My kids are 4 and 5 years old, so I need to always "supervise" them to make sure that they are doing their chores. Sometimes it's a bit frustrating. Any tips or advice on how to handle it better?
At that age, supervision is probably the right thing to do, except with very basic chores. And they may well get them only partially done before being distracted etc. Until they are older it is valuable just getting them to understand that some chores need to be done each day.
We have always gone with:
- homework first
- then chores
- then relaxing, playing games etc.
And if they took too long doing the first two then they wouldn't get to do the fun things they wanted.
Talking it through to point out that parents still do the vast majority of all the chores, plus their day jobs can help them understand it is only a tiny imposition on them.
By far, in my experience, the best way to maintain discipline in the long run is to reward good behavior, i.e. positive reinforcement!
Your end goal is to build consistency. If you manage to engage your kids in the household chores regularly, it will soon become a habit. And by making it more fun and rewarding, your kids will feel more compelled to do it.
There's this very interesting behavioral science study that they broke kids into many different groups and they did a lot of techniques to try to convince those kids to eat broccoli.
Out of all the groups, there was one group of kids where the results were outstanding. These were the kids where the parents were telling them: "Hey, these brocolli are like little trees, and you know, when you are eating these little trees you are like a dinosaur".
Crazy, isn't it? But if you think about it, it makes sense. Because the kids were associating the idea of eating brocolli with something that's fun for them.
I believe that the same concept can be applied to encourage kids to do their chores. You can create Star charts drawn up by hand and pin it to the fridge door, create some kind of game where they can only unlock more information once they do their chores, or even use technology to help you with that. Two apps that I know are: Habitica, which turns tasks into a game and Jobstars, which let parents gamify household chores for their kids.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that your kids somehow associate chores with having fun.
Don't make it look like chores!
The easiest way to make a child to do their chores is to make it a fun experience. Make the "unfun" part just a part of the bigger process of doing something fun.
Invite your kid to cook with you, and then show him or her how to clean up the dishes while you cook, making it a fun experience too. When you finish cooking, you have a clean sink and a huge smile on your kid's face.
Don't create a "clean your room" moment. The best way to maintain a clean and organized home is to keep it clean and organized all the time. Don't leave a mess - always clean up after yourself, and give that example to your kid. Help them keep their own room cleaned up all the time. Burn the idea of a clean, organized environment on your kid's brain by keeping your home that way all the time. When they get used to it, they will hate messes and unorganized environments, too.
Be a role model for your kid. Try to be someone whom your kid admires, be the super-parent, the hero of your children's dream. Don't leave that spot for Superman or The Hulk. Play games with your kid on your lap - games like Skyrim or Fallout or even Borderlands, and be awesome while doing it. Show yourself being the hero for your kid! You'll end up with situations in which your daughter puts a pan on her head and go around the home hunting dragons and being the Dovahkiin after spending some time with your wife playing Elder Scrolls V. A Dovahkiin that knows the importance of putting every little thing back on its place. A Dovakiin that takes baths on the nearby lake - or, missing a lake, a nearby bathtub.
Draw your kid into playing slow-paced games that need patience to play. Things like Minecraft and Stardew Valley. Play them with your kid. Those games stimulate patience and low-reward, high effort tasks. When your kid spends a lot of time searching for diamonds in the depths of the world, spending a few minutes cleaning up stuff seems not so bad.
Reward your kid with praise and nice experiences when they behave nicely. Don't use gifts - they create the expectation of payment for a chore. Instead, take them to somewhere nice to eat something different, or take them to the movies or to the park. Stimulate good behavior by giving them good memories!
And, of course, don't be harsh with them when they fail to do something. Just remind them to it on a casual, regular manner. "Oh, by the way, you forgot to put your dishes in the sink. Can you pause your game for a few seconds to do it?" gets a way better response than screaming or being mean to them. If they fail repeatedly to do something, just talk about it. Don't make a fuss, don't show it to be a big deal. Just talk with them on the most casual manner you can, preferably while doing something else. They will listen.
Children care deeply about fairness. They resent having to do tasks if they think the others are getting away with doing less. We made a rota for all shared tasks. Everyone had a coloured dot and once a month the dots moved. So you might have the compost bin following by paper recycling. Of course they totted up and pointed out that e.g. at Christmas there's more paper, so at the end of the year the dots were randomised and reset (with a judicial bit of tweaking to avoid revolution). As the kids got bigger so did the tasks. This worked extremely well until they were grownup and gone.
In fact the son moved back in recently and it seemed the most natural thing in the world to give him the the shopping and cooking job every third weekend, and he just does it.