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Frustration over getting kids to do chores without reminding and nagging

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My 7 and 5 year old sons have a couple chores they need to do each day: feed the pets, make their beds, clear their dishes from the table after each meal.

The first two tasks aren't so bad. The animals will certainly remind the boys they are hungry if I don't. ;) And since making the beds needs to be done before eating breakfast, they do it willingly. But I have to nag, nag, nag to get them to put their dishes in the dishwasher. I'm tired of hearing myself and I know it's getting worse! But I don't know what else to do. I really don't want to "punish" them for not doing it. And a ticket reward system doesn't get them to do it either. Can you give me some other ideas? We're stuck in a terrible cycle now.

Thank you!!


That's a tough one. I suppose some folks would tell you not to remind them, and not to wash their dishes. When there are no clean dishes for their meals, they'll start washing them. But that to me just seems harsh and not the kind of home I'd like to live in. It's not the way I would want my husband or someone else to deal with me, if I didn't handle some household responsibility.

So what CAN we do when kids don't step up to the plate and do their "chores" without being reminded? It certainly can be a pain to have to remind them, and it's easy to get resentful and irritable about it.

I wish I had a magic wand that would motivate kids to clear their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. The closest thing I know to such a wand is your kids' love for you. Meaning, when your kids know that doing something will consistently get them a smile, hug, or warm thank you, they're more likely to do it. By contrast, if we think they should do it without reminders, and the whole interaction is fraught with irritation on our part, they're more likely to shy away from doing it. Sad, but true!

So my advice would be to keep reminding them, every single meal, and help them create a habit. After all, they don't have a lot of incentive to put their plates in the dishwasher, so the only reason to do it is that you'll be in their face (in a nice way) reminding them until they do it. After awhile, it will simply be a habit, and most of the time you won't have to remind them.

I hear that you feel you're nagging, and that you're tired of hearing yourself. But reminding doesn't have to be nagging. I think which category your reminders fall into might depend on your tone of voice. Is there a way you can get playful with this? Experiment with being silly and playful and ridiculous about it, until everyone is laughing about the dishes getting cleared. The anxiety will disappear, and any power struggle will disappear. In fact, your disappointment about having to remind your kids will disappear. And once there's lightness and fun about it, you might even find that your kids no longer need prompting.

Good luck, and please let me know how this goes!

Thanks so much. You know, I think the repeated nagging comes when they've already left the table (and the dishes) while I'm busy doing something else. So it's a reminder to myself to take a breath, relax, and sit at the table with them for the entirety of the snack. Then it would only be one reminder instead of multiple.

One more thing: is it okay to ask for chores in exchange for a privilege? For example, my kids wanted to play a Toy Story interactive game today (video games are rare in our house.) So I said, "Sure. One of you help me unload the dishwasher first, and the other can pick up the playmobile figures. Then you can play the game." They helped out eagerly and without complaint... but is that method going to be problematic in the long run?

Thank you again!!


I don't think that's problematic. If those were regular chores, you'd want them to do them regardless of allowance (for instance) or they could just decide that they didn't care about their allowance that week. But a tradeoff where they get a special treat for helping you with jobs that aren't their regular jobs -- why not?

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