Children learn from having chores. They learn responsibility and they learn that being part of a family means giving and taking. Children that do chores on a regular basis tend to do better in school, have better social skills and have greater self-esteem than those that do not do chores. But having ADHD can make consistency in chores difficult. Adults with ADHD may delegate chores and get tasks accomplished one week while totally forgetting about follow through and leave chores undone the next week. Children with ADHD may have problems following directions or forget to do their chores on a regular basis.
Following are tips on helping your children do chores around the house on a consistent basis. Choose the ideas that work best for your household.
- Rotate chores from week to week. This way, if there is a specific chore a child does not like to do, they are not stuck doing it week after week. Make a list of the chores that need to be completed, for example: take out trash, vacuum, dust, fold clothes. Each child can do a different chore each week. This will take the boredom out of the chores as well as allow children to learn a variety of skills. Chores should not be divided according to gender but all children should be able to complete different chores.
- Make chores family time. Set aside a specific time for everyone to complete chores. Put music on and dance as you clean the house. For older children, let them listen to their own music if it helps them to complete their tasks. Teaching children to enjoy this time rather than seeing it as a boring task will help them to want to complete it and will help them to work harder and do a better job.
- Make sure chores are appropriate for your child’s age and ability. Don’t ask a child to put things away on a shelf if it is too high for them to reach. Don’t ask a child to fold clothes if they are too young to complete this task. Helping them to succeed in completing a task will help improve self-esteem.
- Create a chore chart to keep track of what needs to be completed and by whom. You may want to include some of the chores completed by parents on a daily basis to avoid children feeling as if they are “doing all the work.” Print a free chore chart.
- Set up a reward system. If you do chores as a family, make ice-cream sundaes after you have finished (or another treat you enjoy as a family). If you have children follow a chore chart, have them place stars when they have completed a chore and give them a reward when they have attained a certain number of stars.
- Enlist your children’s help when dividing up chores to be completed. Finding a chore they enjoy or find interesting will help them to complete the task.
- Break down chores into smaller tasks. Instead of having your child “clean up the living room,” break down the job into smaller tasks, such as: pick up the toys, dust the tables. This way they can feel a sense of accomplishment each time a portion of the job is complete and provide motivation for continuing. For children with ADHD, this also helps, as a larger task can be overwhelming.
- Take time to teach your children how to complete a task instead of getting frustrated when they do not complete it correctly. For younger children, have them do the chore with you a few times before they do it by themselves.
- Set consequences for not completing chores. For example, children cannot watch TV or go outside to play until chores are completed. Be consistent and carry through with consequences.
- Make a routine for chores. Children with ADHD thrive with routine. Have chores completed at the same time each day or each week. Make picking up toys part of the bedtime routine, make cleaning the kitchen part of the dinnertime routine.
- Be specific. Knowing exactly what is expected of them will help children complete their chores better. The more specific you are, the more they can succeed.
- Give days off. Even as adults, we appreciate our weekends and days off from work. Allow your child to have a day off from chores at least once a week. (Except for cleaning up after themselves.)
- Be patient. Children may not do such a good job at their chores in the beginning, but with patience, they will improve. Continue to teach them how to do the job they have been assigned, letting them share ideas they may have on improving how to complete the task.
- Be careful with handing out rewards or money for completing tasks. Children can easily decide they don’t want the reward; therefore they do not need to complete the task. Try to instill in your children that household chores are part of the entire family’s responsibility and each person needs to do their share.
- Use praise frequently. Let your child know they have done a good job. Notice if they made extra effort to complete the task. Praise will be a much better incentive than money. Let them know you appreciate their efforts and be sure to say "Thank you
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.