Most parents want their children to become adults who are able to take care of things. We often need our kids’ labour to stay on top of daily life by doing chores and learning to work. Some parents try paying an allowance, or other incentives, to urge their kids to work, but getting children to do jobs around the house can become a point of conflict in the home. The struggle is real.

More than just helping the family survive, however, we want to train our children to learn to be responsible, resourceful and hard-working. Most parents want their children to become adults who are able to take care of things.

I remember reading a book by Stephen Covey about parenting. He mentioned that he was having a hard time getting one of his sons to cut the grass regularly. He realized that he needed to give his son the authority to make decisions about that task. He decided to go with two words to describe the desired outcome for the lawn: “green” and “clean.” He then explained to his son that it was the boy’s responsibility to keep the grass in their yard green and clean. They discussed what might be required to meet this objective and then he gave him the “green and clean” responsibility. When he did this, it gave his son the freedom to comply and use his resources to achieve the desired outcome. It wasn’t automatic but the boy regularly watered and cut the grass and kept the yard weed free. He took pride in the “green-ness and clean-ness.”

In my parenting experience, we have had mixed success with this kind of thing. It sounds good in theory to include your kids in the idea of taking responsibility for an area. However, in real life, it is a challenge to know how much to expect from your kids. I often just do things myself to avoid conflict or delays in getting something done.

One thing we have found helpful is to give clear expectations on a list but also allow some flexibility as to how and when the job is done – perhaps with an ultimate deadline. My wife Pam is good at this.

Parents, go ahead and give an allowance if you wish. Use spreadsheets, rewards, checklists on the fridge, but try taking time to discuss what taking responsibility means. Explain what the desired outcome is for each job you assign your child.

When baby steps toward responsibility are taken, praise liberally!


What is your current approach to kids and chores?