Motivating Kids to Clean Up

When it comes to getting your kids to help with chores around the house, it’s
critical to consider the age of the child. At first, very young children are
going to need lots of direction and specific, step-by-step instructions on what
to do.

For example, with a 3-year-old, you might say, "Bobby, I need you to pick up
all of your Legos and put them into the Lego box in the next 10 minutes. I’m
going to set the kitchen timer and when it rings, all of the Legos need to be in
the box. If they aren’t, you won’t be able to play with them tomorrow." Then set
the timer and follow through.

Assuming that Bobby gets his Legos put away to your satisfaction, you can
move on to another task, such as putting his picture books on the shelf or
placing his dirty clothes in the hamper.

Although this approach will demand more of your time and attention, it’s much
less frustrating and anger-provoking than repeatedly yelling, "Clean up this
room, or you’ve had it!" You’ll also find that giving specific, step-by-step
instructions, backed by consequences, will yield much better results.

With older kids who can read and write, it can be helpful to write their
daily chores on a small white board that you hang on their wall or to give them
chore cards that spell out the specific actions they need to take in order to
complete a task. Again, be specific about the deadline for completing the task
and what the consequence will be if they don’t get the job done.

By the way, when using consequences with kids, it’s most effective to balance
both positive and negative consequences. If we simply punish our kids for bad
behavior or failing to follow through, they can easily become discouraged. It’s
just as important to praise and reward our kids for their good behavior. So when
your children consistently follows though on their chores, such as cleaning
their room, they should receive verbal praise, a hug and even an occasional
small reward.

Many parents have found that sticker charts can be a great motivator. Each
time a child follows through with a task, he receives a sticker. When he earns a
certain amount of stickers, he then receives a special privilege or treat for
his efforts.