I can't get my children to do their chores. I always end up doing them myself. What am I doing wrong?

TIM KIMMEL: Getting kids to do chores around the house has been an age-old problem for parents, but I’ll tell you what—first of all, let’s step back from this question, and take in a much bigger look at this. 

You see, chores are not just something you want to get the kid to do, or maybe to help lighten your load. This is a part of life. We are all supposed to work, and we are all supposed to play. 

Right now, because home is basic training for real life, you want to make sure that those kids know that chores are not just something that is on the list, but it is building them for the future. 

And so, just make sure that you put it in much bigger context, that we’re not just saying, “You need to make your bed.” No, no, no. This is part of a big role we play as a family, preparing you for the future. 

DARCY KIMMEL: With our children, we started when they were young, and we had to make sure that the things we asked them to do were age-appropriate. If you give them something that they are really not developmentally ready to do, then it’s just going to frustrate them. 

So make sure they have clear instructions. Make sure they understand what you are asking them to do. 

And then, for young kids, they can only take one or two instructions at a time, so break those instructions into little moments, manageable moments. 

TIM: And make them realistic. You know, I’ve often thought I wish that I could build a bedroom to scale for what a child is—you know, a gigantic bed with a heavy lead-lined bedspread and huge pillow, and a toy box that’s eye-level to an adult—and say, “OK, now clean up this room and make it really look good.” 

Because, see, you have got to be realistic on what you are expecting this chore to look like when it is done, especially for the little ones. 

DARCY: Yeah, and even if you explain things and you show them, everything is age-appropriate. 

Some kids just aren’t going to do things, so then you have to have some consequences, and they have to be appropriate to the offense, and you have to be consistent in carrying out those consequences, so they know, “You know what? I think it would be a whole lot easier to make my bed the way Mom said, rather than for this to happen.” 

TIM: Two more things. Don’t hover and micromanage over those kids, because that drives anybody nuts. It would drive you nuts if somebody did that to you. 

Just give them the job, expect them to get it done in a reasonable amount of time—that means that if it takes you three minutes, basically make it an hour for the little ones . . . 

DARCY: [laughs] 

TIM: Be realistic, and then don’t hover. Don’t micromanage. 

And then the other thing is, when they get it right, recognize it. Applaud them. Praise them. Let them know that you really appreciate the effort they are making to help pull their weight around this family.