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Rewards for Chores? Think Again!

Rewards for Chores?  Think Again!

If you struggle to find ways to motivate your kids to do their daily chores – you're not alone! Circle of Moms member and mother of two, JD, writes, "I'm having a hard time getting my kids to do their chores, feed the pets etc….I'm going to start using a sticker chart and give them a reward if they get their things done each week." Not so fast, JD! Sticker charts and rewards will likely make the problem worse in the long run. There's a better way!

Believe it or not, rewards aren't the answer to your problem—and in fact, they may make it worse. Several important studies have shown that offering rewards actually erodes a child's interest in the activity we're trying to motivate them towards. They let kids know that, "I have no confidence that you'll do this task unless I bribe you to do it."

As if that's not enough, rewards foster an undesirable "what's in it for me?" attitude when it comes to helping out. Parents who reward also notice that they're continually pressured by kids to "up the ante." While a small toy, an extra TV show or a few bucks might motivate them the first few weeks, soon it'll lose its luster, and Mom and Dad are right back where they began.

But relax. Even if your kids are used to rewards, there are plenty of other positive and effective ways to motivate kids instead. Simply tell them, "You're big enough now to do this without needing a reward. I have complete confidence you'll be able to get it done." Then, use these three strategies to get everyone off to a great start:


1. Develop "When-Then" Routines

Structure your kids' routines so that the things you want them to do must be completed before the things they want to do - the fun stuff. That might mean that pets need to eat before your kids can play with their friends, or rooms need to be cleaned every Saturday before any TV time. You can tell them something like, "WHEN you've unloaded the dishwasher and put your laundry in the laundry room, THEN we'll leave for soccer practice."

Keep this strategy from turning into just another form of a reward by sticking to normally occurring privileges, such as playtime, story time, media usage, or soccer practice as the "fun stuff." When the chores and other "undesirable" tasks have to be completed before your kids can enjoy the things they want to do, motivation is built in to the routine!

2. Use Encouragement to Foster Internal Motivation

The difference between a "chore" and a "contribution" is the difference it makes to someone else. When your kids know that their help is really appreciated, they'll feel motivated from the inside and will be more likely to willingly pitch in. Pay attention to those times when they do help out and encourage their efforts out loud—then watch as they beam with pride!

3. Employ Consequences

As much as you'd like them to, your kids will probably never enjoy completing their chores. But they need to learn that helping out in the family is an important part of becoming independent. If you're having trouble getting your kids to comply, even after implementing a When-Then Routine and using Encouragement, it might be time to set up some consequences.

Make sure the consequences you choose are fair and revealed in advance. Say, for instance, "Any toys not picked up from the living room by dinner time every day will be off limits for a week." Then rest assured that after they see you follow through once or twice, your kids will get the message.

Put these strategies into play with your kids, and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to get your kids to contribute around the house – no rewards required! Even better: you'll be fostering good habits and healthy attitudes that will set them up for success in all areas of life.

Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. For easy to implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.

"Pay It Forward" to a Military Family

Amy McCready is partnering with Blue Star Families in an initiative called "Pay it Forward Parenting." For every book purchased, McCready and Positive Parenting Solutions will donate an online parenting training course to a deserving military family. For more information on this charity initiative, visit

Image Source: Mary-Frances Main via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
RobynBurke RobynBurke 5 years
From my experience this is the best way to do it, but there is a trick to it, don't say to the kids if you want to play outside you have to do this, you simply wait for them to tell you what they want to do and then say okay that's fine but you have to do this first
Abbs44287 Abbs44287 5 years
This is a great article. My daughter who is now 4 years old, has been "helping" around the house since she was about 2! We don't have a "reward" system for her, we've taught her to make cleaning up fun, but also it is important to clean up after herself with her toys, food, etc. She enjoys helping with the laundry, she put her laundry in the washing machine and loves to turn the knob to the right setting and press start, she helps set up her bed her way at night and make her bed in the morning. My parents were working parents and my grandma lived with us growing up so she helped my sister and I with making us breakfast before school, lunch. But we also learned that nothing is going to be done for us forever. We still had to wipe the dust around the house, help vaccum, take care of our pets, we helped our dad on the weekends rake the grass after he mowed the lawn. My husband was raised by his mom most of his life so he also learned that he had to do things and not expect anyone to do it for us. She's tried helping wash the dishes so we let her. I remember reading an article on a message board someone asking if she should start having her 11 year old son help around the house and giving him a cookie or brownie everytime he did just one thing to "help"! I believe it is very important to teach our children to clean up after themselves and not be lazy.
LeslieParrack LeslieParrack 5 years
I sat down with my kids and they picked their chores. I made them charts so they how their day goes, they mark everything off as they go. They have no rewards for doing their chores. We home school as well, and they got to pick what time of the day they wanted to do their school work, which is also on their charts. For them they feel good about marking off everything on their chart, it makes them feel like they are doing something. Plus my kids are crazy and love doing stuff like laundry, taking out the trash, and dishes!
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