Creating & Enforcing Chores Is NOT The Pain In The Butt You Think It Is.
“After everything else I do for my kids, I have zero left in the tank for enforcing chores.”
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. I feel the same way sometimes - it's not worth it to nag about washing the dishes; they're just going to do a crappy job anyway and I could have done it myself with less annoyance and in less time! But, as a parent coach, I know that is super short-sighted. Yes, it seems like a pain in the butt to create and enforce chores, but in the end it makes the experience living with all these little black holes of neediness a LOT better. Don't trade short term ease for long term torture!!! If we believe that chores and responsibility are a part of raising great kids, it’s worth it to incorporate an effective chore system into our families...and by the way, it really doesn't have to be that big of a pain, I promise!
When I started my coaching practice over 10 years ago, I started out 100% focused on compassionate discipline techniques alone. But I learned quickly that it wasn’t enough; if a parent is emotionally drained and the family lacks structure, all the great parenting methods in the world can’t solve their challenges. This is true no matter what parenting challenge we're discussing, and chores are no exception. My clients have much better results in changing their kids' behavior when I make sure to address 3 areas:
Parenting Mindset (are you weighed down by mom guilt or feeling like you have to do it all?)
Family Systems (routine, self-care practice and home help are a few examples of systems elements)
Effective Discipline (responses that empower kids while encouraging better behavior)
Moving forward in any one of these areas is impossible if the other 2 are neglected, and chores are a great example of how all 3 help you be successful:
Mindset: See your kids as part of the ecosystem of your home
One of the best ways to maximize the odds of kids participating in something is if it is their idea in the first place. No one likes being bossed or dictated to, especially kids, so thinking of them as a valued member of the family can be a game changer. No matter what age your kids are, they can contribute to a conversation about chores and feeling heard will go a long way. Tell your kids you’ll be creating a chore system and ask if they’d like to help deciding what the chores will be and how the system will work.
Listen to everyone (tip: write their ideas down - your kids will see that you are taking them seriously) and acknowledge and thank them for sharing their thoughts. Make sure to include at least one of your child’s ideas in the final plan. If it’s hard to let your kids lead in some of these things, I totally get it! Here’s a good resource for switching into a listening mindset.
Family Systems: Create your chore system
Now that you’ve had your meeting and everyone has their head on straight, it’s time to create your chore system! Whether you decide to make a list, wheel or chart, the most important thing is that everyone can see it and understand it. Use pictures for kids who aren’t yet reading, and prominently post your system so everyone can be accountable. Set clear expectations about when you will start with your new plan, how often chores need to be done, when they need to be done, etc. and then go for it!
Discipline: Expect and celebrate mistakes!
No matter how excited everyone is initially, the bloom will fall off the rose and people will either forget or choose to ignore their responsibilities. How you react when that happens is what really determines whether your system will work. Kids learn best from experiences, so celebrate when they miss the mark; it creates the necessary opportunity for them to learn from experiencing the result of that choice. Get ready for their mistakes with natural consequences delivered with compassion. It is very important that you follow through on expecting and enforcing chores. Your children will follow your lead as to how important and serious chores are in your family. Check out this post for help with any power struggles that may arise. And if you’re still feeling like your family isn’t carrying the load they could? This article has some great perspective on getting our kids to be more self-sufficient.
All 3 of these elements are pivotal to making any parenting effort a success. Keep your eyes on the prize; a life where our kids are helpful, empowered and responsible is totally possible and absolutely worth striving for. In my experience, a few tweaks to your mindset, organization and discipline approach are all you need to create a wonderfully effective chore system!