Chores for ADHD Kids : Strategies to Get The Work Done
Is it easier to just do the work yourself than find chores for your ADHD kid?
Are you tired of the whining and push back you get when you ask your kids to do a few simple tasks?
If you answered yes to any of these (or all of them!) then read on!
Our ADHD kid’s short attention spans, ability to become so easily distracted, and often very low frustration tolerance may make finding chores for ADHD kids that they will actually do seem nearly impossible.
In this post we cover the particular benefits of chores for ADHD kids, as well as 14 years worth of tips and tricks for getting your ADHD child to do chores – all with minimal whining and groaning!
The Benefit of Chores for ADHD Kids
These benefits are, of course are for any child who does chores, but there are some specific benefits that could particularly help kids with ADHD.
- Doing chores builds executive functioning skills. – It’s not just about building skills for when they are out on their own, although that is a benefit, too. Multi step tasks, like chores, help to build executive functioning skills for our kids NOW. The planning and follow thru it takes to do a task is incredibly helpful for them.
- Chores delay gratification – The whole “work before play” idea is another tough thing for our ADHD kids to do. Doing chores, no matter how small, will gradually increase your kids ability to do something they find boring and mundane!
- Chores help kids gain confidence and self reliance– With building skills comes increased confidence. Our children feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete chores and if the chores impact them, such as cleaning their rooms, or doing their own laundry, they can become more self reliant and feel like they can take care of themselves.
- Improves motor skills – Hands on work help kids with their fine and gross motor skills. All that good hand work prepares kids for doing lots of writing and concentrating on larger tasks.
- Burns extra energy – we know our kids often have energy for days. So, finding the right energy burning chore could be incredibly helpful in so many ways!
- Kids feel needed and capable – When kids contribute to family life they develop a strong sense of being needed and belonging. They are part of something bigger than themselves. This can be so helpful to our ADHD kids who are so often being corrected for their negative behaviors.
- Encourage family connection – Doing chores as a family can be a great time for connection and bonding – think raking leaves or getting the garden ready. Teaching your child to do a more complicated task can take time and is a wonderful opportunity to connect.
- It takes a load off our plate – Let’s not forget the obvious. We need help! Whether you work outside of the home or not, our lives are busy. You may have multiple therapy appointments, let alone kids activities and school work to keep up with. We can use help and our kids should be well aware of that fact.
Which of these benefits resonates most with you? Maybe reading this list will help give you the boost YOU need to keep up – or start – a chore routine with your kids.
Now all you need to figure out is how to actually get your kids to do their chores!
Is Doing Chores a Thing of the Past?
An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal sites that even though 82% of it’s readers did chores as a kid, only 28% require their children to do them.
I know I usually take the road less travelled when it comes to raising kids, but I had no idea so few parents are requiring their kids to do chores.
My guess is, you are here, because you want your kids to take on more responsibility around the house and you see the benefit of kids doing chores.
You are just not sure how to get them to help out or how to stop the whining.
The first step is to get some ideas for chores that are age appropriate.
If your kids are new to chores, think nothing of starting on chores that are “below” their age bracket. Start somewhere and gradually increase the difficulty.
Chores for ADHD Kids by Age
This list is not exhaustive, but provides a great basic framework. You can find tons of lists on Pinterest, too!
2 to 3 years old:
Pick up toys, help unload their things from dishwasher and put away into a drawer, wash vegetables, match socks, put clothes away in their drawers, dust low shelves, practice using a broom, and more….
4 to 5 years old:
All those mentioned above plus, load dishwasher, peel and cut fruits and veggies, wipe down cabinets, sort laundry, feed pets, unload lunch box, cut with child safe knives, help put away groceries, use a hand held vacuum , set the table, make bed, clean room and more…
6 to 8 years old:
All those mentioned above plus, pack lunch, dust, vacuum, mop floors, wipe surfaces, fold laundry and rags, dinner prep, carry in groceries, light yard work, help at the grocery store and more…
9 to 11 years old:
All those mentioned above plus, do laundry, help with meals, pack entire lunch, help with grocery shopping, mow lawn, sweep garage, clean bathrooms, wipe down appliances, prepare small meals, empty entire dishwasher, and more…
12 years old and up:
All of the afore mentioned plus plan and cook meals, walk to store with small list, clean shower and floors, small repairs, use power tools to help with small projects, and more…
Now that you’ve got your “why” and some ideas, let’s figure out how we’re going to get our kids to actually do the chores.
How to get ADHD kids to do their chores
I won’t lie. It may not be easy.
But, the truth is, it is easier than you think!
Here are 10 really great strategies to help you get your kids to do their chores.
1. Discuss your “why” with your kids.
Sitting down and telling your kids why you’d like them to help out can go a long way.
It’s important that they know they can contribute to the family and that being part of a family means helping others.
All of the work should not fall onto mom and dad.
Older kids probably need to hear this more than littles – as your littlest kids might actually be excited to help you!
I am a big believer in the Montessori philosophy of work that kids are capable of doing themselves, should never be done for them.
This really comes into play as kids get older and become able to do so many thing around the house.
A note about teenagers: Teens can often grouse about chores or extra work around the house – even if they have been doing chores since forever (ask me how I know!). This is part of their normal pushing back as they gain more independence.
When my teens ask me, “Why do I have to do my laundry? Why can’t you just do it?”
I simply say, “Because you are so capable of doing it yourself and I need your help.”
End of discussion.
2. Call chores something else.
We call chores Family Commitments. It kind of gives new meaning to them, don’t you think? – the name says it all.
We are not just being mean and imposing menial tasks onto our kids. They are truly contributing to the family and making a commitment to contribute .
3. Start young.
Author Richard Rende (his book Raising Can-Do kids is a great read!) actually believes starting chores early can be a great predictor of future success.
Parents are eschewing chores in favor of other activities they think will bring their kids success, but are ignoring the decades of research that says doing chores are key to future academic, professional, even emotional health.
You’ll have an easier time delegating chores if you start early, as it just becomes part of the routine.
Young kids love to imitate the adults in their world and more often than not, see chores as fun! They will get used to the idea of being a good helper .
Plus, there are so many fun mini-sized cleaning tools to help little ones chip in. (See a few of our favorites below).
To be honest, my kids didn’t even have an ADHD diagnosis this young – and most kids won’t. But the idea of starting all kids doing chores early is a great one for all kids.
4. Teach them (over and over) how to do it.
We can’t expect our kids to just know how to clean, let’s say, the bathroom, if they’ve never done it before.
We need to teach them exactly how it needs to be done.
I love the idea of scaffolding our kids- having them do a little bit more of the task each time, until they know how to do the entire task.
It might look something like this: First, start by having them watch you do the chore. Then have them watch you and they do one thing (wipe the sink in the bathroom, let’s say) Increase what they do each time you show them until, finally they do the entire task.
Do this for as long as it takes….it might be 3 to 6 months for you to run thru the whole process. The slower the better, really….you’ll be happy in the end that they have a really firm grasp on how to complete the task.
5. Set very clear expectations.
You most likely are setting kids up for failure, if you just say, “Go clean your room” or “Go weed”.
They’ll know exactly what to do if you say, ” Put your dirty laundry in the hamper, clean off your desk, and make your bed.”
Now, depending on your kid, you may have to give them these directions one at a time, or write them down on a post it or dry erase board.
Which brings us to….
6. Make a list.
ADHD Kids often have a hard time remembering steps or attacking jobs that seem endless.
Make it easier for them by giving them a list of the steps, chunking a big job into small, doable parts.
Lists not only make the task more doable, but you are ensuring that they meet your expectations, as well. And following a list is a great way for them to learn over time, the proper way to complete a big task.
7. Make a chore goal-oriented.
Another way to be crystal clear about your expectations is by setting a small goal for them to reach.
Letting them know exactly when a chore will be completed can be so helpful for the both of you. This works well for large, often seemingly endless chores.
A goal oriented chore may look like:
- Weed until you’ve filled a bag
- Vacuum until the chamber is 1/2 full
- Put just the silverware away
- Peel one bag of carrots.
- Put two bags of groceries away.
- Fold all the shirts.
This can be very effective because your expectations are crystal clear and the chore has a very clear ending. This can be extremely helpful for our kids who suffer from time-blondness and think that every task will take, “two hours”.
8. Lower your expectations.
Okay, let’s be honest. Very few kids will clean the bathroom so it’s show house ready.
And that is okay.
You can always go in later and spiff it up, if needed.
However, you should expect it to be reasonably clean and your expectations can be greater as your kids get more practice and as they get older.
I do expect my kids to have gone thru their list of items and if it’s obvious they’ve forgotten an item, they go back and do it.
In most cases, good enough is, well, good enough!
9. Work together.
Working side by side your ADHD child can be extremely motivating for them – and lots of great things are going on.
You’ll be modeling how the job should be done.
They’ll realize the job won’t take as long as they expected. (You know our kids have that time blindness thing going on)
And you are bonding over hard work, making it a positive experience for them – and you!
10. Make Chores Part of Their Routine
Routines help for so many things, and chores are certainly no exception.
When chores become a regular part of your kid’s daily or weekly routine, there is so much less complaining because, over time, they come to expect it.
Kids will also remember to do their chores if the expectation is there on a daily or weekly basis.
There can be morning chores, after school chores, Sunday chores, etc.
Doing the same chore at the same time is such a helpful way for our often forgetful kids to remember.
Not all chores fit neatly into this, but you can also have family chore hour or chore day, where there may be new or different tasks, but the expectation to help out is there.
11. Give some choices.
This could be the most important point and the key to crack the code.
You can read here how I had the biggest light bulb moment of my parenting career, so far, over an explosive chore related issue.
We all love choices. Choices can make a thing we don’t want to do a little more doable.
So taking into consideration your child’s preferences will help immensely when getting them on board to help around the house.
Consider offering these choices around chores:
- What tasks do they want to do? Give them several choices and have them choose.
- When they will complete the task – if there are options let them choose the time of day the task is completed.
- Are there special supports needed? – ask them if they need any special supports with a chore. Do they need rubber gloves, an unscented cleaner, or a different broom.
ADHD often comes along with sensory needs and all sorts of new issues can crop up with chores. So be a detective, observe and ask questions.
The point of chores is to have your kids helping, not to make them miserable. So work together to come up with chores they can accomplish and feel good about.
12. Use an ADHD Chore Chart
We’ve had different versions of chore charts over the years. Some have worked better than others, but all have served their purpose.
You want to have kids be as independent as possible when completing chores. So, anything they can refer to instead of YOU, to accomplish their chores, will work.
Our earliest chore chart was the brain child of Jessica Fisher and we called it the HIGH Five. Each kid had 5 things to do in the AM and 5 in the PM. They were written on their traced and painted hand( See them in the pic above and it’s so simple because my kids were 2 and 4).
What I loved about this – and the whole chart idea – is you don’t have to keep repeating yourself over and over.
“Have you cleaned the table? Washed the dishes?, etc” You just have to say, “Have you done your High Fives?” or “Have you completed your chart?”
It gives your kids the opportunity to have to think about exactly what is expected of them.
Because after all, the point is for them to eventually do these things all on their own, right!
More ideas for ADHD Chore Charts:
A weekly chore pad has been great for us!!
Use a small dry erase board for writing checklists.
Laminate a hand written chart and cross off with dry erase markers
This one can be customized for your family.
Slide a list written on paper into a plastic sleeve and hang on a hook
Look at lots of ideas on this Chores for ADHD Kids Pinterest Board
Slide a mini chore chart into a free standing picture frame.
Should kids get an allowance for chores?
ADHD kids often work well when there are small rewards.
But I think there should be a distinction between tasks for money and tasks that are “required” family commitments.
Opinions will vary greatly on this, so you have to decide what works for you and your kids.
But in my view kids should be required to do some chores as their commitment to being part of a family with no money payout expected.
It’s just what we do as a family. We help each other out.
But, I do think kids can be paid for extra chores done well, that are of your choosing or theirs.
It definitely gets them ready for high standards they’ll face when they get their first job.
Stuff that makes it easier for kids to help
Over the years, there have been some really great things that I’ve found to help my kids do their chores more effectively.
We loved these mini brooms, mop and bucket.
These eco friendly wipes may be a bit wasteful and expensive, but they are so helpful. Keeping the container right on the table at all times, serves as a reminder when it’s time for dinner clean up.
This toilet brush is far away from hands and stores in it’s own little house.
This is super for cleaning table crumbs. (and so kids don’t use hand broom and dust pan that we use on cat litter!)
Take aways from Getting ADHD Kids to Do Chores
Here’s just a few highlights to remember:
- Chores are an important way to practice skills, foster connection and build confidence.
- Give lots of choices to insure buy-in from your kids.
- Make lists, so tasks are easy to complete and have clear expectations of what the finished “product” should look like.
- Be consistent and create routines to keep whining at bay.
Got some great tips to share about getting YOUR ADHD kids to do chores? Head on over to Instagram and join the conversation.
These are some great tips and I agree it is necessary to involve our kids in household activities. You have written about it very well.
Thanks! Yes! There is so much to learn from being a helpful family member.
What a tremendous list! I’ve learned a lot by trial and error, and you’ve listed the main things that help at my house, especially the “do it together, even if it takes six months.”
I learned several new tips here too. Thank you!
Thank you!! Yes, the “Do It Together” is now being done again with my teens who want to fly thru their family commitments. I’ve been doing the bathroom floor while they do the sink and toilet. : P