How to Get Kids to Do Chores (the Motivating Way)

How to get kids to do chores

Motivating Kids to Do Chores

As a mother of 8, I’m continually on the lookout for new ways to keep my household running. I know I’m not alone in this… even if you’ve only got one child at home, there are still messes to be cleaned up, food to prepare, laundry to wash, hugs to be given… the list of chores is endless!

One thing I try and teach my children is that privileges are earned… they aren’t entitled to them. Teaching my kids to work is something that is important to me. But it is one of those things that takes persistence and patience.

So, exactly how do I get my kids to do chores while keeping them motivated? There are many ways!

I know that some will assign chores or jobs as consequences. Personally, I don’t like to associate “work” with “punishment”. I want my kids to associate “work/jobs/chores” with “earning” and “effort”.

So here is how the chores work in my house…

  1. Every morning my kids have a list of responsibilities. My kids at home range from under 1-year-old to 16. Another day I’ll share with you how we divide up all the household responsibilities, but for now I’ll just let you know that my children do a LOT around the house… from their own laundry (starting at age 12) to making their own breakfast and lunch, to sweeping, cleaning, changing diapers, making bottles for the baby, babysitting, and so on.
  2. Once responsibilities are done, they get free time.
  3. The consequences for not doing chores are that they lose privileges.
  4. Depending on the severity of the offense, I will provide ways for them to earn privileges back.

Privileges in my house are defined as:

  • Xbox (they are super motivated to play this game right now… they all pitched in and bought it together)
  • Tablet/Kindle
  • TV (we love our Amazon Fire TV)
  • Friends
  • Reading (NOTE: some of my children LOVE reading… at times when they are sucked in a good book, they are very motivated to do things in order to earn a book back. If your kids don’t love to read then this might be on their responsibilities list).

How to get kids to do chores through motivation

How to Distribute Chores in a Fun and Easy Way

Now keep in mind, this is just one fun way to distribute jobs to the kids. Find something that works for you… but make sure it doesn’t turn into a power struggle. Keep it at level zero mama!

We use this chore can to provide a way to “earn something back”. Having this “3rd party” will really help minimize the power struggle. In fact, there shouldn’t be one at all. If they want something bad enough, they can do the work to get it back. This is also a great system to use if your kids want to earn extra screen time.

****** ps – If you’re looking for more great parenting advice, these are my most favorite parenting books!*********

Chore Can Job Assignment Idea

How to Make a Chore Can

This is just one easy method that you can quickly put together… and even enlist the help of your children! The jobs on these sticks are the non-daily (and even non-weekly) jobs that need to get done.

These are all those little extra things that usually get pushed to the bottom of the list because they aren’t urgent (cleaning walls, baseboards, cleaning out the car…). This is a great way to get those “extras” done, give your children opportunities to earn privileges back, and learn some hard work.

closer DIY chore consequence can supplies

Chore Can Supplies:

DIY chore consequence can attaching scrapbook paper hot glue

Step 1.

Take your empty, clean can (label removed) and cut scrapbook paper to place around the exterior of it. First, cut the height. You can then wrap the paper all the way around the can, and mark where it needs to be cut.

Cut, and then, hot glue the paper onto the can. Sometimes, if you hunt around, you can find a decorative pencil/pen holder that would work just as well as decorating your own can.

color DIY chore jar twine gift tag

Step 2.

Next, if you want to add some accents, add some twine and a gift tag.

Washi popsicle sticks for chore canStep 3.

Take your popsicle sticks, and add washi tape to one end of each stick. This forms a β€œtop” of each stick.

Chores for kids written on popsicle sticks

Step 4.

The last thing to do is use permanent markers to write one chore on each popsicle stick. For some reason, the marker was bleeding into the wood too much, though I have not had that problem in the past.

You can see the top popsicle stick in the picture was written on with a regular permanent marker. So, I decided to use a fine tip marker I had on hand. Fill the can with the popsicle sticks, washi-side up.

Your chore can is now ready to use. When your child wants to earn privileges, have said child choose a stick that has the washi tape up.

Here’s the fun part: They don’t get to read the sticks and decide what job they want to do. They just have to grab one and do whatever job is on the stick.

When your child completes the job on the popsicle stick, flip the stick over, so the washi tape is on the bottom. This way, the same job is not repeated too frequently. Once most or all of the jobs have been completed, flip all the sticks washi-side up and start over.

This is a really simple project that will take half an hour and very little money, but leave you with a great system that can be used in several different ways!

How do you manage chores at your house?

Chore Can Job Assignment Idea


  • I’d LOVE to see how you delegate daily chores! I’m struggling with that and I have teens down to a baby too!

  • Why is it your older children responsibility to care for their younger siblings? You and your husband made the decision to have multiple children. So many that you can’t care for all of them on your own, as you are saddling the older ones with parenting.
    Changing diapers, making bottles? Wow.
    Perhaps you should of thought of the amount of actual attention each child deserves before you had so many.

    • I don’t think that’s far at all, Kaye. For millennia, people have had large families, and the older children gain valuable real world experience caring for the younger children. She’s not asking a teenager to take drugs that stimulate lactation to nurse a baby for her, she’s asking for a family member to help care for another family member. And it helps teens have experience so they can get babysitting jobs outside the family, and probably keeps teens from wanting a baby of their own like some kids. I have two kids, and they are young, but I see nothing wrong with this.

    • Really? Most people for ages have taken care of each other as a whole family! I have 1/2 the number if children and I still EXPECT my older children to learn to help care for their siblings! It teaches sooo many valuable lessons in life! The top one being empathy for each other and understanding. Having these responsibility teaches us all to honor one another and go the extra mile. I do a TON as a mom for my kids and they KNOW it. Having them help care for each other too doesn’t make me a bad or irresponsible mother, it help us to have more time to spend doing fun stuff with each other when everyone pitches in. I feel bad for kids who don’t ever get that opportunity.

    • And who are you kaye? Ms holier than thou? Cathy writes a post showing what helps her family function (a happy and healthy one that gets plenty of attention) to help families who have children and whether or not you agree with it doesn’t matter. You can keep your negative comments to yourself. You are rude and obnoxious and just trying to get attention at this point. Stop being a bully that hides behind her keyboard. If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all.

    • First of all, I understand that everyone has a right to their own opinion. However, no one has the right to judge a family dynamic, when they have no actual knowledge of the family or how it works. You do not know what the husband and wife do, from day to day, but yet you are making a snap shot judgement.
      I personally love the idea of having the older siblings change diapers and learn how to feed the baby. They are learning that it is important to take care of one another. It is not just one person’s job to raise a child in the family, it is the entire family.
      Also, there are millions of adults, about to start a family, that have to take classes to learn how to feed a baby and to change a diaper because they have no clue. These are some of the basic nurture qualities that everyone should know how to do. And by teaching children, in the home, with their own siblings, they learn this by example of the mother instead of a stranger.
      So before you go and try to single some one out and try to shame them for their parenting style, (which by the way she is a fantastic mom who has raise some of the nicest, caring, and intelligent children, which is more than I can say about the majority of the population) that “Perhaps you should have thought” you have no idea what you are talking about.

    • Kaye…
      Part of me wants to rip into you and tell you what a JERK you appear to be….. Yet I came from a large family too and being kind to others was something my big sister taught me. YES that big sister who helped me learn many things and helped parent me. I in turn did the same to my little sister. My parents were right there the whole time, yet learning to pitch in and help the family is what we did. Learning to care for and love another person is one of the greatest things you can teach your children. These are the same skills and talents that lead me to buy a homeless man a meal, or stop to talk to someone who looks lost…. BECAUSE I was raised to be away of people around me and how I can help them. Cathy your family is amazing and if you are looking for another member you can adopt me…. I would be happy to jump in and spend time with this awesome family!

    • Wow Kaye. You have completely missed the mark here. How dare you think that this amazing mom is doing a disservice to her children by having them help in the care of their younger sibs. That is the beauty of having lots of children! They get to LEARN how to care for little people along side a mother who does a fantastic job, who teaches them how to change diapers and make bottles. This mother is not leaving her babies in the care of older siblings to go spend the day playing or pampering. She is simply teaching her children responsibility and how to work. Such a wonderful and selfless service!! It takes a top-notch mom to take the time to teach her children to help out and carry their own weight around the home. A mom like Cathy who chooses to have 8 children and teach them how to be responsible, contributing, self sufficient adults, who can clean bathrooms, do laundry, make bottles, change diapers and care for their future children. And who will in turn teach their children to do the same. Kaye, are you even a mother? Regardless if you are or not, you have absolutely no rite to judge this amazing mom and her very helpful parenting tips. She’s got mommy-hood down pat. Her children are top-notch. Her marriage is strong and stable. She must be doing something right! Lets be careful of wrongful judgements on others. They will come back full circle on you. If you think that allowing older siblings the oportunity and privilege to help in the loving care of their younger sibs along side and taught by a fabulous mother is wrong? Then you need to do some serious reflecting. You will do your children a disservice if you don’t involve them in the care of their younger sibs or teach them how to work. Look around, Kaye. Judge not!!

    • Kaye, I find your comments interesting. Particularly because I think they may explain why this upcoming generation is largely self indulged, lazy and unmotivated. Here we have a mother that has devised a way to teach her admittedly many children that there shouldn’t be such thing as a free lunch. Rather than applaud her for her creative efforts, you turn the issue into the size of family she and her husband have chosen to have.
      You have wisely chosen not to share any personal information that would enlighten us as to why the path you have selected in life is so superior. I’m confident there are things in your glass house that would be more egregious than a woman who has managed to have 8 beautiful kids with the same man and remains with that same father today. I guess that is why I’m puzzled that you are so foolish as to cast a stone.
      As a father of six children, I too have been concerned about how to teach my children the value of work. I told my 16 year old to get his butt out there and get a job. Even worse, he held a job while going to high school. Probably even more concerning than that, at one point during his senior year, I was one of three employers for him. He just graduated, buys his own stuff, pays for gas in his car and at age 17, is more responsible than some 25 year olds I know. What necessitated that? Well, to some extent, as you well know Kaye, I also have a large family to pay for. In my view, he needed to man up and take care of some of his own needs.
      I fully expect this recipe for independence will send my kid off into the world prepared to take on the harsh realities of life with confidence. I have 5 others that can look forward to graduating from the same school of hard knox.
      The long and short, you aren’t a bad parent if you require your kids to do chores around the house, even chores that involve changing a diaper or warming up a bottle. I’d rather have my kids learn those things when they’re young so they don’t have to move back in my basement with their spouse and kids for their diaper and bottle lessons. In my view, our generation needs to be moving away from the enabling model of parenting. I think this ingenious chore reward system is a positive step in that direction.

    • I am one of eleven children (most of us are over 50 now) and I find this comment puzzling. First, how many children anyone has is none of your business UNLESS they are asking taxpayers to support those children. Second, having a large family is not illegal, immoral or undesirable. Third, most large family siblings consider themselves lucky and they are typically reliable, hard-working, quick-thinking stable people. I’m more likely to hire someone from a large family than an only child. They usually have better skills. Fourth, every child should be trained in household chores and caring for smaller children regardless of whether they are from a large family.

      • By the way, how do you think those older children LEARNED to care for young children? Have you not realized that it would probably have been easier just to do it herself? Teaching a child anything takes effort, time and dedication. This isn’t a mom that sits around watching soaps, eating bonbons. She isn’t asking her children to do anything she wouldn’t do herself when she found the time. Her children will honor her all of their lives as my siblings do my mother.

    • Thanks for the love and support everyone! πŸ™‚

      My 8 children are a blessing to me and a gift from God. I know that it is my responsibility to teach each one of them to be great contributors to society. Teaching them how to care and watch out for their younger siblings means they are going to be awesome parents one day. I will never feel guilty about that. I’m so blessed to be able to work full time right out of my home. My kids respect that about me, and the work they do around the house may be more than what other families do… but it’s how they contribute to the household. My work is the main source of income for our family. Everyone is different, I get that… to each his own! But you’ll never see me or my husband be ashamed or embarrassed about our choice to have a big family.

    • I suppose the trouble with the internet is that it makes it so easy to judge and assume. In defense of the author, this post is about helping families find balance, not forcing her duties as a mother onto her children. In fact it’s quite the opposite! These children are being taught basic life skills that many only wish they had learned so young. It may not be your way, but shame on you for judging a mother for doing her best to nurture and teach her children. With such a bold and opinionated comment I’m not quite sure why you’re even visiting the website. Sounds to me like you’ve got the World According to Kaye all figured out…

    • It’s not a matter of nessisity for older kids to take care of the younger’s a matter of education… that’s how you teach both male and female children to be responsible parents when they have their own, and not spoiled brats like a large percentage of youth today….show me a large family that is polite, considerate, thoughtful, patient, full of charity, and active in their community. I’ll show you responsible young adults who are a value to society and who respect their elders… ….as the oldest of only 4…it was my choice to take care of each of my three younger brothers and sisters. ..and at 40 I still do..and don’t as a father of 5 (so far) each of my children choose to help their younger and older siblings on their own….it’s what naturally happens in large families..not because they have to, because both my wife and I are stay at home parents, who both work from home, but they choose to help their siblings because they are “family” … a one or two child home will never understand the family dinamics of much larger families…….we personally know the family in the photo…and I can tell you that none of the kids in her family have the entitled mentality that society has today…entitlement is brought on by demanding others do things for you….and family full of charity and love teaches each other that they should have the opposite thought..that the individual should look for ways to help OTHERS…that mentality is almost automatically taught in large families…SO so me a large family that has their head firmly screwed on..and their feet on the ground and I’ll show individuals who look for ways to help others…

    • I think it is great for the family to work together and for older siblings to learn basic care of younger siblings and infants by being able to help their own younger siblings. As long as none of them are ever made to feel as if they are the real parent or the sole person responsible for the safety of the younger children most of the time. And also, so long as they are taught to do these things with love and empathy and not reprimanded or punished for shortcomings or a lack of desire to help in that arena. I think challenges can arise in blended families where an older child becomes expected to care for younger children who were thrust into their life. In that case, I think it’s important to have open lines of communication and respect coming from parent to child. If they are excited and anxious to help in those ways with a step sibling, then all the power to them, so long as the parents don’t take advantage. If not, then let them be and don’t force it. I also think it would be appropriate to pay a nominal amount to an older child who is asked to look after younger step siblings. These are my opinions.

  • The washi tape at one to represent a “done” chore is brilliant!

  • Great idea! I would also love to know how you divvy up the chores between kiddos!

  • This is how we do it in our house, . But I really like the popsicle idea too. Maybe we will have to incorporate that for earning privileges back. Thanks, Cathy!

  • 8 kids? Whoa that is just too many. Who in their right mind has that many kids anyway? Why? I couldn’t do it. I’d let them sit around and play video games all day and never have to lift a finger. Oddly enough your situation sounds very familiar, Cathy. I know a mom of 8 who works from home and has the most awesomest husband in the world. πŸ˜‰

  • I want to know what you would do if your 16 year old refused to do any of these chores? I have taken away lots of privileges, but she will not comply. I don’t have a male to make her. She wines to everyone how mean I am and I am trying to run her life. Instead of helping, they criticize and say I am too strict. That I should let her do whatever she wants. She is making the choices that cause her consequences. It sure isn’t teaching her responsibility to let her do what she wants. It would be a lot easier for me to do her chores, but that would teach her entitlement. She only has 3 chores so I am not asking too much. Help!

    • I’m not a parent but I am a teacher so I know what you mean when they refuse to do what is asked of them. What I try to do is not take things away but give rewards. Maybe sit down with her and explain why you want her to do the chores. And then ask her what she needs from you or what privileges she wants (maybe she wants to earn her own car or something, granted that would take a lot of chores for something like that.) As it is, she’s probably finding ways around you taking away privileges, adding an incentive may help her have something to look forward too. I agree with you. Kids these days just don’t have consequences and I agree that she should have consequences but they also need incentives sometimes to help with motivation. πŸ˜‰

    • Sounds like a teen…and one the same gender as you..which has the potential for a proving ground to develope..Sometimes going out to do something fun together and the open up and express your feelings as to why you need help… but everything needs to be positive and open…don’t blame or point fingers or say things like you’re not helping…just say how you guys are a team and you need to work together…don’t make things cheesy or desperate..ask questions and the goal is to have the child come up with the ideas.’s better if you can find ways to have them think they are the one planning…an older teen needs to feel like they have control of their own life..and by forcing rules you make up yourself makes them feel like they have no control and then they rebel

  • So much judgement people. Just because something isn’t right for you and your family doesn’t make it wrong. Back to basics folks, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. I’m pretty sure they still teach about kindness in kindergarten.

  • Do you put in a certain length of time on the privileges for example, for the Xbox do they get a time limit, and s there a limit on the number of chores they can do.

    • There is no limit on the # of chores they can do to earn extra time. And yes we have the family timer set on the xbox. Depending on the day, I’ll let them do some extra work to get more time. Like when it’s 110 degree’s outside, then I let them have more electronic time because playing outside isn’t an option. πŸ™‚

  • Cathy, you’re such an exemplary mother! Thank you for this great list of books, I’ve been meaning to find a good one!

  • I love this idea. I am looking for ideas for rewards too for doing normal everyday chores according to how many stars they have earned. Do you have any reward ideas?

    • I’d do money. It’s good to have them start learning how to manage money. Give them something they want to work towards! Taking my kids shopping is actually a good thing because it gives them some drive to work hard to earn something! πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  • We have a similar system in our family, but the job jar is also available for earning money. We have ten children at home ranging from 18 months to 19 years. Because of the wide age range we have two jars, one for the three and six year old, one for everyone over seven. Our deal for them to earn money (or a return of privileges) with jar jobs is you have to draw the job blind and if you commit to draw you must do the job. In other words no pulling out the job card (stick, whatever) and then deciding it is too hard. I have mixed in some jobs which my kids love getting because they are easy and fun. The favorite is ‘Read a book to a young sibling.’ They love doing that and I feel that it affirms the value of that sort of activity. I also have some things in there that promote helping each other, “Find someone else’s mess and spend 5 or 10 minutes working on it for them.”

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