Why is it so difficult to get my child to do their chores?

We all know how hard it can be to get your child to do their chores. Maybe they are resistant, they drag their feet, they complain and they won’t cooperate, OR they just flat out refuse. Either way, you’re left frustrated and wondering what you did to deserve this sort of treatment from a member of your own family. And you feel helpless in the face of their behavior. And then you think about all the chores that need doing and all the other things you have to do in a day and organizational time seems like an enormous task.

While tools like chore charts can help, often the root cause of the problem is something to do with the negative associations that have been built up around chores and damage to the parent-child relationship.

Remember that a child resistant to chores is:

  • Still a child – children are not born with a need to do chores.
  • in need your help in resolving the issue emotionally, not intellectually or by cajoling.
  • better motivated through a strong relationship rather than external rewards, in the long term.
  • it could be that the chores are too difficult for them.
  • showing signs that they needs more connection with you—not punishment.

When helping a child to do their chores:

  • Make sure you are dealing with your own fears and reactions rather than those of the child.
  • Keep the perspective that no chore is worth shifting from stability to chaos.
  • Focus on your relationship with them and give them the emotional space to ask questions and share their problems.
  • Try to shift them away from feeling overwhelmed to feeling calm.
  • Remember that there is no one else they want to please more.
  • It can be more effective to cooperate with them than to order them around. Teach them how to cooperate by demonstrating cooperation.
  • Make the most of any resistance they offer by turning it into an opportunity to connect, love, and build a relationship.
  • Join them in working to complete this difficult task, helping them develop a positive attitude toward chores.

In many ways, the difficulties we have around chores are just one aspect of the parent-child relationship. If the relationship is not great then there will be problems with other aspects as well. Attempting to solve chores alone will probably not be effective.

For a far more in-depth look at this approach we recommend a book called Beyond Logic, Consequences and Control by Heather T. Forbes.