The Real Reasons Why Your Kids Don’t Do Their Chores
Image via: Andrew (Megan) Laing (Hack)
Growing up, I had two types of chores: paid and unpaid. My unpaid tasks included picking up apples that fell from our two fruit-bearing trees. Paid chores included cleaning my dad’s office. This meant vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom and taking the trash out of the first floor of a single-family home he converted into office space.
Research shows I’m far from alone in having these experiences. In fact, 82 percent of parents today had chores growing up. Both of my experiences — picking up rotten fruit for free and getting paid to hang out with my dad — encouraged my wife and me to give our kids chores.
This puts us in the minority. Despite so many parents having similar experiences, the same research cited above shows that only 28 percent of adults who had chores growing up give their kids chores today.
Only 28 percent of adults who had chores growing up give their kids chores today.
Reasons Behind the Chore Gap
Why is the gap so significant? The benefits of giving kids chores have been clearly proven. “Giving kids household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance,” according to the Wall Street Journal. From a practical perspective, having the kids help around the house benefits parents as their lives seemingly move faster and get busier.
One reason is certainly busy schedules. Consider the pressure parents have to get their kids active in sports and extracurriculars — all while doing well in school. Chores can, understandably, fall to the wayside for these more modern methods of demonstrating your kid’s character and work ethic.
“Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success — household chores,” says Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist and co-author of Raising Can-Do Kids.
Another reason may be the perception that creating a chore program is too hard and time-consuming. Land O’Moms has looked at the benefits and the challenges of chores — from the debate around paid and unpaid chores to finding ways to make the chore process more consistent, enjoyable and sustainable for everyone involved.
Many approaches to the chore challenge share a common thread: requiring well-intended, do-it-yourself projects like creating a chore chart and an incentive program. Even without a step-by-step article, it seems simple enough on the surface. However, it takes a parent’s time and self-discipline to be consistent. And the novelty of it can wear off for the kids after just a few chores are completed.
So if chores make for more successful kids, is there a way to:
- navigate all the above reasons chore programs fail;
- make the process simpler and easier for parents;
- make chores more fun and engaging for kids?
There’s an App for That
Land O’Moms spoke with Chris Bergman to look at how more parents can bridge the chore gap with their kids. Bergman is co-founder of ChoreMonster, an award-winning app that helps more than 500,000 households run successful chore programs.
“ChoreMonster takes the tension out of assigning chores,” says Bergman. “Parents decide which chores must be completed, how many points each chore earns and the prizes available. Then the kids choose chores based on their deadline and point values. They collect points for completed chores and can cash them in for real-life and digital rewards.”
Real-life rewards might be an extra hour of Xbox, a family trip to the movies or ice cream for dessert. According to Bergman, the app’s digital rewards address another issue most chore programs face. By having two layers of rewards, kids can get immediate and long-term gratification.
ChoreMonster gives kids tickets to the “Monster Carnival” for completed chores. Tickets allow them to spin the wheel and unlock monsters for their digital collection or to gain access to short-form content from partners like Disney•Pixar.
Image via: Choremonster
Research by Scott Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California and Francesca Gino of Harvard University reinforces the importance of having multiple levels of incentive. Kids feel like they will miss out if they don’t get to the next level of reward, and this increases their determination to complete chores.
Image via: Anthony Albright
The ChoreMonster app gives parents control over chores. By automating everything from assigning and completing chores to the reward system, parents can interact more with their kids where it matters most.
“One of the top rewards chosen by kids is quality time with their parents,” says Bergman. “This reward can be as simple as taking your kids to see a movie. But the app makes parents accountable when they commit to this quality time.”
ChoreMonster is also experimenting with more unconventional chores that can unlock a whole different dialogue with kids. Through its promotion of Disney•Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out, ChoreMonster is challenging kids to tackle personal obstacles like calming down when angry and overcoming a fear. This can start discussions with kids about their emotions and behavior.
“When you consider that the app’s most-assigned chore is brushing your teeth, the potential positive impact on personal behavior is exciting,” says Bergman.
3 Tips for Successful Chore Programs
Whether you use the ChoreMonster app, try a similar app or choose the offline route for your chore program, there are some tips to help it succeed. The following advice is based on data from ChoreMonster’s app, which receives more than 4 million interactions every month.
- Timing Is Everything: By far, Monday is the best day of the week for chores. It gets harder and harder to get kids to complete chores as the week progresses. Set your chore deadlines as early in the week as possible.
- Choose the Right Chores: Experiment to determine the best chores for your kids to complete. ChoreMonster data shows chores that directly impact your kids are more likely to be completed. In fact, brushing your teeth and making your bed are the two top chores scheduled on the app. This allows you to ease them into more complex, less preferred chores like folding the laundry and unloading the dishwasher.
- Find the Right Rewards: The most popular reward on ChoreMonster is more screen time, followed by allowance and snacks like ice cream. However, every kid is different. Ask your kids what rewards are most important to them. And be sure to assign more points to more difficult, less glamorous chores.
Can Chores REALLY Be Fun?
ChoreMonster’s mission is to make chores fun. I’m not sure this is really possible, or necessary. After all, it’s work, right? However, Bergman notes that a number of kids complete chores on the app without any real-world incentives. So it’s clearly doing something right.
More importantly, the app addresses the real reasons chores aren’t handed out by parents or completed by kids. It makes the chore process simple and easy for parents, and more fun and engaging for the kids.
But if you have a tree in your yard and want to add picking up its fallen fruit to the kids’ chore list? I highly suggest giving them a pair of work gloves to complete their task.