How to get your kids to do the laundry…


Image: Hemera | Thinkstock

We recently watched a TV program in which each member of a busy family kept a list of the week’s tasks. It’s not hard to guess the outcome. The obscenely long list of the mom versus everyone else’s lists created a stunning visual aid. Thankfully, it also forced some changes in the chores assigned to each member of the family.

Making sense of shift-work, homework, chauffeur-work and housework can seem overwhelming. You give so much of yourself to people on a daily basis that sometimes there’s nothing left to give at home.

Many parents recruit family members to share the load, and it can work successfully. There’s no reason why an 11-year-old can’t do laundry or a 5-year-old can’t clear the table. When children take on responsibility, they feel capable and develop a better sense of self. Here are some tricks to make it easier:

  • Make a plan and involve your youngster in the process. When children feel left out of decisions, power struggles are around the corner. If your children are age 4 or older, involve them in creating, or at least choosing from, a list of tasks that need to be done. If your 11-year-old balks at laundry but loves to vacuum, it could work out in your favor…especially when your whites remain white.
  • When you start assigning chores, keep it simple. Going from very few chores to a huge list is just asking for trouble.
  • Determine when and how the tasks will be completed. This sets up your child for success. Directions should be clearly stated, even written down, so your child knows exactly what to do and what the final outcome should be. “Clean your room” may mean something completely different to you than to your child.
  • Take the time to teach every task. Begin by doing the task with your child. It may help to take a digital photo of the outcome so your child has a clear, visual goal. Next, have your child perform the task while you watch. Use encouraging language: “I saw you follow the first three steps perfectly. What might you do differently in step four?”
  • Follow up regularly with your child, noticing that things are getting done and expressing your gratitude that the family is working together as a team.

Remember to notice effort rather than wait for perfection.

What’s your method to get other family members to wash their jeans…and your scrubs? Got any other parenting tips for busy nurses?

Julie Freedman Smith and  Gail Bell of Parenting Power™
Parenting Power offers courses and coaching internationally, helping parents feel confident, capable and calm. To receive a free list of age-appropriate chores and to order the company's latest course on MP3, "Surviving Shift-Work: Making Life Easier For Our Children," email or visit

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