Teaching Kids Responsibility: Chores for Every Age 

posted: 01/12/17
by: Katie Morton
Son Helping Father To Wash Dishes In Kitchen Sink

Once the dust of the holiday whirlwind has settled, many families list clean up and organize the house as a top New Year's resolution. Tapping your kids for assistance with household chores is a terrific way to make your housework load lighter while instilling a sense of responsibility and diligence in your children.

According to pediatric expert Dr. Brazelton, kids as young as two can start with simple, basic chores. University of Maryland psychology professor and author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, Dr. Roger W. McIntire concurs, "A child has to have some responsibilities."

If you're not sure where to start, read on for five tips on how to get your kids on board with chores (with minimal grumbling).

1. Remind Yourself: Practice Makes Perfect (or Close Enough)

One way to make sure that kids of any age are successful with chores is to mentally downgrade your expectations of perfection. The way you would load the dishwasher or fold linens is not the way that a six-year-old would--and that's to be expected.


Use chores as a way to teach your kids about household responsibilities and learn new skill sets. If you demand that the beds have hospital corners and the bathroom floors shine like disco balls, you're both going to get frustrated. Mentally relax your own expectations of perfection, and you'll both be happier in the long run. Bonus: finding ways to make chores fun will make things even easier!

2. Start Slow and Demonstrate Each Task

It's important to take the time to show each step of each chore to your kids. What supplies do you need? How do you use the cleaners or products? What about safety and precautions?

Next, your child can assist you while the two of you complete the chore in tandem. Once that's gone well, you can move on to letting your child complete the chore while you supervise. Finally, the child is ready to complete the chore independently.

3. Be Detailed in Your Requests

The more detailed you are with your request, the better the outcome! Instead of saying, "Clean the bathroom," you could say, "Put on rubber gloves, wipe down the sinks and counters, clean the shower door, put wet towels in the hamper, scrub the toilet with the brush, then wash your hands with soap." By explaining in detail what "cleaning the bathroom" means, your child is clear about what needs to be done.

4. Chart It Out and Monitor Progress

When you've divvying up family responsibilities, a chart can be a great way to stay on track. To start a chores chart, list out each job that each person does around the house. Then have your children pick out their favorites and chart that out.


You can make your own chore chart with a white board. Divide the chart into three columns: each child's name, deadlines for the chore, and a check mark column for when each chore is finished. Post the chart in a high-traffic area of your home, like the kitchen or laundry room, so it's visible to all. If you'd rather do something fancier, check out Babble's Creative Chore Charts.


Some parents like to set up rewards (such as allowance) tied to completion of chores and penalties (like no screen time) for failure to complete the task. There's some controversy among experts on whether allowance should be tied to chores (or given at all). Ultimately, you should decide what works best for your family in that regard.

5. Assign Age Appropriate Tasks for Each Child

One surefire way to set yourself up for disappointment is to assign a chore that is beyond your child's developmental level. How do you know what each child can handle? You know each of your children best--your mature 10-year-old may handle laundry better than your attention-challenged 12-year-old. Determine which chores fit each child best based on his or her unique capabilities.

Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that while each child is a unique individual; there are certain age ranges during which certain chores are more appropriate. For a thumbnail snapshot to guide you on which chores your children can handle, check out Your Modern Family's handy age-appropriate chores chart.

Teaching your children to complete chores not only instills a sense of responsibility from a young age, but also helps your house run smoothly while lessening your daily work load. As with any new skill, it may take a bit of practice before your children are accomplished with each task. Don't get discouraged--it takes time to master new things. Be sure to offer praise and positive reinforcement for their earnest efforts, and soon your kids will be tackling their chores on their own.