Get your kids to do their chores without yelling, bribing, conditioning, or using tactics of fear.
I didn’t have to research before writing this article, but I’m a systematic sort of a person, so I did 🙂 And you know what I learned? I learned that most people on this planet make other people, mainly younger and smaller people, do what they want them to do by making them feel bad, by promising them a reward, or by telling them exactly what will happen if they won’t.
And you know what? It doesn’t work. And if it does – the price of lost connection is just way too much compared to the chore at hand.
Why Is It So Hard to Get Your Kids To Do Their Chores?
Getting the kids to do chores became so hard because we have everything backward! We’re so used to thinking in terms of “kids NEED to do chores” that we forgot that kids WANT to do chores!
That’s right. Most children have it within them! Do you remember how your little one would line everything up? Shoes, LEGO blocks, dolls, action figures? We’re born with a natural tendency for order, some more than others, sure, but we all have it.
Being mindful to the smallest things babies and toddlers do, might change your entire parenting experience. So if your child is still very young, start introducing her to the concept of needs and feelings right now 🙂 Instead of telling her “wow you’ve lined everything up!” Tell her “wow! I have a need for order and seeing you line everything up makes me so happy and proud”.
If you’re thinking “well, that’s a weird thing to say to a toddler” think again 🙂 It’s as honest as a reaction can get and most importantly – it aligns her intrinsic motivations with your needs from DAY ONE. Whenever I’m lucky enough to teach mothers to be, or young mothers who I know will incorporate this practice into their lives, I know their kids will be doing their chores happily.
Order and Connection Are Basic Human Needs
Our society teaches us to neglect the most basic human need, which is the need to make our loved ones happy. When we make a loved one happy, we are happy. It is so simple! And kids are the same – when they make their parents happy – they are as happy as they can be.
Happiness and connection are what we need to build our parenting practices upon, instead of consequences, rewards, and tactics of fear, guilt, and shame.
Focus On The Why, Not On The What
When we ask ourselves WHAT do we want our children to do, addressing it and making it happen using consequences, rewards, and fear tactics make sense – because we’re only looking at the WHAT.
When we ask ourselves WHY do we want our children to do what we want them to do, a different answer comes up. We want them to learn positive and nurturing values, and we want them to be active parts of society, who know that they belong and that they matter.
No matter the WHAT, the WHY is always the same, and we won’t get there with consequences, rewards, and tactics of fear.
So How Do We Get Older Kids To Do Their Chores?
If your child is older and the train of encouraging her intrinsic motivations has left the station and some consequences, rewards, and tactics of fear were already used, don’t worry. We can reverse everything 🙂
If you’ll follow these steps mindfully, carefully, and wholeheartedly – a few weeks from now your child will do her chores without you having to ask for it.
#1: Stop Demanding, Start Requesting
People (of all ages) don’t like to be told what do do. When we are ordered, we experience a diminished sense of self as we are robbed from our autonomy, and denied our freedom of choice. All this happens as soon as you say “go clean your room!” and counter will is what you get. All human beings are designed to resist control and dominance.
On the other hand, when we are asked to help, when we are given a choice whether we want or don’t want to do something and are empowered to listen to our inner voice – our intrinsic motivation of making our loved ones happy gets a chance to vividly shine within us and positively rule our lives.
So what does it practically mean? When you ask your child to help you with something (a chore), and she says “no” accept the fact that she doesn’t have to. She doesn’t have to. You want her to do it because you want her to want to do it, not because she’s afraid of what might happen if she won’t. Share your needs and feelings with her, tell her that a clean house (or whatever the chore is) meets your needs for order, ease, peace, and beauty and you feel connected and relaxed when the house is clean.
Not only that you’d be introducing her to the fundamental needs we all share (if you’re asking me, this is one of the more important aspects of parenting) but you will give her the ability to choose whether she wants to help you meet your needs. If your connection is in place – in a very short little while her “no” will become a “yes”.
#2: Focus On The Process, Not On The Result
Let’s say that you’ve asked your child to sort out her toys. Thirty minutes later you enter the room, and you see that she didn’t advance that much. Instead of saying “it’s been thirty minutes and you only have the dolls in their place” tell her “wow! you have all your dolls put away! This is great! Do you need my help or are you okay here”?
Imagine the difference in the feelings arising after each response: the first response will make her feel bad, a sense that doesn’t help in wanting to do something better. The second response is empowering, positive, addressing her needs and complimenting on the progress she had already made.
These feelings are the feelings that make us all DO BETTER.
#3: Start Small
If you have a huge chore or a long list of smaller chores, this might be pretty intimidating. Unlike adults who were already taught to focus on the future outcome, kids are very much in the present. If they don’t have a clear and visible path between what you’ve asked them to do and what needs to be done – it will be hard for them even to start.
So if the room is a total mess, don’t ask her to go and clean it. Instead, ask her to put the LEGO away. When she completes this task give her a huge hug, tell her how happy and proud you are, and move on to the next task.
#4: Set Your Expectations To The Right Level
The internet is full of age-appropriate chores – use it 🙂 Make sure that you are asking your child to do something she actually can do. Otherwise, you’re setting all of you up for failure.
#5: Team Up
Working as a team meets a variety of our needs; connection, closeness, belonging, to see and be seen, to know and be known, support, and companionship are just a few of them. Do things together. It is so important and so easy 🙂
If you want your kids to do their chores without yelling, bribing, conditioning, or using tactics of fear – this is your way to go. Your child wants to be good to you, and good for you. She needs this for her development. I promise you that if you use this method, consistently, for a few weeks – your little one will be doing her chores like a champ!
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