Chore Charts Are Bullsh*t, But This Is What Does Work

by Jorrie Varney
Originally Published: 
A father filling chore charts, with color-coded columns, with his children
Getty Images

When I was younger, my mom was a total nag when it came to doing chores. I hated it. I swore I’d never make my kids do chores. I wouldn’t nag them about cleaning up or taking out the trash. I would be chilliest mom. I would let my kids live their life however they wanted. If they wanted to live in a messy room, I would let them, because I was going to be a Cool Mom.

Well, here I am, 25 years later, and things haven’t gone quite to plan. I suppose to a certain extent, I have lived up to that Cool Mom dream. I mean, my kids’ bedrooms are definitely a shit-storm, but when it comes to doing chores, I’ve had a change of heart. Even if I wanted to (which I don’t), I don’t have time to clean up after everyone in this house. Mama has shit to do, and you live here too, so grab a vacuum, or a dust mop, and get crackin’.

I’m a type-A mom, living in a IDGAF household. Okay, scratch that, I used to be type-A, but then I had children and chose my peace of mind over my need for order and perfection. It’s not that I’m no longer type-A, because I am. I’d love my house to be clean, but at this point, I’d settle for not living in squalor. My family, on the other hand, seems totally fine with the idea of living in a garbage heap.

In my house, it’s not uncommon to stumble upon empty snack wrappers and juice pouches while straightening the living room. It’s as though my children finish their snacks and casually toss the garbage over their shoulder, like they give no shits. None. Zero shits.

I’m not trying to raise disrespectful trash pandas, so I’ve tried everything to get them to pick up after themselves—including chore charts. For those of you that feel chore charts are a helpful tool in your home, you may want to dip out now, because as far as I’m concerned, chore charts are total bullshit.

That’s right, you heard me—bullshit.

I know some people have had great success with chore charts, and potty charts, charts for homework, charts with reward systems, charts to remind them when to brush their teeth and practice their spelling words, but I’m not one of those people. I know this because I have gone down the chart road before, first with potty training (what a waste of paper and gummy bears) and then again when I hit a new level of desperation trying to get my kids to clean up after themselves.

This desperation led me to Amazon. Alright fine, I was already there. I ordered one of those fancy chore charts with the magnets and color-coded columns. The kids and I filled it out together. We designated rows, columns, and magnet colors for each child, and outlined a reward system that everyone was super pumped about.

Spoiler alert: It still didn’t work.

Let me tell you what I have found to be effective—nagging. I know, I hate it too, and I swore I’d never do it, because nagging is the worst. But OMG, NOTHING ELSE WORKS. Maybe you are raising kids who listen the first time. If that’s the case, I’m not mad at you. You’re basically living every mother’s dream. But that’s not how my kids work. I ask nicely once, then another three or four times, because I’m a glutton for punishment, apparently. But guess what, no one even blinks unless I turn into a rage monster, and my head spins off my shoulders. I don’t want to be a rage monster. I just want them to not be giant slobs.

Maybe chore charts would work if I had better leverage, but I doubt it. As it stands the biggest bargaining chip I have is confiscating iPads. The day I can start snatching up cell phones and taking car keys people might start listening. Or maybe this is just the wishful thinking of a mom who doesn’t yet have teens. Either way, I’m done wasting my time with silly charts. So, if you need me I’ll just be over here repeating myself until everyone is mad. But hey, that’s how you get shit done.

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