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How to Get Kids to Stop Whining & Help With Chores

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Do you have suggestions on how to motivate you children to help with chores and how to minimize whining? I would greatly appreciate any advice. -Amanda

First off, Amanda, I just want to encourage you: your desire to train and teach your kids to work will be such a gift to them. Truly.

You see, my parents were very committed to instilling in us the value of hard work from an early age. And I’m so grateful!

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For as long as I can remember, I had chores that were assigned to me and I was expected to do. When we moved out to the country when I was 10 years old, I was given even more chores and learned more what hard work is all about.

I spent hours when I was in the my early teens working in the garden, watering trees, and mowing our huge yard. At the time, I didn’t necessarily love the chores, but looking back, I’m so grateful my parents taught us the value of hard work and instilled in us a strong work ethic.

In fact, I believe that a strong work ethic is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me. It well prepared me for the struggles and setbacks I’ve encountered in the years since I’ve moved away from home and has helped me continue to persevere even when I might feel exhausted and ready to quit.
Practically speaking, here are 5 ideas to help minimize whining and encourage your kids to work:

1. Start Small.

Don’t overwhelm your kids with a bunch of new chores at once. Start your children out with one or two simple chores and then gradually add more as they catch on and improve.

In addition, make sure your children need to know what is expected of them when you assign a chore to them. If you never let them know what you expect of them, it will only result in frustration for you — and for them!

Need some age-appropriate chore ideas? Check out this post with some chore ideas for kids of different ages. (Keep in mind, though, that each child is different. What might be simple for one 4-year-old, could be utterly overwhelming to another.)


2. Be patient.

Training requires repetition. Don’t expect a child to do a job well at first.

Think about when you first started learning to ride a bike or drive a car. You didn’t automatically know how to do it.

You had to practice. You had to slowly learn. You had to make mistakes.

It often takes a lot of repetitive teaching, gentle correcting, and practice before a child can do a job well. Don’t expect perfection–especially when they are young. What matters is that they are putting forth effort and trying their best.

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3. Teach By Example

It’s well be said that, “More is caught than taught”. We can’t expect our children to work hard if they don’t see us working hard.

One great way to encourage them by your example is to have your child work alongside you. Most children love to spend time with Mom, no matter what it is you’re doing. So take advantage of this and enthusiastically invite them to help you with whatever chore you’re working on.

While you’re working together, talk, sing, laugh, and praise them repeatedly for helping you. Let them see you working hard and enjoying it.

Yes, it takes longer, but it’s worth it! I remind myself that my goal as a parent is to work myself out of a job, so the sooner I can teach them to work alongside me, the more help they’ll become as the years go by!


4. Make it Fun

A few ideas:

  • Turn on Music. We love to turn on upbeat music and sing and dance while working — it’s fun, it makes the time go by quickly and it makes chores much more enjoyable!
  • Have a Race. We often set the timer and have a race to see who can finish their chores first. Or, you can race against the clock, instead of racing against each other or see how many things we can collectively pick up and put away within 10 minutes. When we all work together quickly, it’s amazing how much we can get done in a short amount of time!
  • Use Child-Sized Brooms & Mops. My children got mops for Christmas one year from my parents and it was, by far, the hit present. All the cousins spent the morning cleaning Grandma and Grandpa’s kitchen tile after the presents were opened! And their enthusiasm for using them still hasn’t waned!

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5. Find the Good & Praise It

It’s easy to want to focus on pointing out all the things a child does wrong and where they need to improve.
Instead of dwelling on what they didn’t do right, focus most of your energies on praising those things they did well.

Encouragement and affirmation go a long way. In the same way, criticism and harsh words can do a lot of damage.

Make it a goal to praise 10 times more than you point out areas for improvement. Not only will your words of praise build up your child, but they will motivate and inspire them to continue working hard and developing the character quality of diligence.

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Reward Ideas:

Working for a reward is always more motivating! Figure out what motivates your child and then use that as a reward.

  • Have your child work toward a larger prize. This could be something like a toy or DVD or a date with mom. Create a reward chart for them to track their progress.
  • Give instant rewards. It’s a standing rule at our house that once all of your chores and homework is finished for the afternoon, you can watch a movie or have 30 minutes of iPad time. None of our kids want to miss this time so they are highly motivated to get their chores done!
  • Download an app. Both and ChoreMonster offer the ability to assign, track, and reward kids for chores. With, you can set up an Amazon store and assign points per chore and prizes for points earned. Once a child completes a job and you sign off on it, they earn points. They can then cash out these points in the Amazon store for prizes you’ve pre-determined.
  • Consider paying your children for some chores. We have paid chores and non-paid chores at our house. The non-paid chores are chores you do as part of contributing to our family. The paid chores are extra chores you can elect to do and get paid for. This system has worked well for our family. You can read more about how it works here.

What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Amanda?

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  • Kacy says:

    For the last year and a half we have been using a system called Accountable Kids. It has been perfect for our family. I cannot say enough about it….to be honest, its been so good I don’t even know where I’d start anyway! If anyone wants to not reinvent the wheel, have a great, customizable system that covers the gamut, I would urge you to check it out.

  • Summer says:

    I have started what I call “The 20” with my two boys, ages 6 and 4. Each night, usually after dinner and before the bedtime routine starts, they each have to pick up 20 items of their choice and put them where they belong. This can be anything–shoes, toys, books, etc. It doesn’t take them too much time, it helps with counting, and it really is a huge help to me to have 40 things picked up from around the house each evening! We’ve been doing this for months now, and it’s just become part of a normal evening so complaints are minimal.

  • Mary says:

    Crystal, wonderful advice!
    Things I learned along the way (an empty nester here):
    1) this won’t help with the whining, but makes for easier cleaning and instruction-declutter, declutter, declutter-quicker and better result.
    2)Put chores into a visible schedule, that way they expect to do chores same time each week. Every Monday 10am we did a House Blessing for an hour. (FlyLady)
    3)Begin to teach them that a home (vs. a house) really is a blessing. It is a refuge, a place of safety, a holy place, a privilege.
    My 2cents

  • Beth says:

    Great ideas! I would add that the best way to diminish whining about chores is to ignore it. Whining about chores is a normal! (..but, I’ m Tired!…my legs hurt! I did it yesterday!) It’s not okay, but it shouldn’t change whether or not a child has to complete the chore.

    Typically, I just redirect calmly once, “Ok, I know you don’t want to, but we have to do X. Let’s go!” The, I don’t say anything else. They can complain, etc. but I don’t acknowledge it (unless it would become disrespectful..,). They know that no matter what, they are to do the chores or face consequences. Typically, if you ignore the whining will escalate initially, but will diminish over time as the child learns it is not an effective strategy for getting their way.

  • Carol says:

    As a near empty nester of four I can only say Stick with it! Ignore the whining, and use team work it will go away or decrease once they know the routine. It’s easier to work when everyone is working on SOMETHING, than when everyone else is playing and you have to work.
    Give the Kids pride in what they do. Don’t redo something they have already done (at least not when they are around). You can certainly teach, help give clues or show how to do something, but don’t do it for them, or criticize the end product. It undermines their pride. Just think of it this way, if you cleaned the whole kitchen and then your mother came and re cleaned what you had just spent an hour or two doing! You’d finally say – why bother and do a bad job next time, or not do it at all!

  • Cheryl says:

    I have a 10 and 12 year old who started “helping” real young-make it fun, have it be a part of their day, allow them to do it their way, don’t be critical, and praise them! They are both very helpful at this age now and I let them know how much I appreciate it too.

  • Lana says:

    Another empty nester here-the whining/attitude gets way worse the older they get! We always worked on the idea that we are all a family here so we must work together to keep our home clean and comfortable. Some may think this harsh but we also brought the Biblical standard in to it by reminding them that they needed to work if they wanted to eat! Teens often ask for large chunks of time to do fun or extra curricular activities. Sometimes if we were going to give up that time on weekends then they needed to get extra chores and yard work done during the week. It was a trade off. Ours had a tendency to compete to get started on school work first so they would get the chores done so they could get to the kitchen table and to the books. I think every family has to find what works but the answer is not to give in and let them quit because then they do not learn the work ethic needed to be an adult. You cannot quit when you are in the work force!

    • Wendy Briscoe says:

      LOVE THIS. So true. The chores we give our children are teaching them a work ethic. A mother of 9 children told me once that she told her children when they were younger. “If you whine, you get nothing.” Whatever they were whining about, they didn’t get what they wanted until it was asked for in a proper manner. I still go by this. Mine is 7, and we get that from time to time.

  • Amanda says:

    In our family, we have mommy money (which I have created with my own face on it!) and the mommy store. Our kids (7, 6, 4, and 2) each have a daily chore chart with morning tasks and evening tasks. Once those tasks are completed, I stick a mommy dollar in their individual pouches on the fridge. I have my own personal chore list on the fridge. There are daily, weekly, and monthly chores posted where the kids can see. I have created colored pictures for each chore, laminated, cut out, and magnetized because I only have one child who reads. They use these on their individual chore charts and I have some made for my own chart. If a child chooses to do one of my chores, they stick the corresponding magnet under their mommy money pouch and get to work. I pay very well because I want them to be excited and motivated!! Then each Saturday the mommy store opens. I have an old cabinet I have stocked with small toys, games, stickers, craft supplies, and vouchers I’ve created for extra video game time, staying up late, playing with messy stuff like play dough and paint, etc. I mark these items quite high to balance out my liberal giving of mommy money. The kids love this system! I’ll admit, some are more motivated than others. But in the end they are rewarded better…just like in the workplace. If you work hard, you earn the raises and promotions!

    I know this may seem expensive. But with sales, clearance, and coupons my store stays full. And the vouchers are reusable and get purchased a lot!! In the long run, the effort to organize this has paid off substantially. My house has stayed very clean (an amazing feat with four small kids!) and I’m not exhausted from doing everything myself.

  • Kate says:

    Children often whine because it works! It is so unpleasant to hear that it is easier for the parents to give in on the whining trigger than to listen to the whining. Make whining counterproductive and it will stop. Assign more chores or another consequence. Your children will stop whining and will be shocked and disgusted when they hear it in other.

  • Louisa says:

    An example of finding unique methods for each child…

    One of my nephews had the job of gathering the eggs but soon learned the delight of throwing them against the barn wall! His parents tried numerous methods for getting him to stop ruining them and finally asked for suggestions. My mom sensibly recommended paying him a penny for every egg brought safely into the house, and charging him two pennies for each smashed egg. Since he likes to be able to buy bubblegum and flashlights, suddenly the family had eggs for breakfast again! No more smashed eggs.

  • Cari says:

    Great tips. It was a battle for us until we let our sons pick the chores he preferred to do. I also read somewhere that whining/complaining is a form of disobeying, so they are punished for it. Of course they are reminded first. Punishment here is losing tv on weekdays or video games on weekends for the younger one. It’s not fun but it’s worth it.

  • Kim says:

    I guess I’m really, really lucky. I have a seven year old daughter, and she absolutely LOVES chores. She seems to really enjoy structure. We have a ToDo type list that is laminated and she can check off each thing with a dry erase marker.

  • Steve Kobrin says:

    I think your suggestions are right on target, Crystal. Thank you. I especially like the point about teaching by example. You can mentor them and motivate your kids at the same time!

  • AC says:

    We had a great speaker at ladies group at church once who talked a lot about helping your child learn about natural consequences. If our kids whine about something, I typically remind them that we all have choices in life. An example might be…child is whining about setting the table. “You have a choice to obey and help the family by setting the table. If you choose to not obey, you’re choosing to not eat.” or “You have a choice to obey and clean up the playroom. If you choose to not do this, you are choosing to not have your friend over after school.”

    That isn’t to say that we don’t have other forms of discipline in addition to that but I thought it was pretty genius to teach them that our choices have natural consequences. One day my kids won’t live at home where Mom and Dad made them brush their teeth, clean up, etc. My opinion is that they’ll be far more likely to continue these healthy habits throughout their lives if they’re taught at a young age that every choice has a consequence. Some are good (You eat well so you feel better.) and some are not good (You don’t brush your teeth so you have fillings with shots, etc.)

  • Nicole says:

    As dumb as it sounds the biggest problem I have is getting my kiddos to pick up the toys. Especially with my 3 year old. He’s a big whiner…still working on that. Any tips? I have a 4 and 1 year old too….right now the 1 year old is kind of still just along for the ride. I know she can pick up but we just moved and have a baby due in 2…I’m super exausted all the time. Just getting them to pick up makes me tired..I would like them to do it all themselves because I cant bend.

    • Lana says:

      We had a huge problem with that with our oldest son, now 35 🙂 We just set a time limit and everything left out was confiscated. Soon we had most of his toys and he did not care one bit. My Mom managed a toy store when he was small so he was on toy overload. Life was so easy with far fewer toys. We started switching them out and just having a few available at a time.

    • Carrie says:

      I have what’s called a chore box. It’s a big clear container with a lid. On the lid I have a manilla evolved full of chore sticks (popcicle sticks) if I have to pick up anything it goes straight into the box. In order for them to get it back they have to do a chore from the envolope. It’s works pretty decent on my younger 2

  • Carrie says:

    This post came at a perfect time. I’m struggling in this department. My kids literally whine at everything I ask them kindly to help with. ( I have 3 kids) overwhelming to say the least. More often than not it ends up in a battle of stubbornness. Thanks for this post! I’m going to try out a few of these ideas.

    • Nicole says: old are your three kiddos? Mine are 4 3 and 1..and I have the same problem. I also have one on the way so the whole big belly emotional rollar coaster thing plays a role in how I respond to the problem too. I am overwhelmed too so I hope you know your not the only one feeling this way 🙂

      • Carrie says:

        They are 9, 6, and 3. Oh goodness I can imagine how you must be feeling! I’m sure you could def use the extra help from them. I actually have the most problem from my eldest. Shes 9 going on 19. A lot of sass! I look at her and think where in the heck did you get your attitude from ( blaming her dad hehe) I just don’t ever remember balantly ignoring/back talking my mom when I was told to do something.

        • Nicole says:

          My 1 year old girl is the one with the attitude 😉 she is a girl….the other 2 are boys so they are a little more laid back but anyway Ill be praying for you! I remember my sister being that way at that age so I am sure she will grow out of it.

  • Rebecca says:

    My kids are 7, 5, and 1 and they like chores, thankfully. Ok, the 1 year old doesn’t do chores. My middle child is a whiner though. I do 3 things to try and sway whining. One is notice it when we are in the store and ask if they like to be around it and what it sounds like to them. They do not like it. When mine whine, I try and remind them to remember the little child in the store and how they look like then now. Also, we have learned a saying, “how do we obey?” They say, “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart.” God wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah right away, he became terribly angry with the Israelites for complaining when He already did so much for them, and obeying fully is important (king Saul in 1 Sam 15 didn’t obey God all the way). Anyway, I remind my kids when they whine or deliberately stop early as a result of their complaining heart that God wants us to do the hard thing sometimes. If I watch them carefully, I can usually decipher what’s going on…like are they just too young for this expectation or are they deliberately skirting around their job… And I try and give grace with my tone of voice and body language. That’s just what we are doing now and its showing a little improvement! I just know Gods Word never returns void, so the more I use it, the less is coming from me.
    Thirdly, we practice how to talk when we don’t want to do something. I let them say they don’t want to do it, or that they would like to finish something first, but they must say it respectfully. Great article, crystal. You’re so full of creativity and your kids are so cute.

  • I’ll be honest, I hate cleaning. From a young age I detested it, and it has taken me a long time to be at least half-okay with it. I don’t want that to be my daughter, so I make myself get the house cleaned, because like you said, we really do need to lead by example. The first step to helping kids learn to clean is to teach them to clean up after themselves. Our oldest is 5 and she is getting really good at this. She makes her bed now without asking, and just needs slight reminders to put her dishes in the sink. When I need her to help, I just say “hey, big sister, big helper, I need you to….” fill in request here. Reminding her that she is a big sister and she is a big helper, seems to limit (though not stop) the whining. It also helps that we give her a huge high-five when she does what is asked of her. We are slowing adding in chores now, but wanted to make sure she was taking care of her stuff first.

  • Autumn Beach says:

    This is SO timely for me. My kids have been BEGGING me to give them chores for quite some time now. The problem is that I am such a control freak that just thinking about relinquishing one of my household tasks makes me cringe. Ridiculous, I know. I’m not helping anybody…myself or my kids. I know I’m missing out on such a wonderful opportunity to help them grow. Ugh. So, this past weekend, I started a list of chores that I thought would work for them. The problem was that I didn’t get very far. So, thank you SO much for the chore suggestions for 4-year-olds and 7-year-olds. I just happen to have one of each! Now. On to actually implementing. They are going to be thrilled! (For the first few days, at least. Ha!) And I am going to work on channeling my inner Elsa and just let. It. Go!

  • Lindsey says:

    Whining is ungrateful. Try reminding your kids that it is a privilege to have chores — “We have dishes to clean because we have plenty of food to eat”. There are many people less fortunate than we are so we can be thankful as we pitch in around the house!

  • Laura Fields says:

    I like what Crystal shared and all of the comments. I have a 2 year old boy and although I like to clean, it can be a struggle to get him to help. I have learned follow through is the one areas I have to stay consistent. This may mean time of teaching and instruction to accomplish a task may take a lot longer than if I clean up myself. For example, just this week my husband was giving instruction to our boy to put the books on the bookshelf. Our son was quite reluctant to do so, even with persistent encouragement. My husband asked me, “how long before I pick up the books myself? ” to which I replied, “You don’t. He needs to do it. However, long it takes.” While it does take time, I can tell you our son did pick up the books with my husband next to him cheering him on. And our son then showed pride in his work when he was finished!
    I know these long teaching moments are daily but worth it! I encourage all parents to celebrate every victory.

  • Aimee Wiley says:

    I definitely struggle with getting my kids involved with cleaning and meal prep tasks, because it does take so much longer and inevitably creates more work, due to the extra messes and mistakes they make. I’m trying to learn to laugh at the messes and appreciate their eagerness to help instead. We do have some systems in place to ensure that our five kids are chipping in around the house; here’s how we do it:

  • Amanda says:

    I LOVE the chore chart pictures above!!!! Where did you find it? And could you explain how it works? Thank you for the article it was Albert helpful!!

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