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Are you constantly picking up after your kids? Do you trip over toys when you walk down the hall? Do your kids’ bedrooms often look like the Tazmanian Devil just snuck in the door and out the window? Do they whine or freak out when you ask them to clean their rooms? If so, you are not alone. Learning to keep a place neat and tidy is a lifelong struggle for many families. That’s why it is important to get kids accustomed to participating in the day-to-day tasks that keep your household running smoothly.

More importantly, chores teach children the importance of community and responsibility. Kids who have a “job to do” feel a sense of purpose and competency. When kids do their “jobs” they are, in a very real sense, becoming productive members of the family. This sense of self-worth bleeds into other aspects of their lives.

That said, kids will be kids. And getting kids to do their chores without protest is all but impossible.

Here are a few tips to help you win the chore war:

1) Choose age-appropriate chores. Here is a Montessori chart of “Age Appropriate Chores for Children” that offers a few ideas of what kids can handle at various developmental stages:

2) Start early. Toddlers have an inborn desire to be independent and helpful, and they love to imitate their parents and siblings. If you demonstrate how fold a towel, they will want to try it themselves. And be prepared to repeat your demonstrations many times. Learning new things takes patience and practice.

3) Be specific. Break down big chores into small tasks. For example, “Clean your room” is vague and open to interpretation. Even the smartest kids need help breaking this big job into smaller tasks. Instead try saying, “Make your bed. Then put dirty clothes in the hamper, and toys in the toy box.”

4) Don’t nitpick! Offer assistance as needed, but don’t “re-do” their work. Like I said in #1: practice makes perfect. The best way to encourage practice is to recognize and reward their best efforts.

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