The benefits of including your child in the daily chores are numerous, but no parent enjoys listening to the whining and complaining that may come with the process. Is it possible to teach your child to do chores without having to listen to all the grumbling? Or even do their chores willingly? Or *gasp* – happily?!
Here are 6 ways to help your child actually enjoy doing chores.
1. Work together
Rather than sending your child off to the lonely world of doing chores on their own, make it a family affair!
Children are social creatures. “Young children love companionship and can seldom enjoy themselves alone.”  (And doing chores alone is even worse!)
Live life with your child. Play together, go outside together, talk together, sing together, laugh together… and work together. We can impart to our children “few gifts so valuable as the gift of [our] own companionship.”  Even a toddler can be included in all of the duties of the home, from preparing breakfast to cleaning the house to washing the car and everything in between.
Another benefit of working together as a team is that this method helps prevent the “That’s not my job!” attitude. Children learn that the family is a team and everyone pitches in and all help each other. Chores are not drudgery, but rather opportunities – opportunities to be together, to make a positive contribution to the family, to show our care and concern for others, to have fun and enjoy our time together. This approach helps children to lose their self-focus and learn to be aware of the needs of others.
As an added bonus, children who grow up working with their parents and siblings tend to feel closer to their parents and are less likely to be rebellious as teenagers.
2. Start young
Involving children in household chores at an early age – by age 2 or 3 – is perhaps the best way to help them enjoy doing chores.
If a toddler doesn’t have too many toys and other distractions, he/she usually wants to be involved in any activity that the parent is doing – whether it be sweeping the floor or doing the laundry or cooking a meal. When parents cheerfully accept this “help”, the child learns that working with mom and dad is a happy and very normal part of everyday life. Chores become a habit and children learn to expect to do them, thus parents meet with less resistance when it comes to chores.
Yes, it’s faster to set the table yourself than to watch your two-year-old carry every single spoon over to the table. One. By. One. Yes, it’s easier to prepare a meal yourself than to clean almond butter out of your child’s eyelashes. But if you don’t include your children in the chores when they are young, they are much less likely to want to be included in the chores later.
As soon as a child learns to walk, he can help with work around the house. When you’re doing laundry, give your little one clothes to put in the washing machine too. When you are washing dishes, let your child rinse them. (It’s okay if they get some water on the floor. They can also learn to clean up their messes.) When you are cooking a meal, give your child the job of tearing lettuce leaves, mixing the seasonings into the rice, or putting the potatoes into the saucepan (before it is placed on the stove).
3. Minimize the competition
For a small child, a broom is a toy. A dust cloth is a toy. And washing dishes can be loads of fun. Work and play are often synonymous. But when children are continually surrounded with toys and other forms of entertainment, their brains gradually become accustomed to being entertained and they lose the creativity and ingenuity that saw the joy and fun in a broom or a cleaning cloth. Instead of finding enjoyment in work, they become used to being entertained. Consequently, their motivation to help with useful work gradually decreases.
It’s a fact that the more toys a child has, the more easily he will become bored with work.
Children who have fewer toys tend to have longer attention spans, be less selfish, and have more perseverance – all of which are super important for helping a child enjoy doing chores.
If you want your children to enjoy doing chores, minimize the toys and maximize the happy time doing things together.
4. Don’t use chores as a punishment
Doing work together should be a happy part of a child’s life. Never use chores as a punishment, and keep any talk (including your own) about chores, positive!
I remember as a very young child (perhaps 4 or 5 years of age) hearing my grandmother talk about how thankful she was to be able to do dishes. I sometimes would stand on my tiptoes and peek over the edge of the sink to see what was in the dishwater that made her dishwashing such a delight.
Instead of presenting chores as something you have to do, they should be presented as a privilege. Parents can talk about how work is an opportunity to learn new skills, how it is a privilege of being a valuable part of the family, how it develops patience and perseverance, how it is a privilege to be healthy and strong enough to do the work.
And more than mere talk, a parent’s attitude and demeanor while working, showing a positive attitude and enjoyment of doing chores, will go a long way toward helping a child view chores as enjoyable.
5. Communicate with your child
Rather than barking orders or arbitrarily assigning tasks to your children, talk with them about why specific chores need to be done. If we don’t wash the dishes, we won’t have any plates to eat off of. If we don’t wash our clothes, we won’t have any clothes to wear.
The reasons for doing these chores may seem obvious to you, but they may not be so obvious to a young child, so be sure to help them to see the value of the work.
6. Make it a habit.
If certain chores happen at specific times of the day with little variability, children will come to expect it and parents will meet with much less resistance.
Children Can Love Chores
Children who are daily involved with the family chores tend to be happier, have better academic success, have better relationships, and better success in their careers when compared with those who didn’t have chores when young. [3, 4, 5, 6] Helping your child learn to like doing chores takes effort, but it’s worth every minute and happy smile you put into it.
1. Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, 388
2. Ellen White, Education, 212
3. Eva H. Telzer and Andrew J. Fuligni, “Daily Family Assistance and the Psychological Well-Being of Adolescents From Latin American, Asian, and European Backgrounds”, Developmental Psychology 45, No 4, (2009) 1177–1189
4. Marty Rossmann, “Involving Children In Household Tasks: Is It Worth The Effort?” (2002)
5. George E. Vaillant, Charles C. McArthur, Arlie Bock, “Grant Study of Adult Development, 1938-2000”, Harvard Dataverse, 2019
6. Albernaz A., Sparing chores spoils children and their future selves, study says. The Boston Globe. December 8, 2015. https://www.bostonglobe.com