Getting children to help in the house


Boy scowling at broomPre-teen children should be helping at home, Mumsnetters agree, but views differ as to how much we should expect our children to do around the house, and whether or not there ought to be a cash incentive. Wherever you stand on the issue, the actual problem is getting eight to 12 year olds to do anything. 

If you have a look at the Teenagers Talk boards, Mumsnetters there report even more problems with uncooperative offspring. So the message has to be: get them into good habits while they're young. Because if you can motivate your child to help around the house, you've a far better chance of getting them to pitch in during the more turbulent time of adolescence.

Household chores - why not?

The general media perception is that 21st century kids are lazy, spend far too long in front of a screen, and don't do anything like as much as they should do to help around the house. If that's true, it must be because parents allow it - but why? There are two main reasons:

It's easier to do it yourself. At least at first. We all know it's quicker/simpler/less messy/less risky to do the washing-up, cook the supper, clean the bathroom etc ourselves than to ask any child to do it. But the irony is your pre-teen is probably craving a bit of responsibility or independence. This window of opporunity to get them involved will be gone when they're older, so make sure you nab the chance now (even if you have to write off the odd bit of crockery into the bargain).

We're sick of nagging them. The truth about chores is, they're boring. If they were fascinating, they wouldn't be called chores. So of course our kids would rather do a hundred other things first. No-one wants to be a nag. So we'll ask, then we'll ask again, and maybe even a third time - but if we get no results by that point, chances are we'll do it ourselves.

The no-nag plan

So what's the secret? On the Talk boards, posters who report the most success at getting their kids to help with household chores tend to have instilled regular routines in their families. Their pre-teens have set jobs they do every week, such as putting out the rubbish, loading the dishwaster or laying the table.

What also seems to work is linking chores to pocket money. For instance, you could link a part of their weekly allowance to doing specific tasks. S, an uncompleted job means their pocket money is docked. It probably won't happen often (provided you really do withhold cash, and don't just threaten them with it).

What household chores should pre-teens do?

Here are the sorts of jobs Mumsnetters expect their pre-teens to do by the age of about 10:

  • Looking after their pets (including cleaning out the cage, tank, whatever)
  • Making their own beds
  • Tidying their bedrooms (once a week is the most popular suggestion - on the same evening each week)
  • Making their own simple meals (beans on toast, scrambled eggs, pasta, sandwiches, etc) and tidying up after themselves
  • Putting out the rubbish and recycling
  • Putting their own clothes into the washing basket and putting them away after they've been ironed

Getting your pre-teen to do more to help

  • Have a talk about new expectations now he or she is getting older. Stress that chores are jobs we all have to do - and if everyone in the family does a bit, no-one (you!) has to do a lot
  • Set a time limit for tasks. "Please stack the dishwasher before 8pm," for instance, brings a deadline into play. And consider adding a penalty - for instance, if it's not done by the set time, knock 50p off their pocket money. And no pockey money if it's not done at all.
  • Have family chore times, and give your children a job that's entirely their own: "I'm going to tidy the kitchen, but can the two of you sort out the sitting room, please?"

What Mumsnetters think about getting pre-teens to do chores

  • Brisk and cheerful and headteacherish often does it. cory
  • People can only treat you the way you allow them to. If you change your behaviour, they have to change theirs. Riversidegirl
  • I insist on a weekly clear-up with my pre-teens. They're expected to put dirty clothes in the laundry bin and clean clothes away. I don't insist that rooms are totally tidy, but every so often we have a proper clear out. I think a lot of children do need help with learning how to tidy up; occasionally you find a child who does it naturally (I would love one of those) but my children seem to struggle, and I'm trying to teach them how to go about tidying up as a daily habit. It's something they can learn. Finocchio


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Last updated: about 3 years ago