7-year-old Bryce was a master “chore evader.” When asked to help with chores, this distractable drama king would slump over and whine, “But I wanted to play!” His parents, Sandy and Jeff, had run out of ideas and came to me (Lynne) for help.
When kids begin chore wars, often the most effective response is not declaring war but shifting perspective and discipling children through the process. In this case, I helped Sandy and Jeff develop the following practical plan as they shifted their efforts from focusing on “How do we stop the complaining and get some help?” to “How can we use this opportunity to build character and even faith?”
- List all the chores. Sandy and Jeff wrote all essential household chores on note cards. They stacked all the “grown-up chores” together, creating quite an impressive pile. This showed Bryce and his younger brother how much their parents do every day.
- Give children some choice.From the remaining “kid” chores, Sandy and Jeff let the boys choose a manageable number of chore cards. They made it clear what each boy’s responsibilities were.
- Affirm progress (big or small). As the boys got started with the new plan, Sandy and Jeff made sure they put more energy into affirming and encouraging than into nagging and complaining.
- Discuss how responsibility with chores prepares us to serve God and others. Sandy read through 1 Corinthians 12 with Bryce. She talked about how each person has an important job to do in the body of Christ, just like in a family. “Working hard on a family team is a good way to learn to work well on Jesus’ team to bless the world.” It wasn’t an “aha moment” for Bryce, but it was a start in learning an important perspective.
This simple and concrete plan empowers kids to take ownership of and responsibility for their housework. In Sandy and Jeff’s home, it helped them feel more peaceful and the boys to (mostly) do their chores willingly and with good attitudes. So remember, when your kids begin a chore war, don’t engage them in battle — engage them in practicing service by working together for the family team!