Chores & Cleaning Up

End the Chore Wars! How to Stop Arguing and Start Motivating Your Child

How do you get your kid to do chores without arguing? Parents sound off on how they get their children with ADHD to help out around the house — without fighting or dragging their feet!

Person with ADHD checking off list of chores from mini blackboard
Person with ADHD checking off list of chores from mini blackboard

Chores – the word is enough to scare off kids and cause major headaches at home.

Every parent knows that getting kids to do their chores can be a challenge. With families where one or more children have ADHD, forgetfulness, difficulty following directions, distractions, and other symptoms can affect how quickly housework gets done, if at all.

That’s why we asked parents who’ve been there and done that how they go about getting their kids and teens to help with household chores. Here’s their best advice:

Chores Tip #1: Make Work Fun and Flexible

“My 15-year-old son likes to listen to music while doing chores. It helps him focus, especially if the music is on shuffle (selecting new songs is distracting).” –TiggersMom

“Limit the power struggle over doing housework by allowing some flexibility about when they are done. For example, if the chore is to mow the lawn, have your child make their own schedule — factoring in rain or other difficulties – so they can get it done on their own time. If they do not mow the lawn, reduce privileges — they can’t go out on the weekend until it’s done.” –coachjulie

[Click to Read: The Reinvented Chore Chart That Actually Motivates My Child]

“I do chores with my child, so it becomes a bonding experience.” –Zoe Parys, Antwerp, Belgium

Chores Tip #2: Emphasize Independence

I remind him that he lives here, too. I let him make decisions about the household (what is for supper, where to store things) and offer an allowance for chores that he completes.” –An ADDitude Reader

“I try to engage them by saying, ‘If you empty the dishwasher, I’ll fill it.’ Or something else that makes it feel like we’re working together.” –An ADDitude Reader

“Ask respectfully. I also point out to my child that, as a family member, you have ownership of the clutter/messes.” –Michelle, Naples, Florida

[Read: How to Support (Not Enable) a Child with ADHD]

Chores Tip #3: Lay Out Consequences

“I told my kids to split the chores so that they would only have to do them twice a week. They would have to do them correctly — no sloppiness or attitude allowed. If not, I’d add another chore to their responsibilities, which would take time away from doing the things they enjoy!” –ronsmom

“When my 13-year-old with ADHD doesn’t get around to doing her chores, she doesn’t get rides to her friends’ houses or her allowance. No money means no movies, swimming, restaurants, and skating. A dirty room or a messy kitchen mean paper plates, microwave dinners, wearing dirty clothes, and a dirty bathroom – embarrassing for when her friends are over.” –Anika

Chores Tip #4: Offer Rewards

Money wasn’t my first choice on how to motivate my daughter, but it is, so far, working. If my daughter completes a chore after the first time I ask her to, she earns 50 cents. I keep a running total on a whiteboard on my fridge. If I have to ask her repeatedly, then I subtract 50 cents for each time. This is a big motivator for her.” -KSmommy

“My children both have a weekly chore schedule. Each chore is listed with a dollar or cent value. When they complete the chore, they check off the item on the list, and at the end of the week they add up how much they have earned. They enjoy taking responsibility for their earnings. There is also an opportunity to earn extra money and a section for fines (for breaking house rules).” -michellesamson

“My stepdaughter gets to earn movie nights if she finishes her chores without being reminded and without giving us any attitude. We don’t give her a lot of screen time to start, so earning movie nights is a big thing for her.” -Dlw5tab

“I used to frame chores as ‘missions,’ and had a dollar store prize waiting for them as the last step of their mission. –Angela Buffinton, Byron, Minnesota

They earn Robux and Pokemon coins for their iPad games. They are very motivated by this! –Beth Prieto, Boulder, Colorado

[How Chores Can Improve ADHD Behavior]

Chores Tip #5: Accommodate for Memory and Organizing Challenges

“When you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, you have bigger fish to fry than whether or not your child remembers to do all their chores without prompting. So when you find your child has forgotten something, remind them and supervise as they do it. Yes, it feels like more work than just doing it yourself, but it puts the responsibility on them in a way that she can handle. Over time, it will get better.” –Jillbb

Teach the steps thoroughly. Follow the process I do, we do, you do. Then pass along the responsibility to them when they have demonstrated competency.” –An ADDitude Reader

“Keep the chores simple and consistent. Tailor chores to their strengths, and make sure they see how much it helps the family and you. –Selena Ochoa, Colorado, Texas

We use charts that have photos of him doing the chore. He moves the photo over to the “done” side of the chart when it’s complete. We always include an immediate reward afterward, such as watching a movie.” –Emily Francis, Brisbane, Australia

We set timers for finishing their other activities before chores start. That way, they are kind of prepped to know that they will need to stop what they are doing and come help.” –An ADDitude Reader

Write chores on a list that can be easily seen. My 15-year-old had to be reminded about his chores most of the time, until I stuck a list on the fridge where he would definitely see it. At first, their refusal to do chores may seem to be laziness, but we have to remember that ADHD brains work differently. If you wait for this behavior to change, I’m afraid you’ll be waiting forever.” –dolphin70

Chores for Kids with ADHD: Next Steps

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