The idea of their son volunteering and pitching in with chores may cause some parents to weep for joy, but getting your son to contribute to the household should not be a horrible chore in itself. In fact, chores can really help boost your son’s confidence, fulfill their need to be needed, and teach them to respect their own, as well as other people’s, time and effort.
One key to get everyone to help (as happily as possible) is how you present the idea of chores. If you, as parents, complain and grumble, your son will follow suit with this same attitude. Instead, try and maintain an upbeat attitude and use music or games to make chores as enjoyable as possible. It’s also a good idea to start at a young age. Let your son follow you around while you do chores – maybe even let him fold/play with a towel while you do laundry, and it would be a fun time for him to imitate and interact with you. Seeing you do chores will also instill in him the understanding that chores are not impositions, but necessary in maintaining a comfortable home.
Getting started: Nobody likes to be taken for granted, so if your family decides to assign chores make sure there is a reward. Rewards can be anything from a praise to allowances and chore charts*, this has to be determined by what works for your family and how old your son is. Whatever you choose, the rule here is to be consistent. If he doesn’t go through with his responsibilities, he should know that he would not be receiving the reward either. And even if your son does receive a promised reward, a little praise goes a long way in telling him what he does best and building his confidence – e.g. “You are really good at keeping your closet neat, and I can always count on you to do that.” – so don’t forget to praise him along the way.
To help cut back rebellious attitudes, try getting your son more involved in the decision-making so that he doesn’t feel that these chores are inflicted upon him. As a family, you can make a list of chores and assign everyone a fair amount. Ask your son what he feels he can handle, and what he thinks would be a fair reward for his work. Try to avoid ‘telling’ him what to do and try ‘asking’ – by saying “I could really use your help. Will you please ___”, it would remind him that he is contributing to the family and is appreciated, and he would be more willing to help.
Avoid nagging. If he does not honor the agreement, just don’t reward him. Again, being consistent means that if he chooses to not contribute, he knows that he will miss out on the extra 30 minutes of t.v., or the trip to his hobby store at the end of the week, or less allowance, etc. However, some boys do appreciate a little reminding, especially before these duties become a habit. To steer clear of nagging, ask him how and when he would like to be reminded. Do not let nagging him become an extra chore for you, so let him know that, even though you are willing to remind him, whether he does his chores is still his own responsibility.
Of course, don’t expect perfection immediately. It is important to not assign chores that are too difficult so your son becomes overwhelmed and chores become a bad experience. Try out different chores and gauge what is appropriate for his skill level. Even if you don’t feel like something is thoroughly cleaned, don’t go and redo it – this will only ruin his confidence and sense of competence, which is what you are trying to build by assigning chores in the first place. Be patient, and allow mistakes, forgetfulness, and an occasional rebellion. As long as you have a credible, fair system, you can always adjust the details along the way. It’s not easy, but you will be glad you did it when you no longer have to be cranky and overwhelmed with housework – plus, your son’s future house-mates will be eternally grateful and love you for it!