Okay, one of these just kind of sucks. And the other actually helps.
Here is perhaps the biggest takeaway from the chores chapter of How to Be a Happier Parent: kids will do chores. Seriously. They’re all capable. The only difference between a kid who doesn’t do chores and the 5-year-old in Peru’s Amazon region hauling “logs bigger than her legs” to help build a fire is (I hate this, I really do):
Man, that blows. But there really is one simple truth about chores, besides all the things that conspire to make it harder to get kids to do them (and they’re out there), and that is this: if you genuinely expect or need your your child to help out around the house, he will. Star charts, allowances, chore wheels, rewards, punishments—they all work if we make them work. If we stick with them. If we don’t decide it’s easier to just do it ourselves, or that homework and sports are more important, or that we can let it go just this once, which turns into every time.
Did I mention I hate that? Because this is my struggle too, absolutely. But here’s the second thing, and this one I love.
Most of us want our kids to do chores without being reminded. Let go of that second half, and suddenly your kids are doing chores.
This sounds so simple, but it turned out that separating those two things was the one biggest thing I could do to see change. I’d love it if my kids cleaned up after dinner every night without being asked, but they don’t. That doesn’t mean my husband and I should give up, or that we’ve failed.
It just means we have to ask. And remind. And ask again. And call back anyone who’s already slipped away from the table, and tell the kid who has to go to the bathroom to hold it. And that’s okay.
“I don’t get offended when they don’t remember,” one parent interviewed in the book said. “But I don’t ever let them off the hook.”
Once I separated the two goals—help me out here, and help me out without being asked—things got better. And I got happier. I hope it will work for you, too.