner.
This doesn’t always happen, depending on our schedule. When I aim for this, though, our house is almost always picked up and doesn’t get out of control. This keeps things from becoming overwhelming.
Be sure to not only have a plan, but to also communicate that plan. And remember to keep in mind that your personality and your kids’ personalities will vary, so you have to figure out what works best for you.
2. Be a Great Role Model
Not only do you have to teach the plan, but you also have to model it. Our kids are always looking to us as examples. I’ve been convicted of this frequently when I get frustrated with my kids for not cleaning up their rooms, only to walk into my own bedroom and see that it’s messy!
I strive to practice cleanliness and organization in my own life, so that my kids see and learn from that model. Kids need to see us exemplifying what we want them to exemplify.
As parents, we are responsible for training our children, and training is hard work. I like to think about how Olympic athletes train. It’s day-in, day-out, and very repetitive. It can become frustrating to get into a routine and develop a plan, but it’s worth it in the long run.
I remember one year I decided to dedicate time each morning during homeschool hours to train my children how to clean the house and pick up after themselves. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth the investment of hours spent in training. Now I can say, “pick up your room” and the kids know what a clean room is supposed to look like.
Also keep in mind that your attitude will make such a difference in how your children approach chores. Your kids will pick up on your attitude. If mom is excited about cleaning, they will be too! If you hate cleaning, they’ll pick up on that.
Hint: Sometimes you have to fake it before you make it. Maybe have a cleaning party, turn on some music, set a timer, and have fun with it!
Practice always pays off. It’s so nice now for me to be able to ask my kids to do the laundry or clean the bathrooms and they know exactly how to do it on their own. Now, we are working on developing habits so that they will do it without even being asked.
3. Praise 10 Times More Than You Correct
Want your kids to love to work? Become their biggest cheerleader!
Of course they will need correcting along the way, but it’s so important that children receive words of affirmation. When they are putting forth so much effort, praise them for it. Recognize the effort!
Imagine if you worked really hard on something in your job, and you finished it and your boss only pointed out the one thing you did wrong. That would be so discouraging!
Praise 10 times more than you point out areas to improve. Really aim to focus on what they’re doing right instead of what they’re doing wrong — especially when they’re young and still learning.
All that really matters is that they’re trying and giving it their best shot. You can always work on teaching them to get better, but if you defeat their attitude you will set yourself up for failure because they won’t ever want to do chores.
Many people have asked me about allowance and rewards. Praise is the reward when it comes to our children’s regular everyday non-paid chores. In our house, we have paid chores and non-paid chores. Our non-paid chores are the jurisdictions I already mentioned. To us, these are life lessons that no matter where you are in life, you will have responsibilities you’ll have to do that you don’t get paid for.
If they want to elect to do paid chores after their non-paid chores are done, we encourage that as a way to save up money for themselves. We don’t buy our kids very many extras. If they want to buy something at the store, we always ask, “Do you have your money?”
We give them opportunities to learn the real-life skill of working, earning money, and paying for things themselves. We think this is an invaluable life lesson to learn how to handle money. I want my kids to learn lessons at the $3 level, so that I can prevent them from making $300 or $3,000 mistakes later on in life.
I have found that having paid and non-paid chores gives us opportunities to talk about real-life money lessons and encourage our children to think for themselves.
If you need some ideas on age-appropriate chores for kids, you can download our free printable for chore ideas for kids.
What works in your house and for your kids? How do you teach your children to have a strong work ethic?