Dividing and Conquering: How to delegate household chores

Denise Caron-Quinn

If cleaning the windows, washing the laundry and scrubbing the floors are getting in the way of your family bonding time, there’s no need to worry. It is possible to get your home whipped into shape while spending quality time with your children. Household responsibilities should not be isolated to mom, dad or the nanny. Instead, get your children involved to promote responsibility and development, says Shannon Battle, a licensed therapist and CEO for Family Services of America in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“When you have children in the house, a mother or father should not have to be overwhelmed with minor chores,” says Battle. “Kids can learn to pick up behind themselves.”

With a joint effort and cooperation from the kids, the nanny and both parents, your family will be all smiles and your home will be sparkling clean.

Create Incentives

In order to obtain a clean home and a happy household, consider motivating family members with chore charts. Age-appropriate charts with stickers, privileges or points for allowance can help show your children that they must earn rewards by chipping in and helping out when needed.

Designate a portion of the chart for daily tasks, such as feeding pets, making beds and keeping rooms picked up. The primary portion of the chart should include minor tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis, such as taking out the trash, dusting the furniture and washing laundry.

Battle says she uses star charts for her younger children, and the stars they receive can accumulate to earn allowances. If they complete extra tasks, they have the ability to earn additional allowance.

“On top of having an allowance, they are required to put money into a savings account in which I manage for them,” she says. “The savings incentive is that by the end of the year, the child that saved the most money, mom and dad will double that money to promote financial wisdom for my six, nine and 10-year old.”

 Stray from Gender Specific Roles

Many times stereotypes influence a resistance to household chores. If you have subscribed to the belief that men take out the trash and women cook the meals, you could be turning your family off to the idea of keeping the home and family intact.

“As the wife and mother of five children, I used to believe that chores were assigned gender specific roles relative to physical demands,” says Battle. “In this day and age, it’s no longer realistic.”

Instead of assigning and delegating duties based on gender, Battle recommends discussing how all members of the family are capable of doing the most chores. “Whoever sees that something needs to be done and if they have the capability of doing it, then that should be their responsibility,” says Battle.

Ask for Preferences

No one likes being told what to do, especially adolescents who are trying to establish their own identity and freedom. Instead of taking an authoritative approach when delegating household chores, ask for preferences from everyone in the home. Providing choices is key, says Yaelle Shaphir, mother of three and licensed acupuncturist in Los Angeles, Calif.

“It is not a question of are you going to help out or not, but rather how,” she says. When it’s time for chores, use phrases, such as “do you want to dust the furniture or sort the clutter under your bed?”

When children are given a choice, they feel more invested in both the activity and the outcome. In other words, they feel more in control and may put forth more effort to complete the chores.

Make it Fun

“What is most important is the attitude in which the parent introduces the concept of a shared household,” says Shaphir. “Make it fun and it will get done.”

Try energizing cleaning day with these activities:

  • Shake It: Turn on dance music to motivate everyone to shake their groove thing while folding laundry or dusting the furniture.
  • Squirt and Spray: Toddlers will feel empowered and overjoyed to be responsible for their very own spray bottle. Add a little water and vinegar to a bottle and allow your child to spray down counter tops and then wipe it away on his own.
  • Race to Clean: If your children are dreading cleaning tasks, make it a game. Set the timer and see who can clean up their room the fastest or rake the leaves in the yard.

Even if you don’t have a magic wand or a full-time house cleaner on the job, there are still ample ways to enroll all the members of the household – no matter what age – to participate in weekly household duties. Make it fun, provide choices and get your home in tip-top shape.

This post originally appeared on Housekeeping.org.