How I Motivate My Child To Do Chores


It’s inevitable as a parent that at some point you are going to ask yourself how you can motivate your child to do their chores.

The bigger question is, how do I motivate my child to do chores without turning into a screaming banshee of a mother who’s walking around holding a garbage bag while your preschooler is crying?

That second part is me. Yea. I’m that mom.

Now before a bunch of mom’s ask me how I could cause trauma to my child like that, let me explain.

First, I look at my son and give him a specific easy direction to follow. “Put all your books away,” I say with a smile on my face.

One of three things happen. One, he does it without any issue. Two, He puts two of the five books away gets distracted and forgets about the other three books. Or three, he looks and me, tells me no, and then goes back to whatever he wants to do.

“Come on, help me clean up your mess.” I say with a smile on my face as I start to clean up his toys. Which sometimes convinces him to help me. Though sometimes it just makes him think he should create more of a mess instead.

“Mommy’s going to go clean up her mess in the kitchen, you clean up your mess in the living room.” Which if I catch him in a really good mood he’ll do it.

“Clean up your mess now or I will take away your …” insert favorite toy here. A variation is, “I’m going to vacuum and anything on the floor will get sucked up into the vacuum if it’s not picked up.” Neither of these work, the first usually just gets a child grabbing his favorite toy and hiding it from me. The second doesn’t work because today’s vacuums aren’t what we had as kids they aren’t going to suck up Lego’s.

“That’s it,” gets a garbage bag, “clean it up or I’m cleaning it up.” Instant tears while child cries and cleans up all of his toys.

Here’s the facts, there is no one way that is going to work with motivating your child to do their chores. You have to find what works for you.

Do I always grab the garbage bag, no. Sometimes, if I catch him in a cooperative mood, he’ll help clean up or just clean up on his own. But that’s the key. You have to figure out when to direct your child to do something when they would actually want to do it.

Check out my post Reading to your Toddler for tips on how to read and the best books to read to your toddler.

There were a few things that helped and there are a few more things that we are talking about doing in the future as L grows older. Part of success in teaching a child how to do their chores is making sure there is unity in teaching.

Before you start any of these and if necessary, talk to your significant other about what they would like to do. Additionally, you will want to make sure that any babysitters or people who are involved in your child’s life is up to date on your plans. Unity in how to teach your child to do chores makes this a lot easier.

Ways To Teach Your Child How To Clean and Enjoy Doing It

Utilize the Imitation Factor

Your child loves to imitate things that you do. This is the quickest way that they learn how to do things on their own.

When we would change L’s clothes we would have him follow us to our bedroom and toss his dirty clothes into a dirty basket.

One day he grabbed his own dirty clothes and put them in the basket by himself. Even though they didn’t make it into the basket we cheered him on anyways.

Now every time we change his clothes he takes them and puts them away.

Along with putting dirty clothes in the hamper where they belong at around 4 years old he started helping me fold clothing. He doesn’t always fold the clothes the correct way but that’s ok, he will get better at it over time.

The trick here is I don’t refold the clothes in front of him. I’m not personally bothered by the clothes being folded wrong and will put them away anyways. If it does bother you, wait until your child is busy doing something else to correct the folding.

The imitation factor can be the most effective tool to use to teach your child how to do their chores.

Consider getting your child this cleaning set from Melissa and Doug or this Dyson vacuum toy. They are great kids sized to encourage a love of cleaning at a young age.

Teaching through action allows your child to learn while being close to you. They will feel like they are more like you, their hero.

Do It With Them

We say it’s time to “put away toys” or “clean up” and he helps put all his toys away in containers, drawers, bags, or totes. L will sometimes respond better to team tasks. If he feels like he is being told to do something he has a tantrum. Including him in a family or team task helps him to feel like he is actually helping us.

Asking him, “Are you going to pick up all your books while I clean up these blocks?” instead of “L pick up all your books.” This gives him the opportunity to make the right decision to pick up all of his books. When he does he gets massive praise for making the right decision. He likes that praise, a lot.

Related Post: 9 Products to Completely Organize Kids Toys

By keeping clean up a team task we avoid the tantrum. Obviously in the future as communication skills grow we can change into a more chore based system. Then he will be doing tasks on his own after doing them with us and learning how to do them.

Stay Consistent

The biggest lesson I learned in teaching my own son to pick up after himself was staying consistent.

Twice a day, I tell my son it’s time to pick up his toys. After about 2 weeks of consistency in clean up time my son has stopped leaving messes in the living room.

Pick a couple times, I do after lunch and before bed, to have my son pick up his toys and put them away.

After a few weeks he now puts toys away on his own without me asking.

I highly recommend starting this while they are young. If you happen to be starting when your kids are a bit older though, use an incentive based system.

For every time that they successfully clean up their mess or complete their chores they get some sort of treat. Below are some options for rewards that work.

  • 30 minutes of screen time.
  • A snack they enjoy.
  • Money.
  • A toy – set a longer time period of them to stay on top of their cleaning with this reward, a week or a month.

Let Them Choose Their Own Chores

As they get older and want to help cleaning it’s important to let them do so. Let them take the lead in cleaning. Let them help you in your daily chores.

As previously mentioned my son likes to fold clothes so this is a chore we do together.

He’s also chosen to be the one that puts the little soap pod in the dishwasher and start it. He gets the cat food bowl and fills it with cat food.

By letting them help he can choose which chores he will be motivated to continue to do. This gentle parenting technique means less arguing, and encourages our son to make decisions to help all on his own.

The important part here is to recognize that it won’t be perfect but to praise all the same. Don’t redo what they’ve cleaned, let it slide until they are in bed and asleep. This encourages them in the process of cleaning and over time they’ll get better about how they clean with gentle direction.

Create Habits

Your bedtime routine is nothing more than building a habit that triggers the body into going to sleep. With your kid it’s probably, change into pajamas, brush their teeth, maybe a story, and then sleep.

You are going to apply the same concept to teaching your child to tidy up their toys, clothes, and whatever else they use on a daily basis.

When they get dressed in the morning you build a habit of them putting their clothes in the hamper. When they are done playing with a toy you build the habit of them putting it away before moving on.

If you create habits of putting things away when they are done with them they will likely stick to that habit for a lifetime. Eventually they will realize that if they put things away after they use them they actually spend less time cleaning up later.


Everyone cleans their own way, your child is no different, it doesn’t matter how it gets done just that it gets done. Let your child find their own way to clean and be encouraging while they are cleaning.

You don’t want to in any way discourage your child from cleaning. It’s important that they experiment and learn. If your child is extremely independent help from you could be a discouraging factor.

Praise each step they take in cleaning with high fives and “awesome job.” Even if they aren’t doing it in quite the same way you would, it’s important to offer continuous encouragement while they are cleaning.

When you want to improve how they clean ask them to help you. If you are dusting a table ask them if you got everything. Ask them to inspect your work.

This makes the child feel like they are helping to teach you while getting them to recognize to look for missed spots.

Perfection Is Not The Point

Don’t seek perfection in the chores that they do and don’t fix the mistakes they make. Remember during these beginning stages to be encouraging. After it becomes habit you can start to show them better ways and how to get all the nooks and crannies clean.

Right now it’s just important that they understand they need to clean up every day. All the toys may not be in the right spots but they are put away. That is all that matters right now.

Later you can show them how it’s easier to put all the blocks in one bin, stuffed animals on the bed, and toy cars in another bin. First, concept of cleaning. Second, fine tune it to perfect.

Toddler Chore Charts

Once your toddler or child is old enough to understand start using chore charts. Give them jobs they already like to do in the house, create a chore chart, and let them check off their daily chores.

A chore chart gives your child a sense of responsibility. They have something they control in the house. Chore charts also help the chores to be split up among a couple of kids easily.

As they get older you can teach them more responsibility by giving them a chore they don’t typically want to do. By having easy chores and one that’s not so easy they can feel good accomplishing the easy ones and even better when they accomplish the one that isn’t so easy for them.

To Give an Allowance Or Not

Giving an allowance for chores is still something up in the air. Many people believe that giving an allowance is a great way to teach your child responsibility. Others believe that children should contribute to the household they live in.

Honestly, there is no right way or wrong way to do an allowance. If your child responds to cash than cash might work well. If your child responds to activities, use certain activities as rewards. An allowance can be whatever you want it to be.

You can make certain chores must do to contribute to the family. Then you can have chores that they can do for extra money. For example, they must clean their room daily but for extra money they can vacuum the whole house.

This is a great alternative to an allowance for older kids or teenagers.

Check out my post Working Mom’s Guide To Getting More Time With Your Children.

Leave Punishment As A Last Resort

If your child just is not listening to you, not cleaning up their mess, and not doing what they should be doing, absolutely you should pull out the garbage bag or take away a favorite toy. Why? Because you are not a maid.

I’m not saying you should actually throw out any toys that end up in the garbage bag. I’m saying the act of putting their toys in the garbage bag and holding on to those toys for a day or a week might be enough to teach them to keep their room clean.

We can try as much as we want to make cleaning something that’s enjoyable for them, but at a certain point this all comes down to personal preference.

I still don’t like cleaning myself, I can’t expect my child is going to love it. All I can do is try to avoid a fight by making it as enjoyable as possible.

Cleaning is a learned behavior so teach them how to clean and make it fun or motivating as possible so that they keep these skills for the rest of their life. Follow me on Pinterest and pin this so you can return to it. Have fun cleaning!

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