Tag: Family Relationship

Why Don’t Kids Like Chores?

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

helping kids to complete shores

Are you constantly asking your child to tidy their room, to put away their washing, or to help clean the car? You’re not alone! Getting kids to complete  the chores is hardwork. Here at the Quirky Kid Clinic, we’re familiar with the frustration of parents who regularly ask: how can I get my child to help more around the house?

As children move through their developmental stages, involvement in domestic duties can be challenging in various ways. Research suggests, however, that your perseverance in engaging kids in household chores may yield considerable benefits for them. Your child/ren will gain a sense of responsibility, basic life skills and team-building experiences (Coppens et al., 2014). The less you do for them, the more they will learn.

The following article will discuss some of the common challenges faced by parents when encouraging their children to be involved in chores, some suggestions for how to overcome these, and the considerable benefits that children and families can experience from working together.

#1 Build up your child’s skills

As parents, we need to remember that we’ve had a lot of practise when it comes to particular chores, and over time we have refined our understanding of what is required for each task. If your child is struggling to start or complete a chore, you may consider: is there a skill deficit here? If you think there may be, allow some time to support your child in building their fine and gross motor skills, or their organisational skills in relation to the task.

One simple way to build new skills is to break a task down into easily-manageable steps, and assess whether your child is actually capable of performing the task. Pair each step with praise and parental attention. If a child is struggling with how to do the task, try teaching the skill in a practical way with visual guides, role-modelling, prompting and sometimes physical guidance.

Lancy et al. (2010) explains that a key way children learn is by first observing others, building their skill repertoire in this way. Provide opportunities for your child to observe you completing tasks. As your kids start to show interest, actively encourage them to join in at a developmentally appropriate level. For example, if you are folding the washing, your child may take charge of finding matching pairs of socks or picking out the clothes that belong to them and sorting these into an organised pile. Eventually, they will acquire the skill to also fold them. During these activities, remember to praise and reward your child with attention, to show them how much you appreciate their contribution to the shared task.

#2 Adopt a team approach and foster family cohesiveness

Let’s face it, many adults don’t enjoy doing chores. However, we often enjoy it more when doing them with someone else. Coppens et al. (2014) describe the concept of “learning by observation and pitching in (LOPI ).” LOPI increases the child’s collaborative initiative by feeling part of a shared purpose. The earlier a child can be encouraged to participate in the household activities or chores, the more likely the child is going to willingly participate and be interested in contributing to the family activities long-term. Children as young as 2-3 years old are able to help when given the right task!

By encouraging an environment of shared purpose and teamwork, children learn that chores are part of being in the family unit and they are a shared responsibility for all family members. Hold regular family meetings to discuss fun activities you can engage in together, and plan for team chores to be completed just before an exciting family event. For example, if the children are excited about a day out at the beach with ice-creams and surfing, ensure that before the beach day starts, everyone has tidied their rooms and sorted their washing for the week. Children will be less likely to express resistance to chores if completing a job signals transition into fun activities.

Completing chores as a family, particularly when children are younger, helps the child to share in a sense of accomplishment and unity as a family. This is especially important if a child’s skill level requires support, in which case chores may be broken down into small tasks relevant to the child’s developmental age. For example, when cleaning the bathroom, the youngest child could wipe the vanity benchtop and check the toilet paper is well stocked, an older child might scrub the bath, while the parent cleans the toilet. Setting a time limit and making a game of the task, or making up a silly song together while you’re cleaning may also help support comradery.

#3 Understand and develop your child’s motivation

The behaviours of toddlers are motivated and reinforced by parental praise, affection, attention and anticipatory games such as peek-a-boo, tickles and chasing games. In most cases, simply joining in with their parents during household activities is deemed fun by a young child, and the positive responsiveness of the parent to the child’s participation will ensure that the child continues to want to join in.

To successfully engage young children, parents should provide encouragement, minimal teaching, and allow the child to freely explore the task. Doing so helps the child to develop a sense of accomplishment, whilst utilising their ‘intrinsic motivation’ skills. Areepattamannil et al. (2011) describe ‘intrinsic motivation’ as the child’s internal satisfaction with a task, without reliance on external factors. If a parent tries to “take over” and show the child what they are doing wrong, the child is more likely to view the interaction as less fun or rewarding, and they will be less likely to willingly join the parent in such tasks again in future.

Support participation from young children by praising the child’s effort, rather than the success of the task. As the child increases their fine and gross motor skills, and their organisational skills, increase parental reinforcement around the outcome of the task.

For older children, competing priorities such as playing with their toys, devices, time with friends, interest in extracurricular activities and completing homework means extrinsic rewards are often required to promote continued participation in household chores. ‘Extrinsic rewards’ increase the motivation to do the task based on externally-regulated contingencies (Areepattamannil et al., 2011).

Provide extrinsic reward systems such as sticker charts or pocket money to show the child that by participating in the household chores they are working towards earning items of their choice. Ensure that the reward items are relative to the size of the chores, and continue to emphasise a team approach to chores involving all of the family. Tasks may be picked by the child based on their preferences and swapped within the family at times to ensure that all family members are role-modelling the duties. Fun approaches to chores may include a “chore of the week” that is turned into a game, has a larger reward attached to it, or is completed with a whole-family approach to include fun, laughter and togetherness.

Just like adults, children need to understand the task (what it is and why it is necessary) in order to want to engage with it. In the absence of a meaningful purpose, the task can seem pointless to a child, and they are less likely to be motivated to complete it. For example,; to some children, making one’s bed seems like a waste of time, as the bed is simply messed up again at bedtime! Explaining a rationale to the child in relation to the chore will support their engagement and motivation. Ideas may include:

“We make our bed because it feels warmer when we get into it at night,” and

“it helps the room to stay organised and an organised room helps you to know where your favourite toys are,” or,

“wayward pets will be unable to make themselves cosy in your bedsheets.”

Encourage children to take ownership of tasks, inspire a sense of pride in the completion of chores and provide lots of positive reinforcement (praise and recognition) for completing the task. Taking a photo and sending it to Grandma from time to time, or printing out a photo and putting it up on the fridge as a “great work example” may encourage children to feel more positively about a task.

#4 Lead by example and reflect on experience

Parents’ expectations of their children and chores are guided by their own experiences. Take some time to think about what you were expected to contribute to the household as a child. Were you expected to participate in all of the chores around the home? Were you provided rewards for helping with the chores? Or did you actively try to avoid participating in chores, and manage to get out of helping around the house? Your own childhood experiences with chores will shape your expectations for your child and influence the ways in which you try to engage your child. If you had, or still have, a generally negative approach to domestic duties, take the opportunity to reframe your own thinking and consider your positive motivations for completing chores. Remember your positivity as a parent about the task will also support the child to see the task in a positive way. If you are dragging your heels and trying to avoid chores, your child will naturally adopt this same attitude.

Conversely, if you are frustrated by your child’s opposition to chores that you believe you didn’t express as a child, reflect on what motivated you. (Or check with your own parents to get their perspective on this!)

Lastly, the type of day you have had and the stress you may be under as a parent will affect your expectations for your child in relation to helping around the house. Remember to consider the type of day your child has had too, as they may be just as tired as you are and, depending on their age and school year, they may also be under considerable stress. As calm and positive parents, allowing yourself to accept the stresses in your day and the emotional thoughts in your head without battle or negativity will help you be present in the moment with your child (Coyne et al., 2009).

Generally if you:

  • Encourage your child to participate in the household chores from a young age;
  • Build up your expectations slowly in accordance with your child’s developmental skills;
  • Reward the chores with praise and attention for younger children and extrinsic reward systems for older children;
  • Allow children to choose their preferred chores;
  • Approach chores as ‘teamwork’ and ‘being part of the family collective’; and
  • Acknowledge stressful time periods in your child’s life when chores may need to be delayed you will have more success in encouraging your child to participate in household chores with motivation, engagement, effort, and with less resistance.

If you would like some help learning how to implement these strategies, please contact us on 9362 9297 to discuss the ways in which our team could assist.

For a unique approach to extrinsic rewards, try our Quirky Kid Tickets. Check them out here.


Areepattamannil, S., Freeman, J. G., & Klinger, D. A. (2011). Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and academic achievement among Indian adolescents in Canada and India. Social Psychology of Education, 14(3), 427.

Coppens, A. D., Silva, K. G., Ruvalcaba, O., Alcalá, L., & López, A. (2014). Learning by Observing and Pitching In: Benefits and Processes of Expanding Repertoires. Human Development; Basel Vol. 57, 150-161.

Coyne, L., & Murrell, A. (2009). The joy of parenting: An acceptance and commitment therapy guide to effective parenting in the early years. New Harbinger Publications.

Lancy, D. F., Bock, J. C., & Gaskins, S. (Eds.). (2010). The anthropology of learning in childhood. Rowman & Littlefield.


Grief and Loss at Christmas

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Posted on by Dr. Kimberley O'Brien

Managing Grief and Loss at Christmas

While Christmas is a time of excitement and joy for many – others would prefer to sleep through a family gatherings, avoiding triggers of grief following a particularly painful year.

People grieve for different reasons – the loss of a grandparent, the loss of a business, a string of miscarriages or a recent divorce. Christmas may be the first public airing to family about the events of the year, and the anxiety associated with the potential outpouring of emotions can stifle the Christmas joy. Knowing how to emotionally prepare for Christmas may be the difference between hiding out in the bedroom and joining your family for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

Firstly, be aware of your triggers. A family overcoming the loss of a grandparent may wish to avoid having an empty seat ‘where grandpa used to sit’. For others, the empty seat may be a symbol of respect for the missing family member. Take a quick vote among the adult family members to decide if a move outdoors may be a welcome change of scene for grieving family members. Set up a picnic rug under a tree to avoid triggers of grief and loss before Christmas lunch. While missing family members are likely to be remembered on special occasions, for the majority of people grief is best processed in the most comfortable setting available. That is, raising your glasses to grandpa in the garden may symbolize the celebration of life, while sitting in the presence of his empty chair is more aligned with sadness and loss. Being mindful of the different stages of grief impacting on others, such as denial, anger or acceptance, may also help to acknowledge the perspectives of others during sensitive discussions relating to lost loved ones.

Secondly, be aware of the discussion topics you’re exposed following a recent loss. For example, listening to people talk about their pregnancies and newborns may trigger grief for a couple overcoming a series of miscarriages. Similarly, any reference to the word, “work” may be perceived as an insult to a young entrepreneur following a failed business venture. In fact, many innocent questions or conversations can give rise to defensive responses at Christmas. Taking offense to others is one symptom of grief. At this point, consider refilling your glass of water or checking on the kids for some light-hearted relief. It is natural for family members to show an interest in the lives of each other and asking questions is part of the annual catch-up for many relatives living apart. If anyone asks a question, you’d rather not answer, it’s ok to say, “Hey, enough about me – Let’s talk about you!” or “Hang on a second, I’ll be back” and head to the bedroom to regroup (AKA “losing it”).

The following strategies have been devised to prepare you for the onslaught of questions at Christmas and to help manage common grief responses, such as crying, taking offense, getting angry or rapidly leaving the room.

  • Step 1: Be prepared – Write or draw about the topic you would most like to avoid at least 24 hrs before your family gathering to clarify the issues for yourself.

  • Step 2: Develop a plan – Find the place you feel most relaxed and settle there. Try not to make it in front of the TV. Think outdoors, think shade and comfort. Being antisocial won’t help – It will only increase your anxiety about being perceived as rude.

  • Step 3: Bring props and distractions – Photos from your holiday, a good book or some massage oil. You may give or receive a massage that will completely change your outlook on the day ahead.

  • Step 4: Share your thoughts – Like children, adults are more likely to share their thoughts and feeling when they’re relaxed. A good conversation on Christmas Day may reveal you’re not alone in your grief – Most people have experienced loss in one form or another.

  • Step 5: Be kind to yourself – If you need to have a quiet Christmas, do it. We all need time to reflect and recharge. Write a note, go for a walk…and consider leaving early. There’s always next year.

For books on grief and loss, see the Quirky Kid Shoppe.


Easing Family Tension at Christmas

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Manage Family Conflict and Easing Family Tension at Xmas

It seems that few of us are immune to the occasional family spat and many of us will experience even long term ongoing tension within our family. At no time is this more apparent than at Christmas and often when the decorations go up the gloves come off! You only have to ask around to hear stories about board games gone bad and disagreements about where to eat Christmas lunch ending in a grumpy family eating ham and cheese sandwiches at home.

Arguments may start over everything from when exactly decorations should be allowed out of storage to whether or not a hot lunch is appropriate in Sydney on a 40 degree day. Add to this the “factions” that can develop within larger families along with a good dose of general family angst and you have a recipe for disaster. Why is it that at Christmas we can experience such excitement and yet such distress all at the same time? More importantly, how can you ease the tension in the hope of little more comfort and joy?

Christmas tends to be a time of heightened expectations. That added pressure means that we are all on edge trying a little too hard to make things just right (and we all have a different idea about what “just right” means). There also tends to be the slight feeling of going stir crazy when you are spending long periods of time with a group of people that you usually only see all together once or twice a year. Also, it doesn’t help that Christmas in general is a stressful time with calendars full of events and budgets at breaking point. Many of us are so stressed that it is no wonder that tensions arise.

Family involves a lot of emotion and even a lot of history. Most of your family know which buttons to press (or not press) and you know the same about them. Family members often feel the need to give advice without being asked and parents often have trouble seeing adult children as “grown ups”. In addition to this, we don’t tend to be very polite with our family so manners go out the window and honesty steps in. Remember that when you have an emotional response that your body is likely going into fight-flight-freeze mode which means that systems throughout your body are kicking into action. Many years ago this would have helped you flee from danger and hunt down your dinner but it doesn’t help you to carve a roast or have a civil conversation with a sibling so you may just need some time out to cool down so you can deal with the situation in a level headed way. If you are in a situation of ongoing tension with your family your body may be going through this response many times throughout the day so it may not just be the brandy on the pudding and the tryptophan in the turkey that leaves you desperate for a Christmas afternoon nap.

Once your head is level, or even to prevent it becoming off kilter in the first place, here are some more tips to help minimize the family tension:

  • Be a good guest. Respect the rules, values and routines of the house you are in even if you feel things are not going the way you would have them go in your own home.

  • Choose your battles. Ask yourself, is it worth it? How big a deal is this really? If other family members are being negative you can make the decision to step back and not let yourself be affected by this. If its not worth mentioning or getting into a fight about, let it go.

  • Listen more than you talk. You don’t have to agree with the person you are talking to but you also do not need to prove that you are right about everything. On boxing day, would you rather be looking back at the fun you had as a family, or reflecting on your victory over Uncle Max’s political views? A little “Mmhmmm”, “Oh?” and “I can see how you feel” goes a long way.

  • Take a break and offer breaks to others if it seems like they need it. If someone is getting on your nerves, take a quick drive to pick up some more ice. If a Mum in the family is looking overwhelmed, offer to take the little ones outside for a game.

Remember that Christmas is meant to be a fun time and that it is not just about pleasing others. At the same time, it is important not to put too much pressure on yourself to be feeling hunky dory all day long. Its ok to feel annoyed, frustrated or upset by how family members are behaving but making them feel the same way will probably only make matters worse. Just take a deep breath and enjoy the slightly humid but still festively pine scented air.

The Quirky Kid team had a few more ideas:

“Use organisation and time management to keep your stress levels down in the lead up to the big day. If you are already stressed up to your eyeballs you will be more likely to blow your top when someone makes an unwelcome comment” – Lisa (Psychologist)

“Breaking up the routine with a lot of different and new activities to keep things fun and interesting for all invoice. Ask grown ups to introduce and play they old games with everyone” –  Leo Rocker (Practice Manager)

“Make Xmas structured and predictable by asking family members to help with setting up or cooking different dishes. Having a plan for the day with timeframes for dinner and presents so that everyone is prepared and relaxed. Create separate areas for mingling is also helpful in avoiding tension and that plenty of music and fun activities for the kids but not too much alcohol is advisable – Kimberly O’Brien (Child Psychologist).

Suggested Resources:

You can start the family encounters on a very positive note with these exclusive 100% Festive Cards Set by Quirky Kid. 


Family and Technology @ Daily Telegraph

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Kimberley O’Brien, our principal child psychologist, discussed the use of technology in the family context with Health whiter Caroline Marcus  from the Daily Telegraph. You can read her review  by visiting the Daily Telegraph website.

You can find useful, practical and informative advice about parenting and young people by visiting our resources page, – or discussing it on our forum. You can also provide your own opinion on our Facebook page or Twitter at @quirky_kid

If you have a story and would like to discuss it with us, please contact us to schedule a time.

Kimberley O’Brien enjoys sharing the best of her therapeutic moments with the media. View our media appearances to-date.