WFMW: Backwards edition: Chores!

Okay everyone…here’s my dilemma. How can I make the kids do some chores?

Here’s what I’ve tried:

Chore chart: worked the best so far; kept it up for about a year (two years ago). Awarded stars based on how helpful the chore is to me. No set number of chores or stars were required per day. Fell apart when I failed to reliably provide rewards.

The “nothing good happens until” approach: Ask the child to do a chore, and nothing fun happens until the chore is done. For instance, “You can’t watch TV until you’ve unloaded the dishwasher.” Works reasonably well, unless it’s interrupted (we leave for a previously scheduled event without the chore being completed, and it’s forgotten about when we return) or the child is expected to complete too many chores in a row (about 3 for my 7-year-old). I’m not consistent about this one either; I may ask a child to do seven chores one day and none the next, depending on various factors (how busy we are that day, etc.).

Flylady: I’ve tried of few of her “Riley Challenges” (designed for kids), and some worked, but sometimes the kids aren’t in the mood. I bought feather dusters for each of the kids, and that worked for a few weeks, but they’ve since lost their appeal.

Handipoints: I checked out Handipoints after I saw it suggested in a magazine a few weeks ago. They’ve got a neat system where you can design your own chore chart, and your kids can earn stars to purchase things for their characters in a virtual world. I’ve logged on about three times and that’s it. Too hard to track daily chores online.

Let me add that my husband does not want to use a monetary allowance-based reward system; he feels (and I agree, generally) that the chores should be done by the children because we should all contribute to the household. That said, it’s hard to get the kids to stay on board without a reward. The rewards I attempted to use in the Chore Chart days were experience (as opposed to money or food rewards) based, like a trip to the zoo or movies, but they “cost” too many stars and the kids didn’t have the attention spans to collect for such big goals.

The kids ARE good at doing a few chores consistently: feeding the dog, clearing their dishes from the table, making their beds (when reminded).

Consistency seems to be my main hang-up.

What do you say? Who has a system that works?

For more of this week’s dilemmas, check out Rocks in My Dryer.


About Kathleen

Kathleen Heuer is a serial arts advocate and volunteer. She is the mom of two beautiful girls, wife to a brilliant nuclear engineer, and referee between her golden retriever and her hissy 18-year-old cat. For more, go to
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9 Responses to WFMW: Backwards edition: Chores!

  1. susan says:

    My sister (who I call when I have kid questions) is always going on about Natural Consequences. This is the “sorry, I don’t have time to go to the playground because I have to fold the laundry you didn’t get to” thing. This is consistent with the household contribution idea and also puts some reasoning behind your request.

  2. renee says:

    good luck..if you figure it out let meknow 😉

  3. Debbie says:

    I have used a chore chart (but I call it Evening Checklist) for so many years I have lost count. It has a daily chart area for meal time jobs (I have four kids and the jobs rotate – plates, drinks, silverware, napkins) and also clear table, load dishwasher, wipe counter, food in fridge. Then there is an area for things they do every day (feed cats, take out recycling, hang up shoes, pack lunches, etc). And finally, a chart day by day of things they do (roll trash to street on Tuesdays, pack library books on Mondays, etc). Immediately after dinner, I say “evening checklist” and they go to it. I hope this wasn’t too much info! Good luck.

  4. twomoms says:

    my dd has a calendar in her room, she has certain chores for certain days (vacuum on Thursday, bathroom on friday) and she has to clean up after the dog and cat every morning before school and give them water, if the chores dont get done, she cant do anything it kinda goes like this. “mom can I go out and play?” “are your chores done?” “not yet, well then you can go out when they are done” in the morning obviously she doesnt go play, but she does do her 20 minutes of reading, (required for school) if her chores arent done then she cant start her reading, there fore she has to do it in the afternoon which means less time to play, wow I hope that makes sence to you! she does get an allowance but not for doing her chores, she gets 2.50 every 2 weeks, just for whatever.

  5. Becky says:

    I have been using “chore sticks” with my boys, ages 6 and almost 8 and have been *amazed* at how well it is working. I blogged about it here:

  6. petersonclan says: has a great system / book called Managers of their Chores. I have 9 children… it works for us!

  7. Hope says:

    I just got done with the whole search-the-universe-for-the-perfect-chore-chart-thing, and I couldn’t find one that was going to work for my kids, so I created my own. My kids are young, but you could adapt the treasure chest and “dates” idea to your older kids. Instead of the cute flower pots, you could just do simple cups and sticks too. Best of luck! I agree with them being responsible for certain things, but I wanted to start with a fun and motivating “training period.” 🙂

  8. Cyndy says:

    I take the same approach that twomoms takes. The playing doesn’t happen until the chores happen. Husband and I also emphasize heavily the fact that they do chores because they are a part of this family and everyone helps out. Period. Most effective with my kids is if the chores aren’t done then there is no computer or television time. Part of growing up is learning to accept and take on responsibility…when a child in our home takes care of their responsibilities then they get the privelages. We also are trying to do more work together as a family. I don’t know how old your kiddos are but choosing family projects (for us that is painting the house right now) in which they participate and we can coach them has been…well…very helpful in their approach and attitude toward daily chores.

    Rather long winded, but I hope that helps.

  9. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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