MamaLA: When Did Assigning Chores Become Such a Chore? - CityThink - Los Angeles magazine

MamaLA: When Did Assigning Chores Become Such a Chore?

A three-step plan to get little ones to pitch in between pitching ball and play dates

We have clear memories of the weekly chores that were expected of us. Our Saturday family outings were tied to whether or not those chores got done; and we can recall exactly what the breakdown was for divvying up vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms in our childhood home.  So why aren’t we holding our kids up to those same standards? Is it easier for us to just clear the dishes ourselves? Are we raising self-indulgent kids without the balance of responsibility? 

At some point in our efforts to enroll our kids in music and dance class, juggle club soccer, baseball games, math tutoring and homework, we mistakenly started to believe that our kids could not possibly slot in chores. Then it struck us: What’s the good of all these activities if our kids aren’t taught to contribute to their actual home team, their family?  The sooner they pitched in, the sooner our families could move towards order rather than chaos and we would be freed up for some (put down your smart phones) good old-fashioned family downtime. 

Now, we know there are many theories about tying chores to an allowance, but here’s the three-step plan we found inspires our kids to bust out the dust broom and start emptying the dishwasher: 

  1. Designate a clear list of chores and household responsibilities for each child according to his/her age and ability. 
  2. Select a receptacle that each child can decorate and label. On the first day of each month, place thirty $1 bills in each. (We use mason jars so the kids can see the dollars stack up.)
  3. It is the parents’ responsibility to check that each child has completed his/her chores every day. If they haven’t, remove $1 from the chore jar.  At month’s end, they can be $30 ahead—or not. 

This method has worked for us. After four months, Soraya’s 11-year-old daughter is one third of her way to buying a mini iPad with her savings, and her 7-year-old son (who is a bit of a messy eater) thinks twice before letting all those crumbs fall where they may. There are occasional groans, sure, but who really enjoys clearing the table?  Most important, our kids recognize they are a big part of making our families work and we are reminded of the value of “divide and conquer”!

For more ideas on how to get your kids inspired to do their chores, check out our Pinterest board.


With five children and two stepchildren ranging in age from four months to sixteen years between them, sisters Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.

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  1. Laura Campobasso posted on 03/21/2013 10:19 PM
    Very helpful...a good old fashioned reminder about being part of a family is helping out daily! Thank-you
  2. Angela posted on 03/22/2013 07:40 AM
    Thank you for sharing your method, which I will be sure to try. We have a chore board game, which worked for a little while, but the novelty has worn off. I grew up the 2nd of five children, and the only way our family "worked" was that we all chipped in doing lots of chores, most of the time without allowance! I'm always looking for ways to motivate my own kids, so thanks for your post!
  3. Lindsay B posted on 03/22/2013 10:32 AM
    What a great and simple idea. We're going to have to give this a try!
  4. Kristin C posted on 03/23/2013 09:26 PM
    LOVE this idea! We are going to ditch the marble jars and give the mason jars a try.
    Thank you for your ideas. Keep them coming!
  5. Heather Drake posted on 03/27/2013 05:33 PM
    This is brilliant and so very helpful. Great article!!! Thank you. I have 3 kids and getting them to do anything is like pulling teeth. Can't wait to read the next post.
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    This is so entirely cool. Thank you!
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