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Q&A: Getting Kids to Do Their Chores

Using chores to teach responsibility.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


We have a hard time getting our kids to do their chores. Usually they refuse to obey us. Then, after we threaten them, they give in, but they do a sloppy job with a terrible attitude. How should we handle assigning chores and disciplining when they’re not done?

Dennis: There are several points to consider. First of all, we need to make sure that our expectations are reasonable—that we assign kids chores that they are capable of performing. Then, we should give the kids specific instructions so that what we expect is clear to them. They should know when the job needs to be finished and how we expect the finished product to look. If failure to complete the job will result in a penalty, this consequence should be clear from the start.

I also think it’s important to keep in mind that the purpose behind assigning kids chores is to teach them responsibility and maturity. Sometimes we get so caught up in the task we want them to perform that we miss the opportunity to teach a lesson. If the kid’s character is shaping up, and he is learning responsibility, that is more important than whether or not his room is perfectly clean. If I were dealing with a child with a rebellious attitude and if that room were a statement of rebellion, then I’d deal with that differently. I would not let that continue. But we’ve got to stay focused on the end goals, and in light of that, there is a time for grace.

Barbara: I agree. Showing grace and forgiveness, we can exhibit the character of God to our kids. For example, I think it’s a good idea for kids to have regular chores such as making their beds every morning and keeping their rooms clean. There are times, though, when those chores don’t get done, and those occasions don’t always require punishment. There are times when we as a family are tired or too busy, and those are not the times to hammer into those little details.

It’s important that our children know that we love them and will continue to love them regardless of how they perform. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences if they fail to obey, but it does mean that we will always accept them and love them. They need that security in our relationship. The relationship is really the key in raising kids to maturity and developing their sense of responsibility.

Dennis: We’ve got to remember that we’re raising kids, not mature adults. We can expect them to act childishly. I teach a sixth grade Sunday school class and I asked the students one week, “Do you guys know what a clean kitchen looks like?” They all started laughing and said, “Yeah, we know what it looks like.” So I said, “Well, why don’t you do it?” They all just said, “We like to aggravate you. We like to get to you.” It is fascinating that at age 12 they know what is required, but they try to be obstinate just to get back at us. They want to win the battle, but our concern should be more for our relationship than the battle. We’ve got to discipline without provoking our children to wrath.

The thing that I don’t want to do in the process of assigning chores and making sure they are completed is to lose the relationship with the child. If I get so angry with the child that I’m beginning to sever that relationship, then I—as the adult—need to take responsibility before the Lord for my own actions. I need to step back and allow a cool down period, so that we don’t lose the relationship.

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