How To Get Kids To Help Around The House

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“How can I get my kids to help?!” scream the mothers of the world! In all the years I have been a mother, almost every bit of advice I have studied say to motivate your kids using charts with stickers, allowances and various forms of bribery. I have personally used all of these methods. I believe in using them because I have found they work great.

How to Get Kids to Help Around the House

How To Get Kids To Help Around The House


Guess what? These methods work for teens too. When my son started high school, we got rid of the charts. We thought, “OK, he’s growing up. He doesn’t need then anymore.” I spent a year reminding him five times a day to take out the trash. I’m not sure what I was thinking but I somehow got it in my head that when a person does the same chore every day for ten years, he might figure out that he will have to do it again tomorrow. Wrong!

At that time, I didn’t know that the section of a teenaged boys brain that recognizes tasks that need to be done and motivates him to actually take action to complete those tasks doesn’t really develop until he gets married or at least leaves home. If you have a teenager, once this happens, you will be surprised when you walk into the kitchen and discover a strange young man taking out your trash, even though it’s not full and overflowing! He hasn’t even been told to do it! So be encouraged — there is hope!

Back to when he was still a teenager — I did finally discover that if I wrote down a list of things that I needed done, my son responded much better to the list than he had responded to my continual nagging.


What kind of boss are you?

Just like in any business, the employees are only as good as the mangers are. Maybe we need to stop putting all the blame on our families and reflect on what what kind of “bosses” we are.

There are certain places of business where I go and I can tell right away that they are great places to work. The merchandise is neatly displayed, the employees are smiling and laughing with each other and the customer service is wonderful. The employees seem to bend over backwards help the customers. What’s the secret? They have a great boss.

Here is a list of characteristics of ineffective bosses and effective bosses. Which one are you?


Ineffective Mom:

  • Barks orders
  • Yells
  • Criticizes everything, even when people have tried their best
  • Makes family feel guilty – No matter what they do, it’s never enough.
  • Never happy with how the job is done
  • Tasks must be done the Mom’s way and no other way. Mom will not even listen to reasonable suggestions.


Effective Mom:

  • Makes charts or lists, so the family knows what is expected
  • Makes requests in a quiet, gentle, reasonable voice with a smile
  • Always praises them for doing a good job or at least for trying
  • Shows her family how much she appreciates them for all they do to help her
  • Never fixes a job done less than perfectly. Instead, the next time the job is done, she does it with them until they lean to do it right.

Your husband and children are people with brains and good ideas. Make this a group effort and not a dictatorship. Every member of the family wants to feel needed and to be considered an important contributing member of the family.

The hardest part for you in getting your kids to help is that you need to take the time and trouble to train your children. Don’t you hate starting a new job where you have had little or no training? You get so confused and frustrated that you just want to give up and quit. It can be that way with your family, too.

Many times, families quit on you because they don’t understand what you expect from them, they don’t know how to do a task or they can’t seem to do it well enough for you. It may take several times to master a task (It may even take years), but keep working with your children until they feel comfortable with a job and you will help them develop into responsible, thoughtful adults. Always remember that a word of encouragement, a thank you, and a reward goes a long way.


For lots more helpful tips and examples of how to get your kids to help, how to organize your kids, and how to teach them about money and practical living skills, check out our Saving With Kids e-books.



  1. Michele says

    Hey Jill,

    You make way too much sense!! I have been a mom for almost 13 years and wow, I never thought of treating my family like employees! It’s so sad when we treat our co-workers and friends better than we treat our own family… I applaud you for this advice! :) Many thanks!

  2. says

    Being polite in your asking for a job to be done and thanking the person after works well.
    I always did it with my children and their friends and rarely had to nag.
    I don’t see my grandchildren much but I still ask them to do chores and thank them when they have done them.
    One time I was visiting and baby sitting for a few days and their other grandmother was there. I asked Sean the oldest to sweep the kitchen floor Jackie said he won’t do it because you have to pay him to do anything you want. I looked at her then Sean went and got the broom and swept the floor. I gave him a hug and said thanks, it hurts my back to bend for the dustpan. He said that is ok grandma I will always do what you ask.
    Jackie said how come I have to pay you. He said because you tell me and don’t say thanks after.

    He was 8 years old at the time.
    My grandmother used to say “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” and I guess you get more co-operation with thanks.

    • says

      That works in all areas of life grandma. We wrote an article once about how if you are having a problem with something don’t call the company or go to customer service with a mad or angry attitude. They will be so much more willing to help you if you state the problem nicely and ask nicely. This goes for places like restaurants too. We have even received free things we didn’t expect just because we were nice about something.

      We get so many nasty e mails etc. demanding things instead of nicely asking. The thing is 90% of the time come to find out it was their mistake and not ours. It is just as easy to be nice as it is to be mean.

  3. says

    Jill that is true in most cases. I once tried to return a dress that ran down from the neck to the waist I was wearing it at a wedding so when I took it back I was told my the manager that I did it and he would not give me money back. I walked out in tears and was embarrassed that he would think I could do something like that.
    Well my husband was waiting in the mall for me. Took the dress and walked with me back into the store. The manager took one look at him and walked to the cash register and handed me the money. He apologized saying I misunderstood him.
    Don did not say a word just looked nice and unhappy. The manager was terrified. He stood 5’2″ and my husband is 6′ with large shoulders. He never has to say much and I don’t know what people think when they see him angry but he wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose but people sure do respect his attitude.
    Sometimes it is nice to have a protector if nice doesn’t get the correct results.

    • says

      That is so true. I once had a very special formal thing to go to at church. I rarely went to have my hair done but this was so special I decided too. I had very long hair and asked for a simple up do. I told them a couple of times it was for a church function and so I wanted something simple. They worked and worked and didn’t let me see what they were doing until done. They spun me around and I was horrified. They had made a weird braid into a huge circle and made it look like I had a round antenna on top of my head or was a space alien one of the two.
      I arrived home in tears. My sweet husband who always (no matter how awful) tried to compliment me on my appearance took one look at me and I knew he wanted to burst out laughing but was trying his best not too. He said “well it is unique”. I couldn’t stop sobbing so he put me in the car and drove me to the salon, walked me in (red eyes, tears and all) and all he he said was “I want my money back”. They didn’t say one word but handed him the money.

      I can laugh at my hair do from outer space now but I sure was devastated at the time. It did help that my husband didn’t laugh (even though I know he wanted to) and stood up for me.

  4. says

    Hair is usually where disaster strikes.
    One summer I went to a new hairdresser and since my hair is short and really curly back then I said I wanted it cut short and thinned out a lot. It was hot and humid.
    Well I walked out with my hair about an inch long all over and as soon as I hit the street the curls struck.
    I looked like I had a brillo pad on top of my head.
    I was embarrassed so my face was red. I felt like a tomatoe head with a brillo pad.
    My mother says the difference between a good hair cut and a bad one is about 2 weeks but it sure was the longest 2 weeks of my life.

  5. Angie M. says

    How can I get my kids to help me keep my sanity? Does anyone have experience with kids fighting/bickering? I have two sons, aged 14 1/2 and 9 years. I know they love each other but they fight and bicker a LOT!

    The 9 year old annoys his older brother a lot without even trying. I think it’s just the age difference. Then the 14 1/2 year old will pick on his younger brother just to make him cry, it seems. Sometimes it truly seems the oldest one picks on everything the younger one does! I just want them to get along! It’s so frustrating.

    My husband works long hours and night shift at that. So, I’m alone with the boys a lot. I am close to both boys and we spend a lot of time doing things together in the evenings before their bedtimes.

    This morning, I was trying to get ready for work a little early because it was raining and I wanted to drive them to the bus stop. They were finishing up their breakfast and I excused myself to the bedroom to get ready. In five minutes, I was back in the kitchen breaking up an argument. Back to the bedroom, five minutes later to the hallway outside the bathroom to break up an argument. Back to the bedroom, five minutes later to the bathroom to break up an argument. I seriously think I spent 15 out of 20 minutes breaking up arguments. I ended up throwing on clothes and taking them to the bus stop with wet hair then going back home to finish getting ready for work and ultimately being late for work.

    What works to make this stop? Nothing I have tried seems to work so I need some fresh ideas. This morning I took the Wii and Playstation to my room and said they can have the game systems back when they can start treating each other nicely and get along. They love games so I hope this strategy will work.

    Interestingly enough, when my husband gets home form work early in the morning and is home before the boys leave for school…they are much more well behaved. My husband is their step-dad and I feel like they respect him so much more than they respect me. I need to change their behavior and stop the fighting before I lose my mind.

    Oh and to top off my morning, a lady I work with told me I’m a bad mother…all because I said I look forward to 9:00 at night when my 9 year old goes to bed and my teenager goes to his room to watch tv or play games alone before his 10:00 bed time. Now I feel even worse. I love my boys so much and I treasure the times we spend together. I spend 6:30 to 9:00 with them every evening and we have so much fun…helping with homework, playing games, watching tv, reading, coloring, etc. But I work 40 hours a week and take care of them, my husband, the cooking, house, bills, errands, etc. At 9:00, I’m ready for some quiet just to play on the internet, read or watch tv. Now I’m told that makes me bad.

    I guess I’m just feeling like a failure as a mother today because I can’t get my sons to quit fighting and bickering. And like a bad mother because I need a little time alone in the evenings to re-group and prepare for the next day.

    I know there are a lot of mothers that read this blog. Any advice?

    Angie M.

    • says

      Angie, when you figure it out let me know!!! I have the same problem. My 4 are driving me nuts with fighting all the time. I felt so much better when I read a book by Ruth Bell Graham and she told how her kids did nothing but bicker all the time. I figure if Billy Graham’s kids fought all the time and turned out well then there’s still hope for mine! :-)

      As for ideas, these are things I’ve tried. Some helped for awhile and then I had to change stratagies.

      What is working right now is, the 13 and 12 yr. olds have to write 20 times what they will do right next time. So if they are tattling, they have to write ” I will mind my own business”. Neatly and so I can read it!! My 8 yr. old has to write it 10 times. If they hit they have to write “I will be kind to my brother/sister.” etc. They really hate doing this and it seems to be working, for now. If it’s not neat and legible then they have to write it 40 times.

      Another thing I heard was they sit on the their bed for 30 mins. each time they fight. They get 2 chances and the 3rd they have to stay for the rest of the day. No toys, nothing, just sit or lay on the bed.

      Another idea is they have to do 2 nice things for the other person each time they do something mean. Like they have to do 2 of their chores or something like that.

      Another is to have them do a “nasty” chore. Change the baby diaper, clean the toilet, wash windows etc.

      A couple of good books I’ve read is by John Rosemond and Kevin Leman. Leaman has “have a new kid by Friday” and several other that have some good ideas.

      BTW, I think your being VERY nice letting them stay up until 9:00. My kids have to go to their room to read or color quietly at 7:30 or 8:00 if it’s a bad homework night. They then have to be in bed by 8:00 for my 7 yr. old and 9:00 for the older two.

      My nerves are shot by 5 so if I make to 7:30 without a breakdown I think I’m doing great! :-)

    • says

      Angie, I had to smile at your post. It isn’t that I don’t feel your pain and understand at all I do but my kids are now parents themselves and I finally can truly see that this too shall pass. My kids were the same way and guess what they can’t do enough for each other now. They are always their for each other and bend over backwards in helping each other. And yes these are the same two kids who many years ago if I left them alone for 5 mins. even I was sure I would walk in and see a blood bath happening.

      I now get to see it in my grandkids. Some days I laugh because Tawra will call and say I’m going to kill them they are driving me crazy because they won’t stop fighting. I barely get the phone hung up and my son calls and says “Am I allowed to kill my children. They won’t stop fighting no matter what I do to them. I have taken away the WII, computer and everything and they are still fighting.”

      I was just in the middle of answering you and Tawra called. I told her I was answering your post and she burst out laughing and said good luck to me on answering it and if you find the answer to be sure and let her know what the secret is. She was just recently reading a book on Billy Graham’s wive and it says in there her kids fought not stop all of the time driving her crazy. I guess Tawra figures if Billy Grahams kids fought like cats and dogs there probably isn’t much hope in her finding a solution. HA!HA! Well here is the rest of my answer. Don’t know how much practical help it will be but hopefully it will help you to see you really aren’t a bad mom at all and there is some truth to misery loves company so thought it might help you to know there have been many of us in the same boat.

      Not to be so heavenly minded I am no earthly good but there is a reason why one of the first stories in the Bible is about Cain and Abel – two brothers with one ending up killing each other.God really knew human nature well when he wrote the Bible. Sometimes understanding that part of the problem has nothing to do with you as a mom at all but just human nature helps some. Now that doesn’t mean we have an excuse to let it slide of course but I just say that so you can you know it isn’t because you are a bad mom.

      But down to the more practical level. Part of is their age difference but no matter what their ages brothers and sisters fight most of the time and there will be days which you may end up being nothing but a referee. One thing you will have to just stay on top of it and keep breaking it up. Part of being a good parent is persevering which means sticking it out and being consistent even when the going gets tough.

      You may have to try different forms of punishment. I started to list a bunch of things but looks like Tawra covered the same things I was going to list so will delete mine.
      I use to make my kids hug each other which they hated of course but I started doing that when they were small so if older kids aren’t use to it it probably wouldn’t work. Sometimes they wouldn’t fight just because they hated to have to hug each other. You could make the one who started it do the other ones chores or different things like that.

      Sometimes I think making them do something like extra chores works better then taking something (like the WII) away for 1-2 weeks. But then there are times when it is bad enough you may have to do both.

      As far as them doing better when your husband is home don’t feel bad. Once again it isn’t you it is the fact he is a man. Kids respond to men completely differently. I found this lesson out years ago when I was helping in the toddler nursery at church one Sunday. The kids were a handful that day. Fighting, crying, hollering. In walk 2 ushers to check on something with us and the atmosphere instantly changed. The kids immediately calmed down. It was amazing. My kids were always much calmer when dad was around. That is why when dads work long hours and are never home moms really do have a harder time because the kids are more keyed up.
      Hope this helps a little.

      PS There is nothing at all wrong with them going to their room at night. I did that with mine and Tawra does the same with hers. You are probably a better mom because you do do that. Moms who need to and think you should spend every waking moment with their children really should look at their emotional needs because sometimes they do this thinking they are great moms when they really are just trying to get all of their emotional needs from their children instead of their husband, God, friends or other places. Now don’t holler at me for saying this because it not always true just some times.

  6. says

    This morning, I was trying to get ready for work a little early because it was raining and I wanted to drive them to the bus stop. They were finishing up their breakfast and I excused myself to the bedroom to get ready. In five minutes, I was back in the kitchen breaking up an argument. Back to the bedroom, five minutes later to the hallway outside the bathroom to break up an argument. Back to the bedroom, five minutes later to the bathroom to break up an argument. I seriously think I spent 15 out of 20 minutes breaking up arguments. I ended up throwing on clothes and taking them to the bus stop with wet hair then going back home to finish getting ready for work and ultimately being late for work.

    Angie. let them argue. It takes longer than 10 minutes to kill each other so let them go at it.
    Finish what you have to do and if they are not done their breakfast they will eat all their lunch. It won’t kill them.

    They are doing it for attention. If they don’t get the attention whether good or bad they stop doing it.
    They can’t even say “you love him more than me” because you haven’t taken sides or handed out punishments and they learn to deal with each other with no go between.
    Fighting is a different matter. Hitting is not allowed, Swearing is not allowed and should be stopped before it escalates. Send them outside to run around and let off steam. Weed a flower bed, mow the lawn or simply run around the block 3 times.

    People are always amazed that my two boys didn’t fight and still talk on the phone a lot and stay in touch via the computer. They say boys and men don’t do that.
    Well they learned early that they didn’t get sympathy or respect or attention when doing things that were hurtful. They were told what they should have done and then ignored. (I was considered a bad mother by many.)
    But my oldest son named his first son after his brother. He said it made him feel good to still have a Danny around the house.
    They call and ask each others advice on many things and before my youngest moved to China he needed a bit more money so his older brother got him a job where he worked and Danny made $30 an hour for 6 weeks and left for China.
    They help each other out of predicaments that others would say were their own fault. But they just do it because they always were raised to talk with each other and help out with problems.
    We were told we expected too much adult actions from them but it wasn’t that. We expected respect for others from that and we got it from them.
    Let them argue but step in before blood flows.
    Teach them the right way and expect them to give it.
    Be consistent and not waffle on discipline.

  7. rose says

    great ideas everyone .. also i wanted to share something .. the duggar family (the one with 20 children) .. i am sure they too have kids that bicker .. and well, on their website they have these rules that the kids follow .. you might want to look at that too and get some ideas on how to handle this ..
    my kids were 8 yrs apart and well… yes they did argue (it was usually little brother getting into big sister’s stuff) ..
    by the time she was a teenager, we had just moved into our own house and she was on one side of the house and he was on the other .. and yes after a certain hour, even as she was older, i made them retreat to their own rooms … mom and dad wanted quiet time .. my hubby worked nites and after a certain hr they knew their dad was sleeping and they had to be quiet .. (he left for work at 10pm) ..
    if my hubby had a job working normal hours i think i would have put them in their rooms to relax by 7pm.. they need to wind down so their bodies can get decent sleep ..
    my sister (she has 2 kids), went in their room at 7pm and had to either read, or color or do something that they could do in their bed quietly and by 8pm they were asleep .. and when they were teenagers, they would “argue” with my sister and brother in law that they should be allowed to stay up later .. on friday and saturday they were .. but by 10pm they usually were asleep ..
    and angie .. what i have done too to not hear “you love him/her more” or whatever, come xmas or birthdays or anything they got the same amt on gifts .. and they decided what to spend it on .. (it wasnt much but i didnt want to hear i favored one over the other) ..
    the only other time we did make it a point that my daughter got a bit more was bc at 16 she graduated hs and was going into college and my hubby told my son she needed money for that bc it was for education and not for toys or anything and to this day they both know that was the way we did things …
    even now .. they still get the same amt for gifts or whatever ..
    so let the kids argue but grandma and everyone is right … as long as there is no bloodshed, then after a few mins, separate them .. and make them apologize to each other when they cooled down ..

  8. Angie M. says

    Tawra, Jill, Grandma and Rose,

    Thanks for the words of wisdom! It helps to know I’m not the only one who has been through kids bickering constantly. :) Lots of great advice here and I will be trying some new things. Today is a new day and I feel much better about everything. Thanks again!

    Angie M.

    • says

      Trust me Angie we have all had those days and then some. I was talking to Tawra this morning (day 4 out of 5 being house bound with the kids) and I said what did you do to my grandkids it is awful quiet in the background. She said don’t worry they are still alive it is just the calm before the storm. :) :)

  9. Donna B. says

    When I was in Catholic elementary school, we had a teacher, Sister Theresa, who had an innovative discipline measure. We either had to write the 10 commandments 10 times or she would give us verbs to conjudate, or sentences to diagram (on top of all the other homework). I hated it then, but now I’m so glad that she forced me to have good writing skills, !!

  10. says

    One time at the town pool a couple of young teens were really rabble rousing and this being politically correct time the life guards could not really do much about it.
    They were told to sit at the wall and stay still.
    They kept it up so I went to the life guard and said get them some pens and paper and write out the rules of conduct.
    It took them 1/2 an hour and it was so nice and peaceful for the other youngsters that they decided it was a great way to control them.
    Then the powers that be stepped in the next time and said that it was cruel and unusual punishment so the rowdies were allowed to act up with nothing being done.
    Sometimes politically correct is just a crock and a way to not have to discipline someone so they grow up thinking they don’t have to obey laws and rules.

  11. Helena says

    Hello all!
    I’m having a little dilema with my 13 year old son. Let me start off by saying that I am a single mother and have been raising my son solo since he was 3. When I was a child and I saw my mother or father doing anything in which I thought I could help, I would jump right in without being asked. after all, “they’re old” and they need all of the help they can get. I am the same way with them today. My son on the other hand will not get up off the couch unless I ask him for help at least 2-3 times. And then he only does the specific task which I called him for and nothing else. Please let me give an example… I was preparing a bathroom for painting, he was watching TV. “”Tom” will you come help me scrape this side of the window”? He was done in 2 minutes and left. A few minutes later…””Tom will you come help me clean this window”? Done in 2 minutes and left. I spackled and sanded and whatnot for approx. 2 hours. When I finally said something to him, he says “you know, please and thank you work”! I was enraged. I said a few things and told him “you either come help me or go to bed”. He chose to go to bed. Can someone please give me some advise? what am I doing wrong? Thank you so much!

    • says

      For me when the kids do something like that I say ” you will stay here and help until I give you permission to leave”. They can not leave until I am done with them even if it means they have to wait some in between jobs.

    • says

      When I finally said something to him, he says “you know, please and thank you work”!

      I think the answer is right there.
      Reading what you said there was no please no thanks just do this do that.
      Then you got hostile when he was actually telling you what he felt.
      I know parents are tired after a long day at work but does it take much more energy to add the word please or the 2 words thank you to a request?

      If it is a longer job say at the beginning “when this is done we can take a break and have a drink to recover and you can tell me what happened at school when we are resting.”
      Or “what would you like to have for supper when this mess is done?”
      Each is positive reinforcement and this really does work. Takes some time but it is much easier than the constant battles.


    My 2 boys were 3 1/2 years apart & I was a single mom going back to school for 5 years, beginning when they were 1 & 4 yrs old. Finished my classes when they were 6 & 10 years… I had a kit of responses that I varied with the occasions, based on what a wise pre-school psychologist told us parents on PTA nights.
    1) Maintain our own cool first (Who is the parent & who is the child in these situations?)
    2) Separate the arguers before it escalates into hitting… so I sent one to the kid’s room & the other to mine. I alternated so they had turn about…
    3) Distraction — For the more angry one, older, younger (it varied with the situation), the worse one got the Nurse Mom mode — felt their foreheads, cheeks, throat, wrist, stared into their eye & had them stick out their tongue & say “Ah” to look down their throats. “Hmm,. maybe you are coming down with something & need to take off your shoes & rest a bit on the bed in the dark… “No, Mom, I ‘m ok”. “Then just sit here till I check the other one”. Then off to the other who was usually much calmer by now anyway. “Just stay in each room doing nothing, but working on happy thoughts about yourself or the weather for a couple of minutes (by the egg timer). Then I let them read or play by themselves for about another 15 – 20 minutes until I called them for supper. When they came to the table, I announced that we would go on from NOW as grownup kids, not babies.
    4) Postponment — Announced that I had too much school work to listen to them fight now, but I would put it into the weekend schedule for 15 minutes after lunch. Usually they went to their Dad’s by the time that weekend came up, so the matter was forgotten around me.
    5) Awareness & Realistic Expectations — I did try to monitor their ages & stages of development & put in extra time for each by themselves with me for a bit, so that they could get my attention in a good way…
    6) Told myself that they would eventually grow up & live away & that I would no longer have to deal with this fighting!! THIS TOO SHALL PASS!!

  13. grizzly bear mom says

    Sometimes I think that we women are our own worst enemy. We demand that work be completed to our PERFECTLY PERFECT standard. Why must towels be folded just so? Does it make a significant difference how the dishes are placed in the dishwasher? No. It does demotivate people to be constantly corrected and learn that they can’t meet your standards. Which is more important-towels folded into 1/12th or your loved one’s relationship with you? So starting when they are littles or when you are newlyweds, let them help you put the forks in the dishwasher, on the table or in the drawer. Praise them for doing a great job and work you way up from there. Yes it takes time, but in the long run you develop a loving and mutually respectful relationship with your child and they develop responsibility and good work habits.

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