Ask the Expert: What's the best way to get my child to help with household chores?
Q: MY 12-year-old son says he'll help around the house – if we pay him. How can I get him to do chores without payment or an argument?
A: Child and adolescent psychologist Collett Smart, author of They'll Be Okay (Piatkus, £14.99, available now), says: "Your son sounds like a very normal 12-year-old, who doesn't jump for joy at the thought of chores. No-one really likes chores – not even us adults. Expect some complaints, but expect him to get on with the chores anyway.
"I encourage parents to consider developing a parenting mantra – something that helps us consider why we have expectations for certain behaviours – eg 'Parent with your child's future adult in mind'. In the context of chores, this helps us think about the future adult we're raising, particularly because studies reveal that participation in doing chores is instrumental in predicting children's overall success into their mid-20s.
"Involvement in chores can lead to: acknowledging the importance of contributing to family, an ability to work well with others, developing a 'pitch-in' mindset, delayed gratification, self-discipline, enhanced motor skills, a sense of empathy as adults, and greater career success.
"Chores should simply be something the whole family does – just like brushing teeth, going to work or attending school, they're not optional. Chores should benefit the household and not be part of pocket money. When we tie money to chores children begin to expect to be paid for fulfilling basic responsibilities. Extra jobs, like washing the car, might be used for pocket money.
"It may be helpful to politely state, 'Today is your turn to unpack the dishwasher, so you can watch your show as soon as it's done.' If your son complains, avoid bribes, just calmly empathise and then repeat your statement, 'I don't enjoy it either but it's just what we all do as part of being in this family. Today is your turn to unpack the dishwasher, so you can watch your show as soon as it's done.' Then follow through. Afterwards, thank him for his team effort and contribution to the family.
"At his age, he can do a selection of weekly tasks: clean kitchen surfaces, load the dishwasher, help prepare simple meals, make school lunches, unpack groceries, clean bathrooms, change his bedding, help with laundry, take out rubbish, feed pets.
"Don't expect perfection, but if it's done with little effort don't 'fix' it for him. Calmly call him back to finish it off. When you wonder if it's worth it, remind yourself that you're helping your son to be more successful later in life."