Q: How can I make my children aged 10 and 12 take up household chores? I would like them to do small tasks like putting away their own books, set the table for dinner etc.
A: Before I get into how you can get your kids to do chores, let me first say that it is very important for you assess your kids' individual abilities and ensure that the chores you request they do are within reasonable expectations (including the standards for what qualifies as a "completed chore"). For example, if you are asking your 10 year to old clean the kitchen, he may need help at first and there may even be tasks that he needs help with every time. Don't be afraid to adapt your requirements based on what you see. Having said that, here are a few helpful things to try. First, make sure that any activity your kids want to do is contingent upon them completing their chores. It makes life a lot easier if you use the things they already like to do on a daily basis as motivation for completing tasks. This way you do not have to come up with arbitrary rewards for completing chores. Of course, it is important to remember that most kids their age will do a lot better with chores if there is some type of reward system in place. An allowance might help (but is certainly not necessary), but I prefer rewards that are immediate, so it makes more sense to pay small amounts per chore than to pay a lump sum upon completion of all chores. Other types of rewards (like books, family activities, pool time, video game time, a trip to the park, etc.) can also work just fine - you know your kid, so choose something that they can earn if they do their chores the right way. In addition, the more structure you can give them, the better. In other words, write down a list of daily chores, what the standards for completion are for that chore and the time frame that the chore must be done by. The more specific, the better. This will help give your kids a sense of predictability, reduce the potential for arguments and will allow you to have a more structured system for rewarding completion. Keep in mind, that rewards should not be extravagant and there is no need for them to escalate in value over time. Simply give your kids what day, what time, what they need to do and what the payoff is for them. Chore charts, chore wheels, check lists and do-overs can also be really helpful. Finally, I strongly recommend adding extra incentive if they complete their chores without being reminded. This might be 10 extra minutes of video games, an extra activity with you, an extended bed time or whatever else you can think of. Don't be afraid to reward in increments and praise generously. One final note on consequences - although I do not believe consequences are the most effective way to motivate kids to do chores, it may be necessary at times to give your kids one-day consequences if they are continuously not doing what is asked of them even when rewards are consistently being offered. Keep the length brief, but be sure they are not allowed to do their wants until they have taken care of their chores.