One of the best ways to instill good behavior in your child is also one of the most challenging things to get your child to do: chores.

In a culture where bad behavior in kids seems to be growing rapidly, employing your child to contribute to the family, home, or your community, can greatly curb your child’s bad behavior or potential for bad behavior.

Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of The Good News About Bad Behavior, says that when kids aren’t asked to contribute to their family, neighborhood or community, “that really erodes their sense of self-worth — just as it would with an adult being unemployed.”

In addition to this, chores and work help teach your child self-control and self-discipline—both of these are important characteristics to have as
an adult.

Chores and work help teach your child self-control and self-discipline—both of these are important characteristics to have as an adult.

As valuable as chores are for your children, most likely, if you’ve been a parent to a young child, adolescent or even young adult, you know that getting your child to do chores can feel impossible. They argue with you, they throw temper tantrums, or they just plain ignore you when you tell them to clean their room or do the dishes. The battle it requires to get your kids to do chores often takes longer than doing the chores themselves.

I recently talked about this with my friend Rachel Cruz on her show The Rachel Cruz Show.

In our conversation, I discussed a few ways to ensure your child does his chores and learns the value of hard work and obedience.

Reward them for their work.
Growing up with Dave Ramsey as her father, Rachel says she received a “commission” for her chores—an allowance that she could use however she wanted, as long as she did her chores.

We all know kids need incentives. They are not mature enough to know the long-term benefits of doing chores. They need something in the here-and-now to encourage them. Lay out a reward system for your child when he does his chores. Whether it’s a commission, ice cream, an outing to his favorite arcade, make sure it’s something that will motive him enough to complete the task and feel rewarded when he’s done.

Stick to the consequences.
Just like you have to lay out a clear reward system for your child to do her chores, you also need to lay out clear consequences for when she doesn’t complete them. No work? No money, or video game time or whatever her reward is.

This is where parents fall down. They don’t want to implement consequences because it so often results in a temper tantrum or simply requires energy you probably don’t have at the end of the day. But sticking to the consequences is so important because if you show your child that you’re not serious about the consequences, she won’t do her chores. She will quickly figure out that she will still eventually get her reward anyway, so why put in the work?

Tell your child what the consequences will be if she doesn’t complete her chores, then stick to them.

Don’t let your child argue with you.
When kids don’t want to do their chores, they draw you into an argument. They argue about why they should have to do their chores or when they should do them. Parents, don’t take the bait. When your child starts arguing with you, he’s stalling. He’s trying to get out of doing the work.

Never argue with your child. Depersonalize it. Simply say, “I’m the one who makes the list of chores and if you do your chores, this is what you get. And if you don’t do them, this is what the consequence will be.”

The argument is a trap. Don’t fall into it.
Kids need to know how to work. They need to know what self-control is and they need to feel like they are contributing to their home, family, and community.

It might feel like an impossible battle now, but the work you put in will pay off, not only to get your kids to do their chores today, but to instill in them a healthy work ethic, the discipline of self-control and the joy and purpose that comes with being a useful, and employable, part of society.

Kids need to know how to work. They need to know what self-control is and they need to feel like they are contributing to their home, family, and community.

By Meg Meeker MD