Teaching kids to do their share around the house

We all have different memories of how chores are handled in a family. We remember June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver, who seemed to do everything for everybody in her household (and no maid either!) But then I also remember Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons where the kids were expected to do their fair share.

Teaching kids to do their fair share

We could argue that was during a different day, without modern conveniences, so kids HAD to help so the work would get done. And MAYBE that is true, however, there is more at stake than just getting the work done.

Why kids should help (be sure to scroll to bottom for freebie!)

1. Kids need to learn to do their part so that they learn to be part of a team. They need to learn the earth does not revolve around them. They don’t need to expect you to do everything for them. And help us all if this generation continues to grow up with this sense of being “entitled” to everything!

They need to learn to take care of their belongings so that they last longer, or they don’t get lost. They need to learn to help one another and do something for others, just for the sake of being nice. Teaching them to help around the house will help to instill these character lessons.

2. You should not have to take care of everything yourself. Or you and your husband. Every household has a different dynamic, whether you work in the home or outside of the home, the number of children and their ages, etc. And I am a firm believer in both man and woman doing their fair share.

If your children are very young, of course most of the work has to be done by the adults in the family. However, as a child grows, they can begin to learn some responsibilities. This is a tough stage as many times it would be easier and quicker to just do the task yourself. I promise you though, if you will take the time to train your kids when they are younger, and set the standards for teamwork in your family, you will eventually reap the rewards. And they can be some really BIG rewards.

If you happen to be a stay-at-home mom who feels it is her responsibility to take care of her family, I applaud you. However, taking care of them does not mean being at their beck and call. Once children get to the ages of 3 or 4, they should beginning to learn to do some things on their own. And once that expectation is set, you can increase their responsibilities as they mature.

Teaching kids to clean

One major goal of parenting

Remember, your job as a parent is to raise a mature, responsible, well-rounded adult. Not a young adult who has not been expected to do their own laundry, clean their bathroom, vacuum the house, take out the garbage, etc.

The goal as they mature is to be able to turn over areas of responsibility to them. It becomes THEIR job. Not only is this important for them as a growing adult, it will greatly reduce your physical load (the emotional load is a whole different story and post!)

Having raised 4 children to adulthood, I learned much of this the hard way. I will tell you this, my children were doing all their own laundry by the time they were 11 or 12. And before that point, they had to help fold and put away laundry. Having 4 kids, it was a big relief to me to not have to do their laundry. It was no longer my responsibility. I was only responsible for myself and my husband. See: How to do less laundry

Another task I passed on to my children was the dishes. They would help me when they were younger, but eventually the task was rotated monthly between kids and I very rarely ever did the dishes for the last 10 years (until the last 2 kids moved out this summer!)

Teach beginning household tasks while young

Teaching children household responsibilities should begin when they are young and still very eager to help. As you are taking care of your kids day-to-day, use your everyday experiences to teach them responsibility.

Many times toddlers get underfoot while you are doing tasks. Instead of shooing them away to play, let them help you match socks or put the spoons away. While you are cooking, let them bring you and ingredient or stir.  They need to learn to clean up the bathroom after they’ve had a bath or put their plate in the sink or even rinse and put in the dishwasher.

Once children hit elementary age, they can really take on harder chores with some supervision. While you want them to learn skill and learn to do a job correctly, remember that they are children and extend some grace!

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40 comments to Teaching kids to do their share around the house

  • My kids wouldn’t do any of those 🙁

  • Absolutely, getting children involved is so important! Kid-sized tools help little ones get even more involved in housework. http://www.theinspiredbudget.com/index.php/including-children-in-everyday-household-tasks-is-worth-the-effort/

  • Hi there! I just did a post on kid’s chores over on my website http://www.chelsearowe.com. Thanks for the tips!

  • Ria

    … absolutely they do, and have been doing them since they were little (my eldest is 17 my youngest is 5)

    Not only do they do chores, but have been an amazing help to us while renovating our house. They are developing so many skills that will serve them in good stead when they leave the nest.

    They all learn to iron when they are high school age (12-13) and from that point on, unless it is tricky or I offer then they want it ironed they do it themselves. I do the washing, but they can and do wash also.

    I am a huge believer of having kids leave the nest ready.

    That has included allocating my son a budget and making him responsible for his clothing/phone/transport/fun etc.

  • This is so important for the future of our children. I wish more parents would build this routines into their schedules. It helps everyone and our children grow into responsible adults.
    Thank you for creating this list.

  • Laurie

    I have a 4 1/2 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. Both offer to help once in a while, but not very often. If I ask them to help with the age appropriate things and they say they don’t want to, what do you recommend to get them to do it, or better yet actually want to help?

  • Val

    My children both help my husband and I with chores. They are 8 and 3. My oldest son vacuums, dusts, cleans bathrooms, makes beds, dishes, laundry. Basically anything I ask him. Baseboards, sweep mop. He is old enough for most anything.
    My youngest son help load and unload the dishwasher, load and unload washer and dryer. He will help me cook, gather up dirty dishes from around the house, and take out light trash. I don’t give my children the option of helping. We have talked about the important things that have to get done around the house and all of us are apart of the family. Sometimes they don’t really want to, but they do because they understand they are important to the family and these things are important to keep our family going. Be consistant!

  • April

    My girlies have chore charts that include basics such as making beds and picking up laundry daily, as well as taking care of their dishes (rinsing, loading, putting away) and putting laundry away. Personal chores are required, and they do well (ages 9 and 5). We try to include money management with their skills, so for tasks such as sweeping a floor, processing a load of family laundry, or scrubbing the bathroom, they earn a small amount of money (10-25 cents for each–not much, but something). They have their own savings accounts and are allowed to spend the money they have earned, but because they are working for it, they are much more responsible with it.

  • Bonnie

    My 15 month old puts away the tupperware from the dishwasher, and swiffers the floor (not perfectly, but she loves brooms). She also puts away her toys and her daddy’s shoes.

  • […] forward to browsing the blog a bit more in the future, but for starters, I would suggest reading, Teaching Kids to do their Share Around the House as well as 10 Habits for a Well-Run Home. The 2nd article I mentioned has some tips that, if put […]

  • Una

    Great motivation to get the kids working more but it sounds like your husband should do more too:)

  • sylvia thompson

    we all did chores when our kids were growing up. And because I wanted them to know basically everything about running a home, the chores were rotated. every birthday they were changed and increased. And they were always involved in planning and organizing their parties. When they got to age 12, any party they wanted to have at our home was first vetted by us, then planned, organized, prepared for and cleaned up after by themselves. (I often helped with the food prep). As a result, my daughter had one of the loveliest weddings I’ve seen and on a very small budget too!

    One reason cores are important for children that you didn’t mention is that they feel like they belong and are contributing. They actually feel good about themselves when they do a good job and are appreciated (with praise or thanks) after they have done well.

    If you are a working mom, everyone (hubbies included) pulling together in managing the home is crucial. If you are a stay at home mom, helping your children grow into mature adults requires that they also learn to do their chores. This will help you stay respected when they grow older and start comparing their mom with their friends moms who do work.

  • Jeanette

    Love it. I am a mom of 5 ages 8 and under and my boys help with the dinner mess. But I was wondering what else they could do, your list was very helpful.

  • Merriam

    I have 4 kids at home ages 7-12, 2 boys and 2 girls, they pick up their own messes, they do their own laundry, help with dishes, dust water plants, clean their own bathroom, clean their bedrooms and make their beds, and pick up doggie doo from the back yard. There are more chores during summer months, to get the work done faster so we can all play, these include, washing walls and base boards, cleaning out the cars (cause they’re the ones that mess them up) feeding the pets, and watering the lawn. They also each take turns helping make dinner. Grandma was pretty impressed when she had the kids for the weekend and they cooked dinner for her all by themselves!

  • Shannon

    I have 3 kids ages 6,9,and 12 and they all do chores. We require them to have everyday chores such as keeping rooms/bathrooms picked up and taking care of their own individual dinner dishes (they have to wash, dry and put away their own individual dishes so I only have run the dishwasher once all day!) We started young, as was mentioned, having them complete age appropriate tasks and slowly adding more until they were able to do it all on their own. Each child was different and we tailored their responsibilities to their abilities. We also have a chore jar. It is simply a small flowerpot with every possible chore written on popsicle sticks. We alter the chores for the youngest, if needed. (Example: “Take out the trash” means all bathroom trash for her instead of the regular heavy kitchen trash). They have to choose an extra chore from the chore jar as punishment for arguing, talking back, etc. That’s just our way! Hope it sparks an idea for someone else 🙂

  • Kendra

    This is a great list. My son, who is 8, has to empty the dishwasher, put away his clothes, take care of his room, help with his sister (she is 6 months) when I am not immediately available, and a few other chores as requested. My stepdaughter also has chores when she comes over for a visit. This is done so that everyone realizes that all the people that are in the household need to chip in to help the household run smoother. My ex today just asked me why our son has to empty the dishwasher…after all he is only 8!

  • Laura

    It’s also VERY hard, as an older child/adult, when you get out on your own–if you haven’t been taught/made to do your share around the house! Take it from me. I wasn’t made, at least on a regular and increasing basis, to do chores. Then, I moved out when I was 17. And it took me a LOOOONG time to learn how to keep house half-decently well. My house was a DISASTER! So, I hope to teach my own children the value of hard work & chores, so they won’t have the struggle with slovenliness that I did!

  • Deena

    My daughter started doing her own laundry when she was 12 and my middle son is now doing his own laundry, he is 13 (football gear is STINKY). My youngest feeds all the pets (2 cats, 1 dog, fish and 1 rabbit). They are all responsible for cleaning their bathroom, they take turns (set up their own schedule even)and their bedrooms. The two older kids take out the trash and the boys mow the lawn under my husbands’ supervision. We firmly believe that they need to learn now that they’ll have to work the rest of their lives, who better to teach them the basics? Great piece, I was excited to see that others agree with us, considering we get looked at like we’re horrible for “making” our kids do so much work.

  • Patti

    For us, “chores” are how we work together to take care of each other and the house. For my 8yo (with special needs) and my 6yo (who may need convincing to participate), I often work with them. It is more fun to work together, stuff gets sorted as I like, they learn the finer points of how to do the job (instead of the vagueness of “clean up”) and they have started to not need as much direction on how to do the job.

    The summer is a great time for us to do this on the days when we are all home together, so they learn to do the work and don’t grow up thinking the house maintains itself (if things were done while they are off doing something else).

  • candice

    Yes to assigning chores! My kids, all boys ages 14, 10, & 6 all have the same chores in a rotation.

    I divide the house into zones, usually paring a hard/gross/time consuming job with a easy job. Living room, dishes/doggie dootie, bathroom/recycle, bathroom/trash, gameroom.

    I made a chore card for each zone listing the jobs with in the zone (for the living room pick up toys, sweep/vac, windex glass table, remove any trash/ dishes.) and a monthly chart that lists who is on duty in which area for the week.

    Anything not covered by a kid that week is on Mom & Dad. This shows the kids, (like the 14 year old who questions everything)that Mom & Dad aren’t using you as ‘slaves’, we have the exact same chores you do but more and more in depth (like mopping & scrubbing). And it keeps me from scrambling trying to get someone to take out the trash…if it’s my week, I just do it. The boys have each gotten on to me for not remembering to replace the bag :-/

    I also made a “Help Wanted” chart with extra jobs that need doing just maybe not daily such as bring down the hampers & sort the laundry, dust the tables, sweep the stairs.

    I do give an allowance for chores. I know some people say that’s a NONO but I look at it as teaching them to save- I’ve stopped buying them junk on impulse and make them wait until ‘pay day’. And, the rule is they can only spend every other ‘pay check’, the rest is savings. They actually prefer to save, though I’m not sure what they are saving up for (crossing fingers it’s college!).

    For the allowance, I assigned a point value to each chore. Every point earns them 25 cents. So at the end of the week, depending on their week rotation, they earn $8-$11 each. PLUS the value of the “Help Wanted” jobs if they chose to do any. (I limit those to only 2 per day…they were fighting over who could do an extra job for a while and I was shelling out more than I wanted to.)

    So yes, it costs me @$30 a week to keep my house mostly tidy. But, it’s tidy, I’m not screaming at the kids to clean up (they know what they are to do, they are screaming at each other to not make a mess in “MY AREA”), and I’m contributing to their savings on a much more regular basis that I had been. I think its a win win.

  • […] Teaching Kids to Do Their Share Around the House- a lot of great information here! […]

  • […] What CAN you control? You can set plans to declutter certain areas of your house each week. You can teach your children to do their fair share. You can set up a system to clean your house more efficiently and effectively. These are each steps […]

  • Janell

    I completely agree! For us before 3 toddlers are little helpers when they turn three its time to learn their role independently. Everyone has a part and it’s important to the workings of the house. By the time they are ten they should be efficient enough in handling everything inside the home to keep themselves functioning. The rest of time is practice so when they are officially adults they are propaired!!!!

  • Great article. I agree 100%

  • Tracy

    This is a great article, I wish I had read it 23 years ago. Some where along the way I forgot that my job was to raise a ” mature, responsible, well-rounded adult”, I only had one child, a daughter and at 23 yrs old she is beautiful, smart, educated and fun to be around. She is not mature, responsible or even well-rounded except for her education. I wanted to make things easier for her than they were for me,to give her a wonderful, exciting childhood, full of fun and beautiful memories. I did that. It is what I didn’t give her that is the problem- Now she is struggling in a world that I did not prepare her for.

  • Julisa

    Loved it!! Growing up at my house chores were a part of life. You lived there, you helped. My mom and dad worked all the time so is 4 girls did everything. I thank God I know how to keep a clean house. These days parents want to do everything for their kids, it’s a shame. Kids should be a help, not extra work. I love the smell of Clorox and Lysol in a sparkling house!!!

  • jastil

    at 4months i would place my son in his walker,and hand him a mop or small vacumme. just let him go crazy,he loved it. never to early to start.

  • Susan

    I only have one child; a seven-year-old son. In addition to acting like a gentleman and having simple good manners (demonstrated by such things as putting away his dirty dishes, cleaning up after himself, putting things he takes out back where they belong), my son has a handful of unpaid chores. Currently his chores consist of cleaning his bathroom (except for the shower/tub) and the downstairs half-bath on the weekend, feeding and giving clean water to our dog 2x/day, emptying the dishwasher’s utensil tray as needed, sorting his and his father’s cleaned socks as needed. When practical, I have him sort dirty laundry with me, but I don’t yet trust him to this task. I think the biggest job he does is clean up his playroom. Why? Well, he has grown up without electronic toys…a decision I made purposefully to help him become a creative person. (It has paid off. Even his teachers say he is an out-of-the-box thinker…like in math! Math!) Part of his play is by nature messy. Blocks built into this or that over here, Lego’s built into this or that over there, empty toilet paper rolls turned into this or that, you get the idea. Over the course of a week he will create an entire world. Balancing the need for both creativity and order, we have our son clean up his playroom twice a month, or whenever needed for special company. This means he has to sort through everything on his little table and all over the floor and put it all in the corresponding basket on his wall of bookshelves. He does this totally unsupervised and has since, um, I’d say he was six years old. Before that we did it together so he would learn the fairly complex skill required in that sort of cleaning/organizing. He is welcome to do dishes any night for extra money. He does a much, much better job than his father. Most nights I wish he were just a little more materialistic! I’m not sure why he isn’t. We also only get him toys on his birthday and Christmas. And he currently has $240 saved, which represents years of savings and a lot of restraint on his part. He only spends on things he thinks he will want long term.

  • Susan

    I would like to add that I only allow my son to use “green” cleaning agents. That may be using simple and cheap vinegar in a spray bottle or Bon Ami, or *relatively* expensive products from companies such as Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyer’s. I do not want his little, developing lungs breathing in toxic agents.

  • My 3 year old is really good at cleaning our sliding glass door windows and he also ‘mops’ the floor with a washcloth. He can vacuum too since ours is a canister vacuum. Also, if I give him a basket he can go through the house and pick up his toys and bring them to his room. He also likes helping when we juice fruits and veggies. He can carry small bags of garbage out to the dumpster, but he isn’t coordinated enough to empty trashcans. He is also way too rambunctious to help do dishes, but he does carry them to the sink. He just likes to play too much, so certain things just don’t happen. I’m trying to let him help more now, but sometimes it’s hard. I tried to teach him how to clean the toilet and he just wasn’t coordinated enough to do it. He’d rather splash in the yucky water anyways. 😛 Maybe we’ll wait another year on that one.

  • This is so important for kids to learn. My mother never had me do any chores — she thought a child’s job was to play. This was a great life as a kid. But then I grew up and didn’t know how to do anything. I had no perception of how a household functions or how much work goes into keeping a house livably clean. It’s been a struggle to train and discipline myself to accept the fact that housework exists and is necessary. All this stuff was second nature to my cousins, who grew up having chores and helping around the house. So I am determined that our kids (when they come along) will have chores and responsibilities as soon as they are able to start learning, not just to ease the load on my husband and I, but so that they are better prepared for adult life.

  • Great article. I posted it on my facebook fan page!
    I love your First point about team work. I created the Ready, Set…Clean! training DVD to help families learn how to work as a team and create a game plan that WORKS! This is such an important issue and so many parents are stuck in a rut and don’t know how to create a family team. That is why I created my website! I love how your blogs often focus on chores and getting kids involved in cleaning. I will continue to share your blog posts on my facebook page. Keep up the good work!!

    My motto on my website: Supercharge your family to be a supersonic green team that can tackle the everyday messes of life!



  • Amber thompson

    We have 3 boys, 15, 14, and 10. We have 3 groups of chores that rotate on a weekly basis. Works really well for us.

  • PSEHMhoV…

    Teaching kids household responsibility | The Stressed Mom…

  • Amy

    My children do chores but not necessarily assigned ones. They are expected to do what I ask of them when I ask. My oldest two have been making their own lunches for school since kindergarten and all my children (including the 4 year old) fold their own laundry and put it away. Other chores include clearing off the table when they are done eating, picking up toys and helping in the yard. My children often ask about allowance and I tell them we don’t pay for chores. That is part of living in this house where your meals are free – you help keep it clean.

  • Amber

    My three older kids all have set tasks they have to do (clean bedroom, put clothes in the laundry, help tidy the lounge room daily, etc) Then there are their kitchen chores. As there are three of them, there are three ‘sets’ of jobs. 1. Drying dishes and putting them away (after mum washes them) and also wiping down the counters. 2. Clearing the table after dinner, wiping it down, and taking out the garbage to the bin outside. 3. Picking up and sweeping the kitchen/dining floor. They need reminders to get their jobs done, and are happy on Monday, when they swap to the new job, as whichever job they JUST had was the HARDEST. lol
    But, at ages 8, 10, and 11, I think these jobs are not too hard.
    Then occasionally, they have additional jobs, that they can earn a bit of extra pocket money. Putting on a load of laundry, or vacuuming the bathroom, etc.
    Such good helpers. And my 10 yo daughter is starting to want to cook on occasion. So she plans what she wants to cook, and mum helps. She is getting to almost being able to do the whole thing on her own.

  • Tina

    I was raised not being allowed to do chores. My mother always said “a child does not belong in the kitchen.” When I turned 15, I was allowed to do the dishes, nothing more. I didn’t do my own laundry until I went to college. I was never allowed to touch the vacume. I was just to dust the furniture. After returning from my honeymoon, my husband came home for dinner to find me in tears because I didn’t know how to make the boxed macaroni and cheese! Thankfully my husband had been taught to cook and many other chores when he was young. I vowed then that my children were going to know how to do household chores. Teaching children to do household chores teaches them responsibility. All of my children (now ages 25, 24, 22, 19 and 10) have been taught from about 5 years old to do laundry, dishes, vacuming, bathrooms and more when they got older. Some things I learned right along with them. My older children are now responsible adults with families of there own. We don’t give them allowances, we put $25 a month in a savings account a month from birth and when they are 18 it is theres to spend. They have used it for college and missions.