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How to make chore charts work

How to make chore charts work

Chore charts are a great tool to help your children stay productive during the summer and they establish a routine, which can sometimes be difficult without the structure of school. There are thousands of different chore charts and chore apps (LINK TO SIOPE’S REVIEW OF CHORE MONSTER) that could be implemented. However, a chore chart can be as simple or as complex as possible and still be ineffective if a few basic elements are not present, leaving many parents feeling frustrated or hopeless that their children will ever complete a chore the whole summer. If your chore chart is not working for your family, review these questions and adjust to make your chore chart effective.


Do you have the right incentives?

First, you must establish the right incentives that will motivate your kids. Many parents believe that children shouldn’t earn rewards for completing chores, that it is just an expectation for living in the house. If this is your philosophy, that is fine, but remember that we are teaching our children the value of hard work and that hard works pays off. As adults, we receive pay when we have a job. And even if we don’t work outside the home, we still receive rewards for working hard, even if it isn’t money: eating food from the garden we planted, a full stomach if we make a meal, finding our belongings easier if we organize the house. You get the idea. You don’t have to reward your children with money or toys, but children will spend time doing the things they enjoy. So if they enjoy reading, spending time with friends, playing outside, etc. use these for incentives after they have finished their chores. Have your children participate in establishing incentives. If the right incentives aren’t in place first, nothing else about the chore chart will matter because they won’t follow through.

It can be hard to find the right incentives. Use the Finding a Meaningful Reason Worksheet to help you figure out what is important to your children.

Are you following through with the incentives you have established?

Life is busy, and after a new system has been established and the excitement has worn off, it’s easy to get distracted and forget to follow through with rewards. Your children will mirror your example. If you forget to give the rewards you established, then they’ll eventually forget to do the chores. It seems impossible that children will forget to remind you what they have earned, but they become distracted over time too and will eventually forget why they are working. If the company I worked for paid me erratically or stopped paying me all together, I’d eventually stop working too. Find a specific time of day to review the chart or set an electronic reminder so you don’t forget to follow through.

Do they still get to participate in everything they want if they don’t complete the chores?

Similar to the question above, over time it’s easy to give your children permission to do the things they want even though they haven’t finished their chores yet. Outside of incentives, there should be an expectation that chores are completed before they get to play or hangout. If your children are allowed to participate in anything they want even if they don’t complete chores then incentives may not be enough. Going back to our work example, if I received a paycheck in the mail every week regardless of whether or not I completed the work, I’d probably stop working too. If you’d like to be easy-going about when chores are completed or want older children to take responsibility without being told, then you need to be okay if chores are occasionally not completed. Many families have expected chores that have to be completed and other optional ones to earn extra points or money. For those chores that have to be completed (e.g. cleaning out the litter box, unloading the dishwasher, brushing their teeth), ensure they get done before free time is allowed.

Is the chore chart easy to understand?

Chore charts do not need to be complex to be effective. Make sure the chore chart is age-appropriate and the reward system you use is straightforward. If your children don’t know what they’re earning or which chores they’re supposed to complete, they probably won’t complete anything. The incentives may be motivating, but if they don’t know how to earn them it won’t matter how good they are.

Smarter Parenting has vast selection of free chore charts in our website section. Find them at Resources: Chore Charts