10 rules for teaching kids household chores

Mom and two children washing dishes in the kitchen.

You want household chores to be shared by everyone in the family.

But are you sabotaging those beginner efforts instead of encouraging them?

Learning the ropes when it comes to cleaning takes time.

With encouragement and building on kids' natural desire to please, we can nurture them toward becoming cleaning experts, too.

These 10 rules for teaching kids household chores can help you keep the experience positive.

1.   Don't Have Too Many Rules for Household Chores

If you have too many rules for chores - about when chores get done, how well they are done, how much time must be spent to complete a task - you'll do more to defeat a child's natural inclination to want to please than encourage it.

If your standards are too high for a 6-year-old, she'll never feel the satisfaction of a job well done (at least considering her age.) And be sure you are considering chores by age as you dole out assignments. Make sure that the assigned tasks are age-appropriate.

2.   Lead by Example

As the time-honored saying goes, it isn't what you say; it's what you do that will stick with your kids. If your papers, files, and books are neatly stacked, your child might think twice before he leaves his stuff on the floor.

So do the right thing, whether the kids are around or not. After all, you may as well lead the way, right?

3.   Limit Daily Chore Time 

Age appropriate chores for kids should take a child no more than 15 to 30 minutes a day, max.

4.   Do Chores Together 

Resist the temptation to assign too many chores that send your children off on their own. From a kid's point of view, tidying his bedroom after school each day is downright banishment.

Better still: Create a family cleanup time each day or once a week where everyone tackles the assigned chores.

After all, misery loves company, and the chores have to be done. So schedule a reasonable amount of time for daily chores (or the weekly variety) and get to it - together.

5.   Don't Nitpick

Don't be too picky about your child's results; he is, after all, a child. (Okay, you can press the perfection point a bit harder with your teens.)

And whatever you do, don't let your son or daughter see you redoing any of her chores. When a child feels successful at something, she's more likely to continue doing it.

6.   Focus on the Big Picture

While one goal of housecleaning with kids is to help you take a load off, the more important goal is to teach your children the life skills they'll need to run an organized, efficient home someday on their own.

7.   Ensure Success By Practicing Patience

Take the time to show your child how to succeed at a household chore.

For example, tell your teen about the wonders of bleach on white cotton polos and about its devastating effect on black Lycra running shorts before sending him off to the laundry room.

8.   Break Down Big Tasks

Don't tell your preschooler to tidy up his room. That's too daunting. Instead, say, "Let's put all the dinosaurs in the red tub."

Then, when that task is complete, continue with `Now let's put our crayons into the cup."

You might not even get the room buffed on the first attempt. Then again, the goal here is to make kids feel good about what they did. Make the job small enough to do well.

9.   Make Helping Easy for Kids

Whenever possible, set up your housecleaning with kids in mind. Stash a stool in the laundry room so even your littlest family member can help load the washer.

Place breakfast dishes on a bottom shelf within reach of your 4-year-old so she can set the table herself.

10.   Praise Often

Be effusive in your praise. Remember the last aced test proudly thrust in your hands after school? Our little ones delight in our joy at the work of their hands. And that can include household chores.

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