Chore List – Guidelines for Assigning Chores to Kids

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In a recent post, I listed five reasons that is important for us to make sure our kids do chores. You can read the list on the ADHD-Inattentive blog. But just how do we assign chores that our kids can – and will – do? Here’s your chore list:

It’s important to match the chore to the child. When you assign chores, take your child’s age, ability and personality into account. From the moment they are out of the high chair, a child can ‘dump their plate’ and put it in the sink. I have sweet memories of our little ones reaching over their heads to lob their dishes (plastic, of course) into the water. A two year old can sort and put away silverware, feed the dog (dry food) and put produce into the appropriate drawers in the refrigerator. They can also put toys where they belong – if you have assigned spots for each. A five year old can fold towels, set the table, water the dog, sweep the floor, dust, and make a bed. Most ten year olds can iron their own clothes, cook a simple meal, take the recycling bin to the street, and mop. By the time kids are twelve, there isn’t a whole lot they can’t do around the house – except drive the car!

Despite the above guidelines, some kids aren’t ready to do some chores. If you give a child a chore and they are genuinely overwhelmed with the skill involved, then assign something else. Our last son Ash, for example, has always been a whiz at cleaning out the cabinet that holds all the plastic containers and their lids. Our second son, however, was truly clueless on any of the organizational principles involved. Don’t be fooled, however. Kids can be real masters at feigning inability and ignorance.

Try not to give your child too many chores that they absolutely hate. I, for example, hate to mop. (I’ve mentioned this before…) Were I a child, I would not assign myself mopping as a daily chore. If your child likes to be outside, give her more outdoor jobs. And if your son likes to be in the kitchen, give him responsibilities there.

Give specific instructions. Your child – especially if they are ADHD – needs for you to explain exactly what you expect for them to accomplish. Don’t just say, “Clear off the table.” Give step by step instructions, and you may want to write them down and post them:

1. Fill up the sink with water, and put all the silverware in the bottom.

2. Put lids back on all the containers like milk and ketchup and put them away. (NOT in the medicine cabinet, please.)

3. Use napkins and wipe the extra food on the plates into the trash or compost, then put the plates into the sink.

4. Put away everything else. The salt and pepper shakers and the napkin holder stay on the table. You don’t put them away.

5. Use a wet rag and wipe off the table. Pick up the salt and pepper shakers and napkin holder and wipe under them.

6. Push the chairs under the table.

Keep reminding for momentum. For long chores (you know, the ones more than 2 minutes!), your child might lose focus. Reminders are often necessary. You can give verbal reminders (sometimes known as nagging), flash lights, or set off a timer to ding at regular intervals. Our boys used to fight over this 3-in-1 Timer. (We have a whole page of recommended timers and reminders here.) Another option is to put on a song, and tell your child the end of the song is her cue to get back on track. We’ve also tried giving rewards for finishing a chore within a certain amount of time.

Do a quality check. This is the downfall of many a chore. Don’t expect perfection, but do expect your child to have done their very best. And if they haven’t, make them do it over (and maybe over again – and again). They will be very offended as you point out their mistakes. Don’t cave.

Recognize a job well done. Whether you offer verbal praise, a financial reward, or an hour of television or gaming – thank your child for their help, and affirm their efforts.

About Kayla

Kayla Fay is a freelance writer and the mother of four boys, three of whom have been formally diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD. When she started “Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet?” in 2002, her sons were ages 8 through 14, when her life was a “progression of dirty laundry, lost homework, misunderstood Algebra, and a whole lot of love and fun”.

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