Children, Chores and Conflict: Do They Really have to Go Together?

Children, Chores and Conflict: Do They Really have to Go Together?

“Pick up your shoes.”  “Clean your room.”  “Put away your toys.”  “Set the table.”  Whenever, these directives cross your mind, odds are an internal battle begins.  Part of you believes the kids should be helping.  Yet it’s as though there is a war going on in your head. 

  • One voice shouts, “It’s good for them to help.   They’ll learn responsibility.”
  • While another counters, “It’s not worth the fight.”
  • Or, “I can do it ten times faster and better, if I just do it myself.”  
  • And then again, there might be one with a tinge of guilt whispering, “They are too young, maybe later.”

Included in our top ten most frequently voiced power struggle scenarios, is chores.
Or, more specifically, “How do we get the kids to do chores without throwing down the gauntlet, hurling threats and screaming at one another?” 

Winning cooperation begins with us ending the wrestling match in our head by figuring out, why we are bothering to include the kids in family chores in the first place.

It is true; you can do any of the aforementioned tasks more efficiently and effectively than your child.   However, by doing so you maybe, robbing your child of the opportunity to learn your family values.  

  • For example, in your family do you believe; 
  • It is important that everyone works together?  
  • Or, do you want your child to learn to be responsible?  
  • What about the ability to care for one’s self?  Is that an essential life skill you desire for the kids?  

Completing chores provide the opportunity to teach all of these lessons.

Once you clearly understand why you are putting forth the energy to include your children in chores, your confidence will rise.  When that occurs, the kids will resist much less than you might expect.  They sense, there is no way around this one.  So what can you expect at different ages?   Here is a list Lynn and I have put together as a potential guideline

Chores for Different Ages


Yes, even babies can begin to “take responsibility.”  Before you whip off that sock, simply pull it off the 5-month-old’s heel and let him drag it off!  Before you drop your eleven-month-old's pants, stand her up, ask her to help tug them to her knees and let her push them to her ankles.  By slowing down and involving her, not only will you win cooperation, but you’ll be teaching the embryonic lessons of taking responsibility for self care.  


Lunch is finished at Paidea, Lynn’s child care center and all 12 toddlers, beginning at age 15 months of age, slide out of their chairs, stopping to dump their trash in the garbage can, put their cup in the sink and push their chair back in to the table.  It can be done.  The secret is taking the time to do it, every time.  

Here are a few more: 

  • Handing you toys as you put them away on the shelf. 
  • Getting their diaper for you to help them change. 
  • Sorting socks or silverware from the dishwasher 
  • Picking up shoes and putting them 
  • Using little brooms and dustpans


  • All of the above 
  • Beginning to pull up sheets and covers on their beds 
  • Helping with yard work 
  • Washing cars 
  • Stirring, mixing , scrubbing potatoes or carrots, tearing lettuce
  • Table setting 
  • Clearing the table 
  • Sorting laundry 
  • Learning  to fold clothes 

School age: 

  • Dusting
  • Picking up their room 
  • Vacuuming 
  • Carrying out trash 
  • Taking care of pets 
  • Washing dishes 
  • Loading the dishwasher 
  • Helping  prepare meals 
  • Baking  

Our list is just a “start.”  Please let us know what tasks your children are doing.   What strategies help you to slow down, and allow your children to discover what they can accomplish? 

Children, Chores and Conflict: Do They Really have to Go Together?

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