Folks, let me tell you this: It is a lot better to have pink underwear than no clean underwear at all. Get your guys doing chores! Here are some things that have helped us (and no, we don’t do this perfectly – not remotely so!)
Use manly marketing. If you say, “Sweetheart, could you make the kitchen all pretty for Mommy?” expect his eyes to roll (at least on the inside), but if instead you urge, “Son, the kitchen is driving me crazy. I can hardly stand to be in there it’s so icky. I would be so grateful if you’d rescue me from it and get it under control,” he’s on it!
Give clear assignments. We rotate daily so that no job becomes overwhelming or gets too far behind. Do what works for you, but post a chart so everyone knows what to do.
Inspect, don’t expect. There’s just no substitute for checking up on them.
Try chore times. I struggled with keeping up with who was working and who wasn’t. Let’s face it – we have a big family! To make it easier, we instituted chore times: times during the day that everyone was supposed to be working. That makes it drastically easier to seek who’s goofing off! Ours are before breakfast, before and after lunch, and before and after dinner.
Work alongside them. Sometimes a job just seems too big. I’ve felt that way a lot, myself. Jump in and work alongside them. The camaraderie and example will get ‘em working.
Divide up a task. When the job is overwhelming, simplify it. Instead of “Clean this room,” try “Pick up and put away ten books.” Then nine, then eight, and before long they’ll have picked up fifty-five books! Then start on toys…
Praise meaningfully. “You showed great initiative when you got up early and did your chore this morning. That’s great!” means a lot more than just “You’re great!” Name a virtue and give an example to motivate them to pursue those great character qualities.
Give them perspective. Boys hate doing things “for no reason.” Explain how they’re helping the family when they do chores, “Thanks for cleaning up for lunch while I talked on the phone with that new mom. You were a part of my ministry to her today because you freed me up to do it.”
Occasionally, but not always, make it fun. Race to see who can finish their part first. Play crazy music while you work. Give everyone ranks and promote or demote them as they work. Pretend you are an army trying to conquer and take prisoner the book, toy, and trash divisions of the enemy army. Our bookshelves have sometimes been prisoner of war camps.
Get them doing chores early. If you wait until they are big enough to do it well, they won’t want to. Take advantage of that desire to do real things and be big!
Don’t worry, though, that maybe your boys shouldn’t be doing household chores. Sure they should! There are examples in Scripture of men doing all kinds of things like this. Go for it!
Yours in the battle,
Hal & Melanie
For more on getting guys to do chores, read the chapter “K.P. Isn’t Women’s Work” in our book, Raising Real Men. Find out more here.