Chores & Cleaning Up

End the Chore Wars!

How to get even the most messy and disorganized children to help out around the house — without fighting or dragging their feet!

A young blond kid doing chores and playing in a red laundry basket
Little boy with ADHD laughing in basket of laundry outside

Getting kids to complete their chores can be a challenge in any household. With families where one or more children have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), forgetfulness, difficulty following traditional directions, distractions, and more can affect how quickly housework gets done, if at all. That’s why we scoured our website for comments from parents who’ve been there, done that, about getting their kids and teens to help keep the house and their rooms organized. Here’s their best advice:

Make Chores Fun and Flexible

“My 15-year-old son likes to use his iPod while doing his chores. Doing so helps him focus, especially if I remind him to keep it playing on shuffle (selecting new songs is distracting). I also tell him (and I have to repeat this every week) what he is supposed to do. I explain upfront that if he doesn’t do things right he will have to do them over. One thing to avoid: My husband will give a list and then start tacking things onto it after our son has started doing the chores, which really takes away the reward of being finished. Also, I suggest letting your child move around as much as she or he likes while doing the work, if possible” –TiggersMom

“Limit the power struggle over doing housework by allowing children with ADHD to have a choice of chores and some flexibility about when they do them. This is where a contract may be in order. For example, if your son mows the lawn, have him make his own schedule — factoring in rain or other difficulties. If he does not mow the lawn, reduce privileges — he can’t go out on the weekend until it’s done.” –coachjulie

Explain the Consequences of Not Doing Chores

“Frustrated with struggling with my kids about housework, I finally made a spreadsheet of all the chores I do around the house that my children were capable of doing. I explained that if they helped, I would have more time to spend with them and I would be less tired and less crabby! I told them to split the chores and they would only have to do them twice a week. They would have to do them correctly — no sloppiness or attitude allowed. If they threw a fit, I explained that I would add another chore to their responsibilities and that this would take time away from doing the things they enjoy!” –ronsmom

“My daughter has her days when she doesn’t want to do anything. When I ask her why she doesn’t do this or that she says, ‘You didn’t tell me.’ Now I usually let her know ahead of time that she has to do this before she goes to a party or a sleepover. If not, she doesn’t go.” -jinx561

“When my 13-year-old with ADHD doesn’t get around to doing her Saturday chores, she doesn’t get rides to her friends’ houses or her allowance. No money means no movies, swimming, restaurants, and skating. I always give her three warnings within a half hour of her not doing the housework I’ve asked her to do. If she starts to argue, I threaten to remove her bedroom door, which has helped limit the fights we have about housework. During the school week, I discuss the consequences of having a messy room or a messy kitchen. Dirty dishes mean paper plates and microwave dinners. Not doing her own laundry means wearing dirty clothes. A dirty bathroom means embarrassment when friends are over.” –Anika

Offer Rewards When Children Finish Chores

“If my daughter does a chore after the first time I ask her to, she earns 50 cents. I keep a running total of this amount on a whiteboard on my fridge. If I have to ask her repeatedly, then I subtract 50 cents. When I ask her to do whatever the chore is I remind her that money is on the line. Money wasn’t my first choice on how to motivate her, but it is, so far, working. Sometimes it’s about finding what will motivate our children. If the punishments and negative consequences aren’t working, then try using something that she likes, and wouldn’t otherwise get, as an incentive. My daughter doesn’t get an allowance and doesn’t really have any other way to make money so 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 three nights a week if she finishes her chores without being reminded and without giving us any attitude. On the weekends, she has free days. We don’t believe in giving her a lot of TV time or time to play video games, so earning movie nights is a big thing for her.” -Dlw5tab

How to Accommodate for Your Child’s Memory and Organizing Challenges

“When you’re the parent of a child (especially an adolescent) with ADHD, you have bigger fish to fry than whether or not your child remembers to put away her belongings without prompting. So when you find your child has left something out, bring her to the room and ask her to pick it up. Yes, it feels like more work than just doing it yourself, but it puts the responsibility on her, in a way that she can handle, and over time it will get better (though it will take longer than you want it to or think it should). That’s just the way it is. Before you know it, your child will be off to college or starting her first real job. Do you want to spend the time you have with her at home punishing her for not picking up after herself, or do you want to spend it getting her ready to launch (academically, morally, and emotionally) and loving her and enjoying being with her while you have her at home?” –Jillbb

“What I find best for helping kids with ADHD do the simple things, like chores, that we do automatically but they forget to do, is to write them down and put the list where it can be seen easily and frequently. My 15-year-old has to be reminded about his chores most of the time, but for the past three months, I typed the chores that he should do during the day — like make his bed, make tea, take a shower, brush his teeth, take out the garbage — with check boxes next to each chore, and stuck it on the fridge where he would definitely see it. He gets 10 points for each one done. There are about 12 things on the list and he has to get about 100 points each day for at least 8 out of 10 consecutive days. If he reaches that, he then gets a book at the end of the tenth day. By now, he gets most of them done without me having to remind him what he should do. At first the refusal to do chores does seem to be laziness, but their brains just don’t work like ours. If you wait for this behavior to change, I’m afraid you’ll be waiting forever.” –dolphin70

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