Chores & Cleaning Up

The Household Chores That Work for Kids with ADHD – and Some That Don’t

Household chores provide essential structure and improve self-esteem for children with ADHD, though selling your kid on the benefits of these family jobs is rarely easy. From folding laundry to walking the dog to mowing the lawn, here are the chores that work for ADDitude families – and a few that never seem to get done.

Teen boy with ADHD wearing headphones while he does the laundry, learning life skills

“What kinds of regular household chores does your child with ADHD have? Is it a struggle to get them to do their chores, or do they like having defined tasks?”

ADDitude recently posed these questions to newsletter subscribers and received dozens of insightful answers. Yes, plenty of children with ADHD are tasked with setting and clearing the table, washing laundry, and taking out the trash — ordinary tasks with predictable incentives. But you also told us that physical chores like mowing the lawn or walking the dog kill multiple birds with one stone — contributing to household harmony while burning off excess energy, providing weekly structure, and boosting self-esteem.

Delegating tasks and enforcing chore completion is the tricky part for most parents. Defiant behavior, poor working memory, and time blindness often delay or derail chores. Here are the tasks you have found to be the most ADHD-friendly (and the least), as well as strategies to encourage dependable chore completion without epic battles. Leave your chore suggestions in the Comments section below.

Household Chores for Kids with ADHD: What Works — and What Doesn’t

“My 11-year-old daughter has to set and clear the dinner table. I also put a pile of easy-to-fold clothes from the dryer onto the couch for her to fold while she’s watching TV. Every week she takes out and brings in the garbage pails. However, she still has to be asked at least five times to brush her teeth. Forget making her bed every day!” – Mickey

“Our 8-year-old has to make her bed and help clean up the table after dinner. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but conflict can usually be redirected quickly with encouraging words and rewards for doing her chores. Following a visual schedule has worked well for her.” – Amanda

“My 9-year-old daughter has daily chores and weekly chores. Daily chores, like making her bed, rarely get done. On Saturday morning she cleans the kitchen and bathrooms. She wears headphones and listens to a playlist, and she has a list she can check tasks off of. She is in her own world for an hour and she loves to show off the checklist items when she’s done.” – Anonymous

[Free Download: Gauge Your Child’s Weakest Executive Functions]

“My 12-year-old loves having defined tasks; it gives him a sense of accomplishment. He cleans up after himself without being asked, mows the lawn in the warm seasons, and shovels snow in the cold. These chores really seem to help him because they are active and outdoors.” – Anonymous

“Our 5-year-old son craves routine and despises change. His job is to let our dog out, feed her, and change her water. I know he’s functioning well when he lets her out with minimal disagreement, but sometimes I have to constantly remind him and he devolves into tears. He’s also responsible for putting his used dishes in the sink and his dirty laundry in the laundry room. I rarely have any issue with him doing these smaller chores because they don’t require the commitment of letting the dog out.” – Anonymous

“Our kiddos empty and load the dishwasher, empty trash, dust, do laundry, mow grass, and clean up after the pets. We have a magnetic white board that we put on the fridge with each day’s tasks, which they cross off after completion. The daily lists help them focus. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get them to complete the tasks, but we use screen time as an incentive.” – Anonymous

“It requires more energy to manage the task and make sure that my child with ADHD actually completes a chore, so my husband and I usually end up doing it ourselves. I already see the roots of entitlement taking hold from the lack of household responsibility. We’ve tried charts, incentives, and penalties – nothing works. I worry about the kind of adult he will become.” – Anonymous

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

“My daughter washes dishes, sets the table, and makes her bed. She has to be reminded of some chores, is a bit haphazard with others, and can take a while to complete them, but she gets it done.” –Anonymous

“We want our teenage son to understand what it takes to do your part in a communal living situation, like with college roommates. Over the years he has gotten better at completing chores, but we still need to remind him to take out the garbage and recycling, and to do his own laundry. He enjoys helping out most of the time, but his oppositional side peeks out when he is told to do something.” – Heather

“Our 6-year-old makes his bed, puts dirty clothes in the hamper, takes out the trash and helps set and clear the dinner table. He is actually the more collaborative of his siblings, probably because the chores provide a certain structure that he craves.” – Anonymous

“My son hides dishes to avoid washing them. He’ll lie about feeding the animals and ‘forget’ to help with the plants, despite being asked to do so immediately beforehand.” – Anonymous

Consistency is key. If my boys with ADHD are given a break from chores, it’s much harder to get them to cooperate again.” – Anonymous

“My son has regular chores. His job is to empty the trash, empty the dish washer, and take out the recycling. When asked to complete the various tasks, he replies back like this is the first time he ever has heard of this chore. He says, ‘EMPTY THE TRASH? DO I HAVE TO?’” – Celeste

“The only strategy that gets my son to do his chores is racing against the clock and being timed. I must admit, my ADHD self would like to join him in the race, and sometimes I do!” – Devra

“My 15-year-old does his own laundry, takes out recycling and trash, and puts away clean dishes. On the weekend, he cleans his bathroom and vacuums the bedrooms, but he is getting more defiant lately.” – Anonymous

“My 10-year-old son is a great helper. He regularly unloads the dishwasher and takes out the trash. He also helps out with many other projects around the house, such as making dinner together and preparing his own meals for breakfast and lunch. I am thankful that he enjoys helping and doesn’t complain much.” – Renee

“Our children have virtually no chores because it’s such a headache to get them to do any kind of household chore. It either doesn’t get done or causes a lot of arguing.” – Anonymous

Household Chores: Next Steps

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