July 21, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
July 21, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chores, Every Child’s Six-Letter Dirty Word

Part II

In my last column, I began a multi-part article on how to successfully get children to do their chores. I explained the importance of adopting an authoritative (not authoritarian) parenting style, one in which you, the parent, approach your child as the person in charge, the commander-in-chief! This is not natural for many people, but important nonetheless. Making the decision to be authoritative is the first step toward getting your children to do their chores.

The second step I shared last time is to set realistic expectations for yourself about what it will be like when directing your children to do their chores. In other words, gird yourself and strengthen your resolve, knowing that your children will push back at times, and definitely quite often in the beginning, until it’s well established who the boss is in the family. Preparing yourself for resistance can help keep you from second-guessing yourself, such as thinking that you’re being too hard on them.

Now for Step Three: Select chores for your children. It’s important to be realistic in choosing chores that are developmentally appropriate, while also not underestimating what your children are capable of doing. A quick search online will produce numerous helpful websites with similar lists of chores according to age categories. (There are too many to list here.)

I recently spoke to a mother about some of the chores appropriate for her children. She was a bit incredulous that her 7-year-old son would be able to fold towels or help make a salad when he isn’t able to tear toilet paper in preparation for Shabbat. I explained that perhaps he is unable to tear toilet paper because he hasn’t had consistent practice doing it. Healthy 15-year-olds are capable of reading, but a 15-year-old who’s never been taught how to read and hasn’t had any practice doing so won’t be able to read!

Step Four: Sit down with your children and explain what is expected of them. Don’t provide complicated instructions, but be specific in terms of what they’re supposed to do. Resist the urge to assume they know exactly what you want them to do (just like spouses, children are not mind-readers). This is particularly important when children are still learning a new chore.

Step Five: Choose rewards and consequences. Experts and parents alike are divided on whether or not to give rewards for doing chores, although there is much greater consensus on the importance of providing some form of consequences if they don’t do them. Whether or not to give rewards deserves its own article, so I’ll save that for another time. For now, if you do wish to reward your child, here are some tips:

Discuss with your child what the reward will be ahead of time. This gives him something to look forward to while doing the chore. On a related note, think of several reward options and then let your child decide the reward they prefer. This empowers them and increases their motivation to do the chore well.

Lastly, give your child his reward as soon after he completes the chore as possible. This is the best way to reinforce the connection between doing the chore and getting a reward. If you wait too long to give the reward, it loses its power to motivate good behavior.

In the category of “children say the darndest things,” my 6-year-old daughter asked me tonight (as I was putting her to bed, no less) what I was writing my next article about. When I told her, she offered her own sage advice for parents, “If kids refuse to go to bed, you should give them medicine.” Now, I’m not sure what medicine she was referring to (I promise my wife and I have never knowingly given our children drugs or full glasses of wine for the sole purpose of making them drowsy at bedtime), but I imagine she meant that children should receive some form of consequence for refusing to go to bed.

The type of consequences that are most effective will be discussed in greater detail when I write about rewards in a future article. For now, the approach to giving consequences is similar to that of rewards.

Discuss with your child ahead of time what the consequence will be if they don’t complete a chore. The rationale for this is fairly straightforward. Imagine how resentful we adults would feel if one day police started issuing tickets for chewing gum while walking. Without foreknowledge of this new law, we’d think it was unfair to cite us for not following it.

Also as with giving rewards, it’s important to hand out consequences as soon as possible to maximize their impact.

Step Six: Be reliable and consistent. As much as anything else, getting children to do chores depends on parents doing what they say they’re going to do (reliable) and doing it from one day to the next (consistent). Otherwise, children learn that they can’t trust they’ll get a reward for doing their chores and that they won’t be held accountable for not doing them.

Finally, above all else, always remember to give verbal and physical affection regardless of whether or not your children do their chores. This reinforces the message that your love and affection don’t depend on how they behave. To us adults, this is obvious and goes without saying, but children often aren’t mature enough to understand this on their own.

By Shoval Gur-Aryeh, PhD

Dr. Gur-Aryeh is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Saddle Brook, NJ. He works with a wide variety of clients seeking mental health treatment and specializes in mood disorders and addiction in particular. If you would like to contact him, you can do so at [email protected], at 201-406-9710 or through his website at www.shovalguraryehphd.com.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles