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How To Get Defiant Children To Do Chores

Doing chores is a tradition in most families. Chores help children learn responsibility. We all need to feel needed and to know that we're making a contribution – especially children! So how do you get your children on board?  

Here are a few tips:

1. Be precise with instructions. “Clean your room” is vague and can be interpreted in any number of ways. Instead, be specific by saying something like, “Put your clean clothes in the dresser, dirty clothes in the hamper, games in the closet, and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.”

2. Be consistent. If your children aren't expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting a chore off in the hope that someone else will do it for them.

3. Praise, praise, and praise. Get that praise up and running right away! Don't wait until the chore is done. Praise and encourage the youngster while the chore is in progress. You want to build positive momentum, especially with younger children.

4. Start giving chores at age 2. You might think your youngster is too young, but he or she is more capable than you think. Children can do a lot of chores at an early stage (e.g., getting clothes to the laundry, cleaning up after dinner, etc.). Some parents hold back too long because they think their young children are incapable of following through. But that puts the cart before the horse (i.e., kids learn by doing). A defiant 14-year-old is more likely to complete chores if he or she has being doing them for the previous 12 years.

5. Tolerate imperfection. Of course, no child is perfect, and it's better to have a more relaxed approach to how well your children do chores. Otherwise, you will have a power struggle on your hands (or you might jump in and do the chore for them, which would undermine the whole point).

6. Teach the proper way to do chores. Show your child how to do the chore step by step. Next, let him or her help you do it. Then have your youngster do the chore as you supervise. Once your youngster has it mastered, he or she is ready to go solo.

7. Minimize the use of reminders and deadlines. You want the chore to get done without you micromanaging it. Use the "when/then" technique (e.g., "When the dog is fed, you can have your after school snack").

8. Make a chores chart. Create a list of every task that needs to be done. Have your children pick out the task they would most like to do. Then create a chart. Check that everyone has an age-appropriate chore (see below). Then divide the chart into three columns: (1) one is for the list of chores and whose chore it is, (2) another is for deadlines, and (3) the last one is for making a check mark when the chore is done. Put the chart where everyone can see it and let everyone follow through on their own tasks.

9. Don’t give money for chores. Chores are about teaching responsibility and learning household tasks. True, children need to learn how to handle money, but not by doing chores they are supposed to do anyway. It's especially important to not tie allowances to chores for younger children, because they may be less motivated by money and simply choose to not do them. (Note: There’s one exception. For older children who already know how to be responsible, money can become a nice motivator for doing extra chores above and beyond their usual ones. So, let them bid on those extra chores, and then you pick the lowest bid.)

10. Your youngster can do more than you think. A youngster who has mastered a complicated computer game can easily run a dishwasher. In general, preschoolers can handle one or two simple one-step or two-step tasks. Older kids can manage much more. So, give your children more credit for being smart enough to do what is asked of them, and don’t step in to do the chore for them if they are moving too slowly or are not completing the chore to your perfectionistic specifications.

Here are some suggestions for chores sorted by age...

Chores for kids ages 2 to 3:
•    Dust
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 4 to 5:
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Clear table
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Make their bed
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Water flowers
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 6 to 7:
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Clear table
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Help make and pack lunch
•    Keep bedroom tidy
•    Make their bed
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Set and clear table
•    Sort laundry
•    Sweep floors
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Water flowers
•    Weed and rake leaves
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 8 to 9:
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Clear table
•    Cook simple foods, such as toast
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Help make and pack lunch
•    Help make dinner
•    Keep bedroom tidy
•    Load dishwasher
•    Make own breakfast
•    Make own snacks
•    Make their bed
•    Mop floor
•    Peel vegetables
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put away groceries
•    Put away own laundry
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Set and clear table
•    Sew buttons
•    Sort laundry
•    Sweep floors
•    Take pet for a walk
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Vacuum
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Wash table after meals
•    Water flowers
•    Weed and rake leaves
•    Wipe up spills

Chores for kids ages 10 and older:
•    Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
•    Bring in mail or newspaper
•    Change their bed sheets
•    Clean bathroom
•    Clean kitchen
•    Clean oven
•    Clear table
•    Cook simple foods, such as toast
•    Cook simple meal with supervision
•    Do laundry
•    Dust
•    Empty wastebaskets
•    Fill pet's food dish
•    Fix bowl of cereal
•    Fold laundry
•    Help make and pack lunch
•    Help make dinner
•    Iron clothes
•    Keep bedroom tidy
•    Load dishwasher
•    Make own breakfast
•    Make own snacks
•    Make their bed
•    Mop floor
•    Peel vegetables
•    Pile books and magazines
•    Pull weeds, if you have a garden
•    Put away groceries
•    Put away own laundry
•    Put clothes in hamper
•    Put toys away
•    Set and clear table
•    Sew buttons
•    Sort laundry
•    Sweep floors
•    Take pet for a walk
•    Unload dishwasher
•    Unload utensils from dishwasher
•    Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
•    Vacuum
•    Wash car
•    Wash plastic dishes at sink
•    Wash table after meals
•    Wash windows
•    Water flowers
•    Weed and rake leaves
•    Wipe up spills

My Out-of-Control Child: Help for Parent with Defiant Children

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