My children are not used to doing domestic chores as we had house help for a very long time. Now that we don’t have one, they are willing to pitch in but only if I offer some incentive. I detest doing that. Any ideas?

I’m sure there are plenty of exasperated parents out there who can identify with your concerns. In fact, I’m pretty certain this is one of the most common causes of family arguments – you want children to take responsibility for cleaning up their own mess and also develop a sense of independence and personal responsibility. They would rather ‘do it later’ or not at all, unless there’s something in it for them. They feel you’re nagging them; you feel they’re treating you disrespectfully and so the cycle continues.

The key is to break that cycle. Before you do anything, in your own mind work out what it is you expect your children to do on a daily/weekly basis then sit them down and clearly explain those expectations.

Point out the positives to helping out – they will be learning valuable life skills, as well as enabling their parents to spend more quality time with them doing enjoyable things because they aren’t busy cleaning up after them all the time.

You could even make it visual through a chart that is kept where everyone can see it. Make sure they understand your reasoning behind asking them to share in the chores and that there will be consequences if they don’t keep to their side of the bargain.

You don’t mention their ages, but I do think it’s a good idea to build in a reward system, so that they are rewarded each week for achieving everything on the list. For older kids, you can formalise pocket money and for younger children perhaps a regular small weekly treat (try not to make this food based). This will give you more wriggle room when it comes to imposing those consequences if they fail to rise to the challenge.

And be consistent. It’s easy to give in and do it yourself to avoid confrontation, but if you show them you don’t really mean business, they won’t take your expectations seriously. Also, never set more chores as a punishment because this will send out mixed messages.

Finally, try and introduce elements of fun into it. Make a game out of tidying up for younger kids and set shorter time limits for older kids to help motivate them. Try and get them all to do things at the same time. Also really consider the timing so you don’t expect them to do chores when they are pressed for time as this just causes more stress.