Chores pt 3: The Subtle Arts of Persuasion and Bribery

Chores pt 3: The Subtle Arts of Persuasion and Bribery

Looking around the kitchen I see a big, fat mess! And it’s my turn to clean it up tonight. I don’t even know where to start. There’s a sink full of dirty dishes, splattered oil all over the stove, crumbs on the floor. The dishwasher hasn’t been emptied because of a schedule mix-up.

Oh, it’s dismal all right!

In general, I am a pretty healthy person. But man, when I have a kitchen-full-of-mess staring me in the face I am all about a cocktail or a few cookies to get me through it.

Do you like a treat when you are doing something taxing? Or a reward after you do it?

Keep this in mind when getting your kids in the habit of doing chores. One of the most important life skills I admire in other people is the ability to make a sucky job enjoyable. So, I’ve been thinking about how to teach my kids that skill.

On one hand, I DO NOT ADVOCATE EXCESS BRIBING because life doesn’t promise you M&Ms and our goal is to get our children ready for real life. On the other hand, one of the most effective methods of persuasion I have found sounds like this:

“Yes, you can have dessert. After you have cleared the table.”

and this

“Yes, we can go to the park. After you pick up everything that’s on the floor and put it away.”

“Yes, you can watch TV while you fold your clothes.”

and even this when they are older (and can understand consequences abstractly)

“We cannot go for yogurt today because you didn’t finish your chores before we left the house.” (assuming that expectation was made clear so the announcement of their failure isn’t a surprise)

Let’s talk some practical ways to motivate kids. I’m anxious to learn from you in the comments section, too. Please! I need ideas just as much as anyone.

Chore chart: the old standby

Chore charts work for self-motivated people (like professional organizers).

A very simple chart (attached) can work for young children for things like:

Stay in my own bed all night.

Brush teeth.

A more advanced chart may include the pay rate for each chore. (The attached chart is made specifically to fit into the colorful frame pictured here.)

chore chart w check list

regular tasks listed in top rows, and ways to earn extra money listed below





Chore boards

Chore boards are more free-flowing than charts for kids who aren’t as type A.

Create a board (or just a blank space) that has an area for each kid. Chores are on post-it sized paper. Kids get to pick their chores for the 2-month period (or however long your family decides to go between chore rotation) and put the post-its in their area.


Use an erasable surface and write 1-3 chores on it each day. Even if there isn’t a chore to do, write something new there for the first week or so until everyone is in the habit of checking the board.

Fill a container.

Use a (small) physical container and gems/rocks/beans. Each deed earns a rock or gem in the container. Ten rocks/full container = reward.

Draw a container (a la fund raising) and color in segments when chores are completed. When the container is colored in, it’s reward time.

For all systems:

Phase 1– give them the sticker, the money, something right at the time of service. praise and celebration

Phase 2– they mark off their own progress. Praise and celebration come upon reaching a goal, or at the end of the week.

Phase 3– no big whoop. You did your chores. OF COURSE YOU DID!

Some kids will be motivated to do the work to get the reward. And some, like me, will appreciate the treat while they are working.

Some non-monetary treats enjoyed while working:

Play their favorite music LOUD during family chore time.

Hang out with them while they do their job. This is one tricky because it isn’t good to do the job for  them, and that is tempting if you are just sitting, hanging out. But, some alone time with you may be a really nice thing that they’ll want to earn more of.

A lollipop or gum while they vacuum or water plants.

Pro tip: Avoid overwhelm by setting a timer so they can see the end in sight.

Next week: what to do when even a fancy chore chart and watermelon Hubba Bubba don’t cut it for your little angel.


4 thoughts on “Chores pt 3: The Subtle Arts of Persuasion and Bribery

  1. Pingback: Chores pt. 2: Why Continuity is More Important than Clean | get organized already!

  2. Pingback: Kids and chores pt. 1: How to answer “BUT MOOOOOMMM! WHYYYYYYYY?!” | get organized already!

  3. Pingback: Chores pt 5: 8 Great Tips for parents | get organized already!

  4. Pingback: Chores pt 4: Beyond a Chore Chart to Teach Time Management | get organized already!

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