45 Responses to “Kids Chores – How To Get The Kids to Help Keep the House Clean”

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  1. We used to pay an allowance when our kids helped around the house and garden. They tended to like jobs outside the house more than inside…like washing cars, cutting the grass – that sort of thing.

    It actually cost me more but they were getting a little exercise and I used to inspect things before I paid them!

    My daughter has now left home but my son (20) still helps a little like washing up!

    Andrew

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Andrew, inspecting before pay is good!! That’s great that they helped in the garden. I never had much luck getting my kids interested in that but I’m hoping this summer to get my youngest more involved. It’s so good for them to see where their food comes from.

      I find that my girls are more inclined to want to work on inside chores – they get paid.

      My son drives so he does a lot of errands, heavier chores and helps when my husband needs him for house stuff – we’re still finishing building our house (long project!).

      He doesn’t get paid usually. He’s finished high school and working so it’s his contribution.

      I found that adding the pay factor for the girls in this way really increased their interest in doing chores and doesn’t really cost me a whole lot more because they buy most of their own extras with it.

  2. Hi Jan,

    You’re brilliant.

    I have never thought about all these.

    Get works done + FUN = huge success.

    Thank you for the ideas.

    • Jan Ferrante

      Thanks Raymond, we’ve tried a lot of things over the years, some worked better than others!

      I think that putting fun into our work is something that we adults could probably do well with too, I’m trying to do more of it myself.

  3. Thanks Jan,

    I’ll have to try out these tips when my nieces and nephews come to visit. $2.50 for 15 minutes…wow, i used to get $2 a week..;)

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Mitch, when we were young we got a 5 piece bazooka bubblegum every saturday for chores and LOVED it! Then we graduated to a dollar :0)

      It is different today for sure – things cost a lot more now and there is so much more that kids want like ipods and cell phones which I think are nice too so I can’t argue much!

      One of the things that they pay for is their own cell phone which I like them to have when they are out and now that I have one I can text them anytime. It’s great – for me :0))

      I find that they are much more willing to do things here and there for nothing as well and even take the initiative to do things sometimes just because it’s kind of a theme around here to improve things. Sometimes they’ll ask if they’ll get paid, sometimes they don’t.

      One thing I don’t include in their ‘wages’ is their bedroom. That’s their’s to look after.

  4. Jan
    My three have now all left for University, but descend on rather frequent occasion. My main irritant was the squabbling “its not my turn” for rather trivial events like setting the table. The only things that seemed to work were bribery or blackmail, sadly reason never seemed to get through!
    David

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi David, we get squabbling like that too! Sometimes I have to tell them to work separately or their 15 minutes go by pretty fast and not a lot gets done except squabbling.

      And we renegotiate who is doing what fairly often, they are quite good about doing it between themselves (when they’re not squabbling)

      What’s with that I wonder :0)

  5. I like your ideas, too late for my kids though. I was a military officer and we cleaned up more like enlisted men in their barracks – lots of complaining but the job got done. I think looking back, these ideas would have been better for us all. I like you BOOST idea and will buy it for my grown daughters and their kids if they will use it.

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Bruce, I do think that one strong point to that approach is like you said – the job gets done. The downside to the pay system is that if they opt out and just go with no pay I have to do it or it doesn’t get done.

      If it goes on for too long I step in and tell them they have to get back at it but even that small blip can set us back. It’s something to work on – I should add in a mandatory number of days per week that they need to work to keep things on an even keel. Most times it isn’t a big issue, but it can be.

      I admit, at times I can be too easy with them trying to teach them to use their own judgment, develop confidence and learn about consequences (making the easy mistakes at home) I think that a balance is important.

      That’s the thing with any system – using it!

      I find that as long as I have it ready where I can see it easily – on top of my dishwasher works for me – I WANT to do it because it is kind of a game to get my tasks checked off and there is a time limit so I know I just have to jump in – and back out.

  6. My little girl is 6, and I started paying her this year – 25 cents for setting the table, 1.00 for a clean room on Sunday (once a week is good enough for me).
    I’m sloppy myself, so I don’t set a good example, I don’t expect a lot, just not to have laundry pike up and piles of stuff on her floor.
    There are other chores too, no fussing in the morning gets her an extra $1 a week – or docked pay if she fusses. – On Sunday its payday, and 10% goes for giving, 30% to saving and the rest is hers. So far she’s bought hair bows, candy and trinkets from the dollar store – and given away some change to a homeless man.
    We are off to a good start.

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Michelle, you’ve got a great system going there. I especially like the bonus for no fussing that can be docked. Having something to take away is another aspect that can be used as long as it’s done fairly and not off the cuff.

      I used to know a lady who seemed to be constantly taking things away – big things – for every small infraction. Some would agree with that parenting style but he was a good kid and grew up a browbeaten child angry and in a lot of trouble when he was older.

      I’m not mentioning that because of you in particular Michelle, it just brought to mind the importance of mutual respect and how it can be fostered to build strength in so many areas and it’s importance when using a ‘negative’ enforcer.

      I really like the way you have her divide it up. I’ve tried that without much success. I should have started it when they were younger. It’s something I will work on…

      Thanks for sharing!

  7. p.s. on this part:
    …………It seems that kids in particular are very good at distracting themselves and ignoring the mess โ€“ hey, theyโ€™ve got things to do, right……

    I’VE GOT THINGS TO DO TO!

  8. Great tips for parents. Don’t think it will work too well on my dogs. I am still trying to get them to close doors and not just open them!

    An allowance is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about financial responsibility and saving.

  9. Great tips, but i think the 2.50 for 15 minutes is a little high. That’s $10.00 an hour. Some peple that work don’t make that.

    When my girls were small, if they didn’t pick up there toys I would pick them up and put them in a box. Then I told them if they wanted them back they would have to errand them by doing something for me, like helping fold laundry, etc.

    I think that there has to be a middle ground in the fact that kids need to be taught that sometimes you do things just because it is the right thing to do without expecting something back.

    I do like the idea of you help me with this and then I can take 1/2 hour of my time to take you somewhere you need or want to go. This great idea.

    When helping on the farm, my father use to come up with a contest to get us to help. When irrgating see who could set the most tubes the fastest, then after work was done we got to play in the water below the damn.

    Debbie

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Debbie, I agree, it is a lot, it is right about minimum wage here too now. That is why I picked it.

      For one thing it’s easy to figure, but since I was creating a ‘job’ for them it didn’t seem right to pay them less than they would get in the real world – actually house keepers around here are at least $15 per hour and up. On my end, there are a lot of good reasons to pay my kids rather than hire someone else.

      But it’s really about them. If they were working hours a day I wouldn’t be able to afford it, but since they only ‘work’ 1.5 hours a week I can swing it. The main theme running under the number is to instill a sense of self worth in them when they hit the job market when they are older – I could be way off base here but here is my take on it.

      Having been the ‘working poor’ for many years myself when I lived on my own because frankly, I didn’t know any better (that’s another story), I want them to experience what it feels like to be valued and paid well for what they do – at their age minimum wage is ‘well paid’. Not to say they should expect to be paid well if they don’t do the expected job or above, that is part of the lesson in it, but also so that they will never settle for less than they are worth.

      And the other lesson is to teach them to manage their money – to budget, save, spend and see what happens when they run out etc.

      I don’t see anything wrong with having kids do chores around the house for no pay either, it really depends on the lessons you are trying to teach I think and also what works for your family. I think that method can serve to strengthen the family unit if it’s done in the right way – there is great value in that.

      I really like your idea of having your kids earn their toys if they didn’t pick up. There are lots of ways to teach value and discipline beyond money – that is for sure.

      And I fully agree that kids need to be taught that sometimes you do things because it is the right thing to do without expecting something back – very much so. I try to do that by example and I do hold them to a standard which they are well aware of.

      I loved reading your about page on your blog. NOT having builds character – what I like to call ‘true grit’.

      That is the thing I sometimes worry that my daughters won’t have (my son seems to have plenty. He takes after me :0)) Come to think of it, both of my daughters have character too, and confidence and do well in the stages of their lives.

      And there are some things that they do get asked to do ‘because they live here’ as well. I have been known to say “You don’t need to get paid for EVERYTHING you know” :0)

      I guess the bottom line is that the paid chores are part of the big picture, not the whole picture.

      • Jan it does sound to me like you are doing a great job with your kids. I do agree with you they need to be taught the value of money. And making them work for it rather then just buying everything for them really helps teach them.

        Keep up the good work you do have great knowledge on raising children. And raising children is one of the hardest job you’ll ever have.

        It is well worth it when those grandkids come your way.

        I can forward your blog to my girls and give them ideas for there own kids.
        You can always learn when it comes to raise them little buggers. I know when I was raising mine if I was having a problem and someone had the answer I sure was glad they shared.

        thanks again,
        Debbie

  10. Hi Jan –

    My Aunt Kathleen had 12 children and her house was spotless. She ran that place like an army.

    Not only did the kids have chores but the older ones were responsible for keeping track of the little ones.

    I doubt there was money involved because with groceries – and milk – there was not a lot of excess. They lived in an apartment over a Chinese restaurant on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

    Their reward was little “stars” on a bulletin board and lots of love and praise.

    Her discipline paid off big. The kids were gorgeous.

    On a whim, she took four of the kids to the top modeling agency in New York. They took them. As a joke they said “Do you have any more home like this?”

    “Yes,” she said “-eight.”

    They became famous. Make millions of dollars. You could not turn on the TV without seeing one of my cousins. One of the ones I remember best was one little guy with red hair who was the “I love my Maypo” – a cereal at the time.
    Later, one was the Marlboro man.

    Many articles were written about them in the papers. And the one thing that was always mentioned is they were booked over other kids because they were so easy to manage. They took directions immediately.

    I don’t think that money is always an answer.

    But those were different times I guess.

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Corinne, thanks for that story! You’ve always got something interesting to tell us :0)

      I think that the key phrase here is ‘lots of love and praise’ (I’m sure the stars didn’t hurt either)

      I don’t think that money is always the right answer or the wrong answer.

      What is the answer? To me the answer is what ever works to make everyone happy, contributing members of a household that runs smoothly – it is probably going to be a little different for everyone and may take a few tries!

  11. Hi Jan, when I saw the topic I thought, great, as the father of two I will have plenty to say. But now I see your post covers every angle! If it gets into the hands of kids, they’ll request their parents to read it, too. You might want to consider renaming your post “The Ultimate Guide To Getting Your Kids Beg For The Privilege Of Keeping The House Clean”. Congratulations on a superb post! Beat

    • Jan Ferrante

      Thanks Beat! I love the new title! It actually was inspired by a girl asking how to get her sisters and brothers to help her keep the house clean because she was the only one keeping it up – good eye!!

  12. Hi Jan,

    Such sound advice. The pay seems generous,but it’s all relative. Seriously though, valuing the meaning of money is such a good lesson. You have a really ineresting sute here and I look forward to receiving more like this,

    Lance

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Lance, I agree that learning the value of money is a very good lesson, and good to learn as kids before we (I mean they :0) can grow up and make the costly mistakes.

      Basically they need some to manage if they are going to learn how and I can use the help around here :0))

      And it feels pretty good when they ask for something to be able to ask them ‘do you have the money’, instead of asking if I do! And if they don’t, to be able to tell them that they can earn it if they need it.

      It always amazes me how they will in one minute say ‘no I don’t need that after all’, knowing full well that if I was paying for it, it would be on their ‘must have’ list.

      I guess that is the end of it where the boundaries come in. They are paid generously for the reasons I’ve outlined, but they are not given everything they want. They pay for all of their own things except their winter coats/boots and school things in September – if they want more than we give them, they buy it with their own money. If they don’t have it, they need to earn it.

      I think it’s a good lesson.

  13. Hi Jan,

    We’ve battled with chores around here for years. Boys have much more fun stuff to do than keep the house clean! What finally seems to have worked is a structured chore plan that results in the boys getting a weekly allowance. 11 year olds get 5 dollars per week, 7 year olds get 3 dollars per week. We’ll raise that on birthdays by a dollar so it’s roughly half their age. Chores take a few minutes per day, plus boys are asked to pick up their rooms nightly.

    My attitude is they are blessed with a pretty nice home…they should demonstrate some team spirit and gratefulness by helping out to keep things nice. For the most part they’ve been cooperative with the plan and I’ve come up with devious consequences like “reduced computer time” if they get messy somewhere. I just this morning announced that I’m not going to let them spend their dollars if they have a messy room and voila! The room that I couldn’t walk through is passable. I’ve been working on my Mean Mom badge this week. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Amy, I think that the structured chore plan part is the key. If kids know what to do and what is expected of them it seems to make a big difference – and also it needs to be enforced. Just like us when you think about it.

      I think it sounds like a great system – team spirit and gratitude are wonderful things to focus on – I like to instill some pride in my kids too – for their work and for what they have although some days I’m not sure that it’s working!

      Consequences too, like you’ve said are great tools for learning and teaching, probably one of the most powerful things of all in one form or another.

      I only have one son and he’s the oldest, just finished high school and I have 2 daughters. My biggest problem with the girls and giving them ‘freedom to clean’ is that they have taken over the kitchen. My youngest in particular likes to cook and declutter the cupboards – so I can never find anything. Sometimes I long for the days when it was MY kitchen!

      She does other rooms too – like the bathroom. She threw out my bath tub scrub brush AND the toilet bowl plunger. That could have been a disaster :0)

      I still don’t why.

      Isn’t that the way it is with some of life’s heavy questions.

  14. When my boys were small, I chiseled their chores list onto a stone tablet. . . oh, okay, maybe it hasn’t been *quite* that long ago! They actually had a chore list up on the fridge, with the stars added when done thing. We were a family of ADD types, so easily distracted. . . had to keep that list visible, and remind them. No chores, no pay. I like your “make it fun” strategy, and agree there has to be a cut off time. Else that procrastination thing happens way too much. You seem to have covered all the angles!

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Teagan, I have a niece named Tegan, nice name! Maybe I should have tried a stone tablet too :0)) I think that’s such a good point about keeping it visible.

      We have a big white dry erase board at the bottom of our stairs, they each have a taped off section where anything they need to know goes and were we keep track etc. My daughter doesn’t like it though, I think it’s because when she has friends over they can see it – of course she thinks its dorky :0)

  15. Jan,

    What a great article given specific guidance to parents dealing with this issue.

    I don’t have kids myself, but will be forwarding this to friends who do.

    This is really great!

    Krizia

  16. Ok Jan – these tips aren’t just great for kids – I will be using them on my husband this week :).

    I love your simple tips and your gorgeous blog design! You’ve done a great job customizing frugal.

    In about 5 months, I will be welcoming my own little joy into the world and I’m going to keep your blog on file. Promise you won’t stop writing until my kids are in college?!?

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Keller, practice makes perfect :0) I’m glad that you like the blog and design, I am really enjoying it too.

      Congratulations on your little bundle! The best thing I can think of is to be sure to start early to make clean up a habit with your child, even if it’s just a small thing. I didn’t – often I would do it myself thinking it was faster and easier (and more peaceful) but in the long run – it isn’t!

      • I keep wondering how early is too early? I definitely want to start them off on the right track, but I don’t want to expect more than is reasonable.

        • Jan Ferrante

          It will probably be different with each child, I would say when they are old enough to follow your example they could start with small things.

          An example might be when they are old enough to eat at the table and run off when they are finished you could get in the habit of making sure that they clear their dishes – put in the dishwasher or give them to you to rinse – or better – have a stool so that they can rinse if you put the cold water on etc – instead of letting them run off while you clear the table.

          Or if you wash the dishes in the sink you can have them wait for you to wash it and they can dry and put away in their spot that they can reach to get them in the habit of doing the dishes after every meal. When they get a little older they can wash their dish and put it away.

          Starting smaller right off when they are physically capable is probably a good time of course being sure that it is safe (use a stool instead of a chair for them to stand on, don’t let them run the water without supervision etc)

          At that age they will like to do things with you – you’ll have that going for you! Especially if you keep it pleasant with lots of praise and smiles.

          A lot of it is a judgment call and I certainly wasn’t perfect, just so you know :0)

          Probably best advice – go with your gut!

  17. Hi Jan: I love your blog design — simple and crisp! It’s very appealing.

    I have a 14-year-old son, and I do pay him to help, but by the chore and not the hour. It seems to work out okay. I am also realistic in my expectations. It’s unlikely my son will do some of the chores as thoroughly as I would, so I try to keep my requests of him to simple tasks like making beds, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, feeding and cleaning up after our pets, etc. I guess I don’t make it fun though — but that’s probably a tactic that works better on smaller kids vs. teenagers.

    I will say one more thing — I have a real “no nonsense” approach to virtually all things in my life, including parenting, and, in particular, expecting help with chores. I expect my request for help to be honored, and not fretted over –no negotiation or whining. And, in almost all instances that’s how things work. On the flip side, when I get asked to purchase a rather expensive piece of sporting equipment, I don’t whine either. :o)

    • Jan Ferrante

      Thanks Lisa! I find that giving myself a time block to do certain tasks in works wonders to speed me up, otherwise I could be all day. So could they so when I say for 15 minutes, that means what could reasonably be expected to achieve in 15 minutes.

      For instance they usually do the dishes. They prefer to plod along so often they will take 1/2 hour or even 45 minutes, it’s up to them really. They are 12 and 17 (just turned) so they can reasonably be expected to do them pretty much the same as I would, it would be different if they were in a younger age group.

      I’m glad you brought that up, it hadn’t occurred to me that it isn’t always strictly 15 minutes. I have made them go and do more if they tell me they are finished but I am not seeing much in the line of progress :0)

      I find that my 17 year old likes her ipod, that’s about as fun as it gets. My 12 year old likes me to do things with her, so just having me involved is more fun for her – she’s past the games stage too.

      I think that a no nonsense approach is vital. The ground rules can be a group effort but once the structure is decided upon you have to stick to it. That said, I need some of your no nonsenseness – it is my sore spot and it can be a problem if I don’t stand my ground consistently and caving does encourage whining because they have to know you won’t budge, otherwise they’ll try. And keep trying…

      It sounds like you have given your son a great foundation – and some great sports equipment!

  18. Hi Jan,

    You’ve got a nice, sweet blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Even though I still cannot relate with this topic I can highly recommend this idea to my friends who’ve been struggling too much managing the household chores and teaching their children to learn to be responsible taking care of home while they’re all out in the business.

    Great to know that you’re a fair loving mom to your kids and your family.

    • Jan Ferrante

      Thanks Tyrone! I try. That might be the most important thing. I’m not perfect but we seem to be doing ok :0)

  19. Kaari

    Hi, Jan! You have great ideas. These fit in with my parenting philosophy so I’ll be using them.

    The only thing is, we are poor people so I can’t pay the children for every chore, but I CAN take them someplace fun where they like to go as rewards, or provide fun snacks. They just love hotels…I think it’s because the furniture is pretty and everything is so clean and tidy. For us to live in one like that, they will have to pitch in and they know it. But the house practically keeps itself if we just put a few minutes a day and then get a reward for having done it.

    Because we homeschool I just can’t do chore lists. As another wrote, I don’t want to brow-beat them. I want to raise children who see what needs done so they do it. They take turns helping with dishes or garbage (we have no dishwasher). They take turns doing jobs they hate.

    My biggest tip nobody mentioned yet, is that we have FUN cleaning tools! Trigger sprayers are a lot like squirt guns! Feather dusters that actually work are fun! Better than Swiffer dusters. Vaccuuming is fun when we fight over whose turn it is! Fun-smelling cleaners and supplies that actually work make it a pleasure to see where you’ve been and where you have to go yet. He who sets the table gets to choose a centerpiece, even if it is posed Transformer toys or Godzilla battles. One who detests paper napkins gets to pick cloth ones. Keep it fun! Buy good housekeeping products like microfiber mopping rags and flylady tools.

    • Jan Ferrante

      Hi Kaari, thanks for the great tips, so many good ones! I especially like the fun cleaning tools, how could I forget! I like using them too!

      I don’t think that kids need to paid for every chore, it’s better if they do some stuff as you said – because it needs to be done – and you have some great alternatives to allowance – I can just see their happy faces, they must have a blast.

      We love hotels too, I read somewhere that it’s because they are so uncluttered and it’s a good idea to keep that in mind when cleaning up – to go for that feel.

      It sounds like you have a great handle on things, I’m so glad that you shared with us!!

  20. Sometimes we have our kids lie face-down on the floor, we attach a long handle to their belts, and use them as dust mops. …Not really, that’s a complete lie.

    But I really do like your ideas. We kind of have an Adopt A Room program going at our house. Each person is in charge of keeping one room clean and tidy, and that seems to work fairly well. We also pay an allowance. And like Andrew, we do an inspection before payday.

    Anyway, thanks for the great tips! I’m going to try a few of them around here.

  21. Thats a great post, especially for a house full of people with ADHD. It gets overwhelming sometimes and starting in one spot is a great way to start, and then move to another room. It’s also more tolerable when the whole family is involved.

  22. This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me.

    Thanks a lot!

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