When it comes to getting your kids to help with chores around the house, it’s critical to consider the age of the child. At first, very young children are going to need lots of direction and specific, step-by-step instructions on what to do.

For example, with a 3 year old, you might say, "Jack, I need you to pick up all of your Lego and put them into the Lego box in the next 10 minutes. I’m going to set the kitchen timer and when it rings, all of the Lego need to be in the box. If they aren’t, you won’t be able to play with them tomorrow." Then set the timer and follow through.

Assuming that Jack gets his Lego put away to your satisfaction, you can move on to another task, such as putting his picture books on the shelf or placing his dirty clothes in the hamper.

Although this approach will demand more of your time and attention, it’s much less frustrating and anger-provoking than repeatedly yelling, "Clean up this room, or you’ve had it!" You’ll also find that giving specific, step-by-step instructions, backed by consequences, will yield much better results.

With older kids who can read and write, it can be helpful to write their daily chores on a small white board that you hang on their wall or to give them chore cards that spell out the specific actions they need to take in order to complete a task. Again, be specific about the deadline for completing the task and what the consequence will be if they don’t get the job done.

By the way, when using consequences with kids, it’s most effective to balance both positive and negative consequences. If we simply punish our kids for bad behaviour or failing to follow through, they can easily become discouraged. It’s just as important to praise and reward our kids for their good behaviour. So when your children consistently follows though on their chores, such as cleaning their room, they should receive verbal praise, a hug and even an occasional small reward.

Many parents have found that sticker charts can be a great motivator. Each time a child follows through with a task, he receives a sticker. When he earns a certain amount of stickers, he then receives a special privilege or treat for his efforts.

Dr. Bill Maier

Dr. Bill Maier is a veteran broadcaster with a background in both general market and Christian radio and holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. During his time at Focus on the Family, Bill hosted the Weekend Magazine program, the Family Minute with Dr. Bill Maier, and the Family Insights TV news feature.

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