Getting Kids to Help around the House? Here is How…

by Alenka

I really want to live in a clean house!  Chasing after my boys, I do not have the time to scrub it during the day,  and energy – during the night.  Obviously, mom needs help.

I believe in these strategies:

  1. Working as a team.
  2. Taking baby steps: make it easier to succeed.
  3. Making certain chores other’s full responsibility.
  4. This is the best one and the hardest:  ignoring the problem.
  5. Very important: revisit the problem later in case the solution needs “tweaking and PPRAISE A LOT for any improvement that you see along the way! 

1b1Working as a team.


Yep, just like at work. A call for a family meeting got my little ones excited and older ones suspicious. Yet I didn’t want to bestow my royal order onto thy subjects.  I believe, that once my close ones WANT to help, more things will get done, while wouldn’t need to nag, yell, and force.  And, believe it or not, they do WANT to help (I even had a hard time getting them back to their breakfast)!  So we made a list, together, of all the things that need to be done, and let everyone pick what they can help with.  For certain tasks, that nobody wants to do (or everybody wants to do), we decided to take turns doing it.


Taking baby steps: make it easier to succeed

Problem: During evening bath, my kids drop their dirty clothes on the bathroom floor and leave it in a big messy pile.  Yuk!! Laundry baskets in their own rooms are happily ignored.

Expectations: I need those clothes in a laundry room, sorted into different baskets, ready to be washed.

What I am ready to chip in: Expecting kids to rush downstairs to a laundry room before bedtime – a bit too much.  So, instead of a messy-dirty pile, I need something neat, easy to drag downstairs.

Solution: I place a slim laundry bin right in a bathroom.  Line it with a bunch of mesh laundry bags.  Every night my kids dump their clothes in a mesh bag as they undress (makes it easy to succeed!) and I can easily pull it out and bring it downstairs later or in the morning.

Follow up: Consequences for leaving clothes on a floor – they are not getting washed.

Praise for… neat bathroom, clean clothes…

Added bonus: Now, sometimes, my boys help me drag the mesh bag downstairs when they go to get breakfast in the morning!

Baby steps: Down the road, taking the bag downstairs can be their responsibility!  Someday, may be even sorting and washing, but there are many baby steps ahead for that.

1a2.Make certain chores their full responsibility.

I am NEVER making my kids beds.  Once they know someone else will take care of it, they’ll just ignore it.  If it is their responsibility, it is up to them HOW to do it and WHEN.  We agree on TIME: e.g. making beds, tidy up your room and brush your teeth before breakfast.  We agree on QUALITY: nothing on a floor, nothing on a chair, blanket straight.

What if it is still not done? How about, yelling from another room “Did you already make your bed, or not, you, the messy savages?!


For us “AFTER is the magic word: “You can go downstairs AFTER you make your bed.  While mishaps happens, but it is really rare for my kids to leave to school with untidy rooms.  If it happens, there is another “AFTER: you can play (or have a playdate, or go to your sports activities) AFTER you finish up in your room.  AFTER is a terrific word: no need to nag, yell, get upset, make it for them.  

Other ways to remind I try are:

  • “I am all dressed and I am going to make my bed now.
  • “It feels good to have a neat room with a well made bed.
  • “Beds need to be made before breakfast.

Or even a note with one word “bed on a breakfast plate.  That one is powerful.

Ignoring the problem.

While I would love for my older one to be fully independent and capable, I find some skills more important.  He can do a lot, he usually helps me hang his clothes in his closet and he cleans up the toys and his desk better then I can do for mine, but if he has some time to read, I’d rather let him: even if he never learns to fold clothes, he’ll use laundry service as long as he has a good paycheck to pay for it!  So, I’ll concentrate on skills needed for that paycheck.


While I wish my house was sparkling clean, I realize that my toddler is not going to be one year old forever… so I’ll just need to wait some things for him to grow out (throwing every one of my utensils on the floor) and gently teach him what’s the right place for them.  So, for now his older brothers and daddy can help me pick up after him, while we all enjoy the sheer cuteness of this age.


We’ll try another family meeting down the road and see what worked, what needs adjusting.  In the meanwhile, I am busy praising every little tiny improvement that I see!

Honestly, not always I have that much patience, but it is worth to try.