Make Your Bed and Pick Up Your Toys—Please! Ideas for Thanking Kids for Completing Chores
I love chores! I believe that assigning age-appropriate household tasks to children is one of the best ways to teach responsibility and give young people a sense of being important to their family’s functioning and well-being. Acknowledgement of completed chores affirms in kids’ minds that they have contributed in meaningful ways, which builds their self-esteem and motivates them to want to continue helping. It’s a great cycle to get into and one that benefits from being consistently fed with gratitude. Here are some different ideas for ways to thank your kids for completing their chores:
Never underestimate the power of praise in the lives of kids. As adults, when we think “work,” we necessarily think “pay.” For kids, praise is the very best form of payment. Use praise liberally to thank kids for completing their chores. Even if you feel that your child does less than you did when you were a child or “should” be helping, praise is the best way to motivate, build self-esteem, and create the kind of bond that eventually makes chore charts and reward systems unnecessary. Be specific in telling your child what you appreciate and be sure to say it out loud—never assume your child “just knows” how you feel about their actions.
Ahhh—the gold standard! By elementary school, most kids know the value of a dollar and appreciate small opportunities to earn money. A dime per chore may sound like child labor, but let’s say a child has 3-4 household responsibilities per day (e.g. making their bed, feeding a pet, setting a table, picking up toys), that they do each day of the week. For the average kid, forty cents a day feels like an awful lot and when they have almost three dollars by the end of the week, they feel rich! Don’t overdue it with paying for chores—a little goes a long way with kids! Remember that while you are affirming their work through monetary reward, you want to make the more important point that you appreciate their contributions to the family.
While most older kids love watching their piggy banks grow, the concept of money is still too abstract to motivate or gratify most pre-schoolers. Rather than offering money, let your little ones know that by completing chores (age-appropriate responsibilities include things like putting napkins on a table, pairing clean socks from the laundry basket, putting dirty clothing in a hamper, etc.) he can earn special privileges. Extra reading time with mom or extended snuggle time with dad are among the most coveted (and least bank-breaking) privileges any child can ever receive!
Remember that Psychology 101 term? Most students think of it as a bad thing, since the phrase includes the word “negative,” but really, this behavioral term has to do with encouraging behavior by taking away something bad. In other words, a great way to reinforce your child’s compliance with a chore schedule is to allow him to watch an episode of a show he usually can’t stay up for. Think of it as giving your child a “get out of jail free” card. When you want to thank him for his hard work on a household task, let him know he can use the “card” to get out of something else that he doesn’t want to do. This kind of power and choice is always exciting for kids—just make sure you are willing to let him use it when the time comes!
By Signe Whitson, a social worker and family therapist for over 10 years. As the Chief Operating Officer and Master Trainer for the Life Space Crisis Institute, she has dedicated her work to better the life of children. She is also the features editor for "Reclaiming Children and Youth Journal". To read more of her advice check out her blog on passive aggressive behavior. This article has been brought to you by My Baby Clothes Boutique - the perfect place to find your holiday baby clothes with matching headbands or adorable baby hats.