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Teaching children chores and household responsibility can be a daunting task. Parents using this system of Chores on Demand, instead of a chore chart, can help train children to become responsible adults by being an active participant in the maintaining of the home in which they live.

In the past, families depended on their children to participate in household chores. Today, parents talk as if it’s a chore to require their children to participate in the maintaining of the household. Managing a house full of people is easier today with the addition of household appliances, convenience foods, and for those who can afford it, housecleaners and fast food. It’s a wonder we need help at all. So, why request your children to do chores? Because children need to feel useful, need responsibilities, and need to be trained for adulthood.

Most parents agree that they should expect their children to do chores. It’s the creating and maintaining a system that they find difficult. Although some parents are organized and use daily chore lists, I have found that when I put together chore charts for busy families, most parents fail to enforce them because of their active lifestyles. As a parent, I have tried the chore chart system as well but I, like my clients, need a system as fluid as my lifestyle. So, I’ve designed the “Chores-On-Demand” system.

“Chores-On-Demand” is a system in which parents daily ask their children to do whatever chore is most pressing and the children are to respond quickly and without complaint. For instance, Bruce comes home with his daughter Allison and notices that the trash and recycling needs to be taken out. He has to start dinner so he says, “Allison, before you get started on your homework, I need you to take the trash and recycling out.” Allison says, “Yes Dad,” and she takes the trash out and 5 minutes later she’s working on her homework. At the end of the week, Allison receives an allowance not only for the chore but also for having listened to and responded to the request of her father. This is a great system for busy families who rarely have a set schedule, parents who are disorganized, or parents who have tried and failed at the chore chart system.

There are some special tips that go with this system:
  1. Be sensitive to the timing of requests. If a child is in the middle of homework, the request should wait until the end or be given as a “when you’re finished with your homework” request. If your child is enjoying television time, the parent should wait until the end of the program or make it an “at the commercial” request.

  2. Pay only for chores that involve the household. Do not pay for regular responsibilities such as keeping ones bedroom clean. It is possible to designate certain chores that are expected because one is a member of the household and then name special chores that qualify for allowance. However, the “Chores-On-Demand” system works best when it is kept simple.

  3. Pay “up front” for the work that is to be done during the week. Put your children’s allowance in a glass jar at the beginning of the week so they may see it and know that it is there for them. However, the money is not actually given to them until the end of the week. Build responsibility into the system by telling them that, although it is their money, they will be require to pay back part of their allowance to you for everyday they do not do their chores, since you will be the one who will have to do them.

  4. Remember, parents are trainers. Chores need to be taught patiently and kindly just like anything in life. Training does take time but it is part of your job. Children are capable of so much more than we sometimes allow, and they feel wonderful when they discover that they can do something meaningful for the family. So take the time to teach.

  5. Ask your children to do chores. If a parent does not ask, it is not the child’s fault and thus he should still get the allowance anyway. Parents have to train themselves to ask. You might want to put a note on the refrigerator to remind yourself.
How do you implement the “Chores-On-Demand” system?
  • Molly sits down with her daughter, Ashley, who is 10, and explains that she could use some help around the house.

  • Molly asks Ashley if she would like to earn some money. Ashley agrees.

  • Molly points out that household chores are a part of life and to be a successful adult one needs to know how to take care of a home inside and out. In addition, now that Ashley is older, she should be responsible for some of the upkeep since she is also a part of the clutter created by daily living.

  • Molly explains that because of their busy schedule, she doesn’t always know when and what needs to be done in the house. Thus she will use a “Chores-On-Demand” system. Molly explains that this system means when she requests a chore to be done that Ashley does it.

  • Molly says that she will be respectful and aware of Ashley when she asks but that she will expect Ashley to do the chore at that moment or within a few minutes of the request without complaint.

  • Molly shows Ashley the $1 bills that she will be pay her. She explains that she will put the money in the jar on Monday morning and if she does her chores without hesitation or complaint that she can keep all the money and pull it out of the jar by Saturday.

  • Before the “Chores-On-Demand” system begins, Molly makes up a list of chores that Ashley can do and adds a few more that she commits to train her for on Saturdays.
The “Chores-On-Demand” system works for so many families who are challenged by the chore chart system. Not only do children get the benefits of feeling like responsible members of the familyScience Articles, they also learn to respond to parents the first time they are asked because the system is always in effect.

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The author, Laura Doerflinger, MS, LMHC, is the Executive Director of the Parent Education Group and also the author of the parenting audio books that are available for download at

Copyright 2009 - Reprints Accepted - Two links must be active in the bio.

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