Raising Responsible Country Kids: Chores and Motivation

Nov 02, 2023
A father, son, and daughter stacking wood into a large woodshed.

The Importance of Chores and How to Encourage Kids to Help Out

Autumn is my favorite time of year. But it brings on many seasonal tasks as we prepare for the coming winter. It gets very cold here and some winters the snow can be knee deep for months.

Preparing for winter was much easier when the kids were home. And it seemed a lot more fun. We were fortunate to have their help.

And I believe they are more self-reliant, responsible, and hardworking because of the expectations and skills they learned as youngsters. 

We weren't slave drivers by any means, but our children definitely learned early on the importance of working together, planning ahead, and problem-solving. For their benefit as well as the family's welfare.

There is no doubt that involving children in household chores and seasonal projects are beneficial for their future success. The question usually becomes an issue of how to get them to do it.

A generation ago, this would have been less a problem.

It was the expectation from parents and grandparents that children would pick up after themselves and “do as they were told.”

But over the last couple of decades, many parents feel guilty about setting boundaries regarding chores and privileges. To be blunt, majority of today’s children are spoiled by the “give them what they want or you’re not a good parent” mentality expressed by society.

Unfortunately giving them what they want (regardless of their behavior) does not give them what they need to be successful as an independent adult.

Many parents are worn out from battling with their children about helping out at home. Moms and dads are also exhausted from doing it all themselves.

They work all day, run their children from one activity to another, and some where in between take care of cooking, cleaning, shopping, mowing, feeding, and all the other responsibilities related to having a home whether it’s in the city or on a farm.

If parents were willing to delegate and follow through with giving their children more responsibilities around home, everyone would benefit.

Mom and Dad would have more time to relax. Or at least to eat and breathe. And there's a lengthy list of benefits for the kids. No explanation needed for most of them. I'm trusting your common sense.

What young people learn from helping out at home:

  1. Instills responsibility and the importance of a good work ethic
  2. The development of skills for tackling real life situations
  3. The value of teamwork and an opportunity for family bonding
  4. Builds an appreciation for, and a connection to, nature and animals
  5. The importance of time management and the need for organization
  6. Encourages self-reliance and builds self-esteem through problem-solving and successful task completion
  7. Respect for others, including patience and empathy
  8. Opportunity to improve their health through physical activity and practicing safety
  9. Develop an understanding of financial responsibility

Motivation is the roadblock to getting children to do chores.

As I mentioned earlier, the roadblock for most parents is how to get their children motivated to help out at home without resorting to screaming, slamming doors, and outright tantrums.

First of all, having expectations of things like picking up after yourself, putting your toys away, taking your plate to the sink, etc. need to start early on. As soon as a child is physically and mentally able to take on such tasks.

Parents also need to accept that in the beginning, it may not be done to your standards. Just keep encouraging and teaching. Even toddlers are capable of putting their toys in a basket.

In my experience as a teacher of a variety of grade levels, many parents underestimate the ability of youngsters to help out at home. They wait until bad habits have formed.

If I had a dime for every time a parent told me they couldn't get Oscar or Olive to pick up their toys after playing, I would have quite a nest egg.

For example, mom has been picking up after the kids for ten years and cannot understand why now they won’t do if for themselves. While Mom was cleaning up after the children, they have been playing video games, chatting on social media, dropping their dirty clothes on the floor, playing soccer and baseball, taking swimming lessons, and snacking on treats every day of the week. 

What is the incentive to help out?

How can parents flip the switch and enlist more help from their children?

Here are a dozen ways to motivate your kiddos into helping out at home:

  1. Make it a family affair -

    When everyone in the family has a task or two assigned to them, your child is less likely to feel “picked” on. He also learns that when everyone works together, the tasks can be easier and finished sooner. 

    Shared responsibility reduces the “why do I have to do it?” attitude when it is obvious everyone is doing something.

  2. Be a role model –

    The old adage “monkey see, monkey do” applies to household duties.

    If you are sitting on your butt watching YouTube videos, your child is going to want to do the same.

    If you take your responsibilities seriously, even the unpleasant ones, and go after them with a positive attitude, your child will as well.

    A mantra I used to use was “It will sure feel good to get this done.”

  3. Assign age-appropriate jobs –

    Common sense tells us we wouldn’t ask a five-year-old to mow the lawn even though she loves riding on the mower with dad.

    It’s important to give a child a chore that she is physically and mentally capable of completing successfully and safely.

    And while there may be simple tasks you assign to your teenager, it is also important to give him responsibilities that he can be proud of doing.
  4. Create a chore chart –

    I know this sounds like old and boring advice. But especially for younger children, a visual reminder of what needs to be done is very helpful.

    It also helps with organizational skills and provides a way to record and reward successful completion of each family member’s tasks.
  5. Offer choices and rotate responsibilities –

    If a chore chart isn’t your thing or if you have seasonal/special projects that need to be completed, this strategy is really helpful.

    A personal example – I had three daughters. When we had seasonal or special projects to do, I would create a list of the tasks and they would take turns choosing which ones they wanted to do. It would have been easy to just assign the job, but they were much more engaged in the planning and organizing of the who, what, when, and how by giving them options.

    It was also a great way to see that one of them didn’t always ended up with the nastiest or most difficult task each time. If necessary, I could "rotate" the responsibilities.

  6. Make it fun –

    It seems like everything has to be “fun” these days. I see it all the time as a teacher. But giving household jobs a game-like vibe isn’t that hard.

    My girls used to time themselves and once in a while they would compete to see who could get done first. Competing against each other worked well when it came to harvesting or weeding the garden.

    Another way to “game it up” is to give points for achieving a task goal (all dirty laundry in the hamper, the car is washed with no missed spots, etc.). Points can be tallied and redeemed for a predetermined reward.

  7. Offer incentives –

    This looks a great deal like bribing. Probably because that’s what it is! However, it might be the way to get started before your child understands all the other benefits that come with helping out at home.

    It works well with the chore chart idea and the “make it fun” method.

    Incentives are like a paycheck to young people. They answer the often asked question, “Why should I” and planned correctly can provided immediate gratification for a job well done. It can be individualized (as soon as you finish vacuuming you can have 20 minutes on your computer) or family focused ( after the lawn is mowed and the water troughs are cleaned, we can go to the lake).

    As any good teacher or parent knows, relying to heavily on this method can backfire. Vary when you use it, how you use it and why you use it.
  8. Celebrate achievements and show appreciation –

    Kids love little celebrations and they thrive on being appreciated for their contributions.

    Celebrating can be as simple as hand slaps and yahoos or more involved like going out for pizza. Taking a picture of their special project and posting on your social media with a thank you is another way to encourage your kids to keep at it.

    And of course, a hug and a thank you go a long way with just about any child, even if they don’t show it at first.

  9. Take advantage of their creativity –

    I mentioned in example 5 that my daughters liked being involved in the planning and organizing of special or seasonal projects.

    As adults, we sometimes underestimate the value of a young person’s perspective on how things should or could be done. If we allow ourselves to harness some of their creative ideas into our rather mundane responsibilities around the house or farm, we may find the motivation switch.

    For example, my grandson hates cleaning his room. My daughter discovered the best way to motivate him to get it done is to allow him to rearrange his bedroom. Sometimes it’s a full-on moving of furniture and other times it’s just one or two small things. And sometimes the layout is awkward. She accepts it. His room is clean and he’s learned a little bit about what works and what doesn’t.

  10. Teach them the tools –

    I remember when my grandmother taught me to iron. I was about ten years old. My mother was always afraid I would burn myself. But my grandmother trusted my common sense.

    She showed my how to set up the ironing board to my height, how to turn on the iron, and how to avoid getting burned. She gave my several of my grandpa’s large square hankies and several pillow cases. She watched as I ironed a few, gave me a few pointers, and then proceeded to work on something else nearby.

    I was so darn tooted proud of myself when I got done. The best part was asking my mom a few days later if I could help with the ironing. (I know this story ages me a bit. I don’t think many people iron anymore. But the point is, it left a huge impression on me.)

    Think about the times you learned to use the lawnmower, the electric drill, a hammer, or even the washing machine. Kids love to learn how to use tools. It builds self-esteem and a sense of self-reliance.
  11. Connect it to the bigger picture –

    Children and teenagers want to know why. Why should I help? Why do I need to do this? Why do I have to do it?

    It is our job as parents, grandparents, and influential adults to see that young people are able to connect their contributions, their tasks no matter how small, to the bigger picture.

    It's the cause and effect thing.

    Example: Teenager - "Why do I need to stack all this firewood?"  Dad - "Because winter will be here in three months and we need to keep the house warm. It is important to stack in the woodshed so it is dry and ready to use. Keeping the house warm will also be important to keep pipes from freezing so we have water for drinking, cooking, and bathing."

    Remember as you respond to the “why’s” to keep it at the child’s mental and emotional level. Don’t over explain to a preschooler or sound preachy to a teenager.

    Avoid a scary or threatening vibe like referring to a zombie attack. Although your teenager might find it amusing.
  12. Seasonal and themed –

    The holidays and the change of seasons usually mean there will be special projects to complete.

    Kids are easily enticed to help get ready for Christmas or Halloween. This is a good time to use incentives like, we’ll bake cookies after we finish the laundry and vacuuming.

    Let the young ones know at the beginning of any project that they need to help with the work related tasks as well as the fun ones.

    Themed projects can also be a fun family activity. These are usually seasonal, but not always. Some examples would include: Fencing Day (checking, repairing or building fence), Paint Party (may get messy but kids love it), Hay Day (this can be more than just cutting and baling. Cleaning out the barn, loading and unloading hay bales), Planting Project (yard, garden or flower beds), and Bathe the Pets Day are just a few that come to mind.

    It is easy to find incentives or ways to celebrate when accomplishing holiday or seasonal chores and projects. Often there are family traditions associated with them. Such a great time for family bonding while teaching some real life lessons.

Every child is unique.

What motivates one child to help out with chores and projects may be different from another child, even in the same family. Age and gender will also impact the interest and ability level of each child.

But as a parent, you know your child best. You are aware of their personalities, strengths, and limits. This makes you the best person to teach and motivate your child to participate in family responsibilities.

You know the benefits of getting them involved in household chores and seasonal projects. And because you love them and want them to be successful adults it is up to you to provide positive and engaging experiences as a member of the family team.

The skills and values you teach them while they are living under your roof will be forever with them as invaluable assets in their adult lives wherever they choose to live.

That is the importance of raising responsible country kids.


 If you're interested in organizing and planning

for Family Autumn Chores and Special Projects checkout my Checklist/Journal/Planner on Etsy.



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