Motivating Children to Help with Chores

Written by: Stephanie Fox, MSW, LCSW
For Embark Counseling Services

A new year often brings on new resolutions for yourself, your family, and your child. One of your resolutions may be that your child is to do more chores around the house. So you bought the chore chart, got the stickers, agreed upon the earned reward with your child, but they are still having a difficult time completing the chores. Maybe they start great, but lose motivation after a few days? It could be because our society tends to use an earned reward system instead of your child’s own intrinsic motivation.

Psychologists have determined that using extrinsic (external) rewards to motivate children can, in fact, undermine a child’s intrinsic (internal) motivation (Doucleff, 2018).  A recent study showed that children were less likely to help a second time when they were given a toy afterwards (Doucleff, 2018). By first changing our mindset from external to internal motivational, we set the tone that children are part of a greater, common goal.

A few ways to involve children in chores:

  1. Invite kids to participate in chores as early as possible. Often times, parents prompt children to go play while they do the chores quickly. Instead, invite your children to participate in the chores. This may also mean children making a mess while they learn or you having to slow to assist them. If so, take a breath and see it as an investment. Remember a messy toddler who spills water while doing dishes becomes a 7-year-old dish-washing pro! If you remain calm and consistent, your children will rise to your expectations.
  2. Be sure the tasks are developmentally appropriate for your kid. Further, if your child is bored by the chore being asked, it may be beneficial to provide a more challenging chore. If your teenager is being bored by pulling weeds, offer them the ability to plant the flowers or haul dirt.
  3. Do your chore together as a family. Having a child hold a measuring cup while you bake may appear small, but it’s something they can do to help!
  4. Use choice language. Forcing a child to complete a chore actually has the opposite effect. In fact, many adults don’t like to comply when they are being bossed around. Try saying, “Would you like to wash the dishes, or dry and put them away?” 

While rewards seem to work in the short-term, they tend to have a negative effect on kids’ motivation long-term. Focusing on collaborative goals as a family, changing our mindset from a messy child to a child who is learning, introducing chores early, and providing choice and positive language may reduce those eye rolls and increase helpfulness! 



Doucleff, M. (2018). How to get your kids to do chores (without resenting it). Retrieved from:


Stephanie Fox, MSW, LCSW sees clients in our St. Louis office. To schedule an appointment with Stephanie, please call (913) 257-3161.