Even if we had a big “S” on our shirts to make us SuperMom or SuperDad, there just isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything on our ever growing lists.  To maintain sanity, we need our kids to pitch in and help with chores.  If they can do it with minimal whining and complaining – wow what a bonus!

Two songs come to mind when I think about my kids and chores.  The first is Billy Joel’s Angry Young Man.  The song has been quite appropriate at my house when it comes to chores. Many times this is what occurred in my house when I told them it was time for chores – 3 angry young men… and eventually a grumpy mom and dad.  The second song is Josh Turner’s song Everything is Fine which really put it all into perspective.
The refrain says it all:

Everything is fine, fine, fine

Through the sunshine and the rain.

I got a peace of mind

You know I can’t complain.

I make it a point to thank the Lord

When I got Him on the line.

I’m feeling good and everything is fine.

For the most part, this is the world in which I choose to live.  I am a very positive person who is happy and thankful for what I have, not angry about what is missing. Unfortunately, my “everything is fine” attitude is challenged when I face three grumpy boys who really don’t want to do chores.  So, for our own personal sanity my husband and I developed some strategies for minimizing the wailing and gnashing of teeth which often occurs as a result of the words “I need you to {insert name of any chore here}…”.
Ages 0-5: The Big Help
Search Institute identified 9 Parenting Strategies based on the 40 Developmental Assets which help children become healthy, resilient adults.   Giving small children opportunities to help you and others is great way to introduce them to the importance of being a contributing member of their community.  Most importantly, it lets them know you value their help and that they are an important part of your family.
When my boys were little we didn’t call them chores.  Instead, we asked questions like “Do you think you are big enough to help feed the dogs?”  “Are you strong enough to carry in this bag of groceries?” The boys would look at us with excitement in their eyes and a smile on their faces, say “I’m big!” and off they went to do the work that they didn’t even know was a chore. (Boy do I miss those days.)
Ages 6-12: Game Time
I actually saw this idea in an article about household chores and an article about avoiding routines at work.  While I haven’t tried it myself, I am looking forward to using this strategy with my 10 year old son who watches his high school age brothers try their best to get out of chores.   The strategy is to make it a game or set challenges for getting the chore done well in the shortest amount of time.  For example, instead of giving the order to take out the trash, rephrase it like “How fast can you take out the trash?”  Maybe set a goal for the amount of time it should take and give a small reward when he beats his record.
If teenagers inhabit your house, God bless you! As a mom with two teenage sons, there are days I understand why some animals eat their young. At first, I thought I would use the intellectual approach and explain things such as dishes, lawn care and doing their own laundry are critical life skill for college and beyond.  However, after reading Dr. David Walsh’s book Why Do They Act That Way: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen I realized this approach won’t work because teenage brains just aren’t hard wired for that yet.  Then, I got cranky but discovered cranky mom doesn’t work either.  It just moves me into the Angry Young Man scenario when I want to be in my Everything is Fine world.
Now I opt for a more covert approach.  First, I removed unnecessary tasks, focusing on having my boys do the important ones well.  For example, I joined “keep your bedroom door shut” club.  If I don’t have to look at it then it doesn’t stress me out.  Instead we focus on having them do things that are more visible to neighbors and guests like dishes, lawn and laundry.  Over the last several years, we also began having periodic conversations with them about their chores and giving them the ability to choose which chores they will do regularly.  I also strategically identify which chores must be done before they can do something they want to do.
When it comes to dishes and lawn care, we give them deadlines such as this must be done before you play Xbox or go out with your friends.  At that point, we don’t hassle them to get it done, we simply hold strong by only allowing the privilege once the chore is finished.  As for laundry, I am a firm believer in natural consequences- when they run out of clothes, they do laundry.  While this strategy doesn’t eliminate the whining and complaining, it does help create a framework through which I can say – you know the rules, you know the consequences.  The rest is up to them.
We know chores are a necessary evil.  Like them or not, they teach important independent living skills and help children learn everyone in a family plays a valuable role.  At the same time, it is also important to keep in mind that as kids grow, it is important to change how we view their roles and chores.  Some things are worth the fight and others are not.  If you are struggling to get your kids to do chores in general, check out this ParentFurther.com blog Getting Your Kids to Do Household Chores.



  1. Lyrics to Josh Turner’s song Everything is Fine – www.cowboylyrics.com

  2. 9 Parenting Strategies – Search Institute – http://www.parentfurther.com/why/9-parenting-strategies

  3. Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets – http://www.parentfurther.com/why/research-and-real-world-experience

  4. More Than A Chore – http://life.familyeducation.com/allowance/jobs-and-chores/36039.html?page=1

  5. How to Avoid Mind Numbing Routines While Working – http://epiclaunch.com/avoid-routines-at-work/

  6. David Walsh, Ph.D., Why Do They Act That Way: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen (2004, Search Institute Press)

  7. Getting Your Kids to Do Household Chores – http://www.parentfurther.com/blog/chores