9 Year Old Chores

Updated on December 01, 2008
K.H. asks from Minneapolis, MN
23 answers

Hello, I would like some advice about expectations of cleanliness for a 9 year old boy. My ds is an intelligent, respectful and responsible guy EXCEPT when it comes to cleanliness. When it comes to chores he turns from a generally nice kid to a very rude and obstinate one. Almost every request or demand for cleanliness (be it removing dishes from the table to cleaning his room) is met with either a grunt or down right refusal. He will even get tearful over a job he is being made to do. He is supposed to be responsible for his room, his school work (which he does well if somewhat a little messily), his clothes folding and putting away as well as our landing/entrance area. Up until recently he was in charge of garbage but elected to try out the entrance instead. I think all of this is fair for a 9 year old (maybe should even have a little more). He is a very smart kid but likes to play "dumb" when it comes to completing cleaning tasks correctly. I feel I have tried a lot of different tactics; from rewards to punishments, charts, prizes, etc etc etc. Nothing has seemed to stick. Being the older brother of 3 younger children he has done a wonderful job of helping me with them, grabbing diapers, entertaining, helping with toys, etc etc and is very compliant when I request some sort of help with the younger ones. This why I have been more lenient about his cleanliness b.c he is so helpful with them. I know I am not doing him any favors by teaching him that picking up after himself, being clean and organized are optional tasks. The attitude I get back is the hardest part and adds so much more of a problem to the cleanliness issue. Most of the moms I ask with boys this age just tell me "boys are messy" and I have been unable to get some concrete ideas about how to change this issue with him. I know that it starts with me and how consistent and insistent I am willing to be. I DO NOT want to raise a boy who will turn into a man who thinks a woman is responsible for cleaning up after him. My husband is not this way and I refuse to raise someone to think like that. I don't even know where to start with my "little piggy", please help!

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answers from Madison on

The best thing I can tell you is to stay consistent. Make him redo whatever is not done right. Eventually he will get tired of redoing it and do it right. Also, I've found taking away whatever my kids like best (video games, phone, comp., etc.)makes them want to do better to get them back. Hope this helps some.



answers from Madison on

I teach 9-10 year olds and find that boys at this age are sometimes struggling with the change from little kid to big kid/preteen. They still want to be the baby and be babied while at the same time wanting to grow up. It is an age of transition. Keep trying and consistency on whatever you choose is key.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I have a ten year old boy, 4 year old boy, and 3 year old boy. It is never too early to have expectaions to clean up after yourself. 2 weekends ago, I was fed up with asking them to put away thier toys so I quietly grabbed a garbage bag and started picking them up and putting them in the bags. It did not take long for them to notice what I was doing and start freaking out. I took all of the toys that were not where they belonged and put them in bags. THe bags are in our shed, but the kids think they are gone forever. Since then if I even say one word about toys being left around my house they drop everything and quickly pick up after themselves. There was a lot of waterworks, but it has been great for them to know we mean business and not just threats. And I made sure that it was all of their stuff, not just my oldests. He is a great kid too, helpful, does great in school, never complains when we ask him to do something, but just does not take any initiative to do it unless asked. The worst punishment for the boys is to take away the video games and TV privilages. And when we do we hide them so they can not find them. Even go so far as to remove the cords so they can not plug in the TV. (It doesn't reach without extension from where it is.) If you need to vent or talk let me know. It is not perfect here and is always a battle, but sometimes it just helps to release frustration and know other moms have kids who are the same way:)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Madison on

you need to stick to your guns and use age appropriate discipline. my step daughter was a good one for being a little pig. I took away her most prized possession (her tv,vcr,game system, and computer) and told her that since she had chosen to destroy our most expensive possession (our home) that until she kept up her end of the deal and kept her mess clean that it was gone. (my husband actually took her things to work and stored them.) she learned very quickly..everytime her mess came back, her stuff disappeared. it got to the point that she didnt want to lose her things anymore.
just keep your chin up...it will pan out.



answers from Cedar Rapids on


answers from Sioux City on

I don't know if this will help any. It helped me for awhile. But we took all the toys and things out of his room, then slowly put them back in. If he kept the few things picked up at the end of the week he got more things, sometimes his choice depending on if I had to prod or not.. so good luck.



answers from Lincoln on

Hi K.,
One of the things I do with my daughter, who by the way will not only complain when it comes to doing her chores, but I have to continuely send back to redo her chore because she didn't do it right or just not do it at all and say she did. I start to take things away that she likes to do, ie; the after school program, then I'll tell her that if she does the chore right, without complaints, she can start going to her afterschool program, if she doesn't do it right, she gets another week coming home with me. I've also told her I'll take her birthday party away from her, (she lost it last year, and her birthday is on Halloween.) It works mighty well when you start taking stuff away that they care about!



answers from Milwaukee on

Hi, I am also a kickboxer. I love it.

This is the age when we started giving chores to my daughter. Basically it is always her job to load and unload the dishwasher. You have to name a chore and not help with it or be inconsistent because then they know its their chore and won't roll their eyes. She gets 5 dollars a week for allowance and more if she wants to do more around the house or yard.



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.! It sounds like you're doing a great job and expecting the appropriate amount from your son, in my opinion. I can totally relate to your post. We have a 17-yr-old son who sounds very similar to yours. He is an excellent student, a really nice kid, great with his younger siblings, etc., but he, too, is messy and just forgets little things (like keeping up with band lessons at school or permission slips). People tell us he's a very normal boy.

I've come to the conclusion that he often just really doesn't see the mess and/or doesn't think it's important. So, we've had to make it important. Even at 17, if he eats downstairs and doesn't clean it up, he doesn't get to eat downstairs for a week. Just recently he got really lax on his chores for a few days, so, for a week, he couldn't go anywhere or do anything until he first came home and did his chores. Believe me, this was hard for a 17-yr-old with a drivers license. The lesson sunk in. I can't make him value a clean bathroom the way I do. But I can try to show him that being part of a family means we all chip in. When he forgets or chooses not to contribute, it impacts all of us. I think because he is such a "good kid" it's hard to always tow the line, but it is important. The bad attitude is hard to deal with, but I also know that he secretly feels good being part of what makes our family work. I do know there are some tasks that he just really hates, like the bathroom, so from time to time we'll swap that with an extra job we need done -- like chopping wood.

There are some jobs that I feel he needs to learn for when he's on his own (laundry, cooking), some that just need to get done (emptying the dishwasher), and those extra jobs that come up from time to time (washing the car). We try to balance some of each type in his weekly routine. Bottom line, if the work doesn't get done, he loses privileges (use what's important to him). This system has worked fairly well for the past three or four years, but we have to keep on him. Deep down, I know he's going to be a slob when he's in college (like his dad was). It probably won't be until he has his own place with his own things that he'll learn you have to keep on things regularly in order to keep them working or looking nice.

Best of luck!!



answers from Minneapolis on

My son just turned 10 yesterday is has no problem telling people he is lazy. He is incredibly smart (test a grade level ahead and in the gifted program), he just does not like to clean. He has said I don't think he does a good enough job, it's boring, and he just doesn't like to. I have told him that I understand that because a lot of people don't like to clean up, but it's something we just have to do. I do think it is just something we have to deal with. I do hold him accountable and have explained that if he would just do the little things they don't take much of his time at all.
As for bigger chores, I have an 11 year old daughter, 10 year old son, and an almost 4 year old son. The older two have the same expectations as to what they can do. What I have done is write out chores on little scraps of paper. I have a few that are easier that are set at the side for my three year old (his jobs as he calls them) and then my older two take turns picking the other ones. They aren't thrilled they get chores, but it has went so much easier since they are actually picking what they have to do, rather then me just telling them. We may do this on the weekends, or they may come home from school and see the slip of papers and know it is a chore evening. Of course we don't always have smiles on our faces, but we do get them done, because that is the routine they have gotten use to and at least they had some choice.
Maybe you could work something out with your son to find out if there are some things he doesn't mind doing. Making a list of simpler jobs for the little ones so he feels that they have to do something to, and then maybe writing out a few that between him and you can take turns picking from. It may help if he thinks he has some say in it and there may be some things he really doesn't mind doing and some he really doesn't like.
Good Luck!!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.! I have a 10-year-old boy and four younger children. It sounds like you've already tried one idea I'll give you. My kids watch no TV and play very few computer games, but they watch a movie almost every Fri and Sat. night IF their homework is done and they've done their work well. So it's kind of a reward.
Another thing that I've done in the past (but I don't have to do anymore) is say, "Clean up your room or I'll clean it up!" (Words that strike terror into the hearts of all toy-horders.) They know that that means that I'll be making a trip to the thrift store with their clutter. I don't get mad, I just do it in an aggravatingly passive manner.
But also, about every 6 months, I clean my kids' bedrooms with them (nicely) so they know how it's done and I can impart my motherly wisdom to them about what they can maybe get rid of.
Good luck! Your future daughter-in-law will appreciate your efforts.



answers from Duluth on

sounds like you are going into the fun years. the ones that make you glad when they graduate and go to college LOL. yeah, i know thats not totally true.
my son is only 22 months, so i have a ways from that, but my little brother is 14, so i kinda can see where you are at.

one of the things with my brother is that sometimes mom's directions to him are pretty vague. "clean your room" may make sense to you, but thats a pretty broad statement. perhaps "pick up your clothes and put them away, bring dirty clothes to the laundry, put toys where they belong, etc.." will make things a little more clear. sometimes kids just dont know where to start! even if he is a smart 9 year old, it sometimes is overwhelming.
also, when it comes to neatness, look at yourself first... i know this from experience. my mom drove me nuts growing up, there were piles everywhere, stuff never got put away, cupboards never got shut... on and on. it works for her. but it makes sense then that 2 out of her 3 kids became just like that. lol. i on the other hand, from having first child syndrome (lol) and for some reason an organizational freak didnt end up like that, but i still have trouble with cupboard doors, turning off the oven or lights, and i have my piles too, though im constantly going through them and on occasion, (for very short periods) they do get put out of sight. LOL.

so, though i dont want to blame you - kids usually copy what they see.

also, another thing my brother complains about is the lack of choices. it gives the 'allusion' that they are free to make a choice. yes, you dont want the choice to be 'do this chore or dont do it' lol. but perhaps you want it to be 'clear the table and put supper foods away etc OR do the dishes tonight' you know? so that hes doing something either way, but he is given enough maturity to choose which he would like to do. i see you did that with taking the garbage out OR cleaning the entrance. good job there. it seems to have worked, so try it with other things too.

also, on your cleaning day, let him choose different tasks to do. maybe sit down in the morning with a list of things that you want to get done that day, and maybe he has to do 3 or so chores. he has all day to do them (my brother is SUCH a procrastinator... he will get things done eventually... but it takes forever LOL) but he does need to do them or X consequence. and never break your own rules. if X consequence should happen, then it happens. no exceptions.

hmmmm. what else what else... if you have a procrastinating child like my brother, try to find things he likes to do. my brother likes to cook for some reason. however, he prefers to do the stirring and not putting cookies on the sheet... so LOL. i dont know what to do with a procrastinator. it ends up being so many time limits, punishments for not doing soemthing fast enough, etc etc. so i dont know.
anyway, good luck!


answers from Sioux City on

We have clean up times built into our day. There is no meal served unless toys are picked up. If ya want to eat, clean up. Now all I have to say is, "It's almost time to eat and they automatically clean up the toys. Unless all your chores are done, you may not have computer time, TV time, play with friends, no gameboy, etc..... I will also not allow you to go to a friend house unless your chores are done. My nine year old empties the trash, puts his own close ways, helps fold close, helps with supper dishes, cleans the tub and sink in the bathroom, cleans and vacuums his room and mows part of the yard. Those are his jobs that he always has to do. I also ask him to do things here and there like pick up all the dirty laundry in the house and take it to the laundry room. He has mopped the floor in the basement. He rakes leaves, helped with the garage clean up, helped take down drywall while remodeling the basement, picked up shingles when putting a new roof on the house, helps clean out the cars pretty regularly etc... I do have the rule that if you whine or refuse then you must need more practice in how to help out without complaining and I will give you more work to do. My husband rallies everyone to clean the house for about an hour every weekend. There is no stopping until all the work is done.



answers from Rapid City on

I have the same problem with our 8 1/2 year old girl! I think it is for the same reason- she has been and still is SO HELPFUL with the younger kids.. (a 5 1/2 year old boy and a 6 month old girl. Still it is really frustrating- she leaves her drawers open with clothes all over the place, dirty and clean mixed together, she "can't" close the cat food container, and she is generally messy, leaving paper trash around her room.

The one thing that is barely starting to help is if she spends time with slightly older children, or even kids her own age for playdates (since usually she is just playing with her younger siblings...) I wish I had more suggestions, I guess I will be waiting to see how everyone responds to you! Good luck!



answers from Rochester on

I don't really have any great ideas for you. Wish I did. We have just always made it very clear to my son that helping with the house is part of being a family. I did not make this mess myself and you better believe I am not going to clean it up myself. Sometimes he pouts and moans and groans about doing stuff. I am pretty quick to tell him to knock it off and get the job done. He gets no time for fun things like video/computer games,movies or playing with toys unless he does his chores. He isn't responsible for to much. He crushes the pop cans and takes the recyclables downstairs to be sorted. He has to pick up the living room which is usually covered with dog toys. He is in charge of making sure our farm cats have food and water every single day. And recently I have taught him how to empty the dishwasher and put the dishes away. I still fill it and turn it on but there is no reason he can't put the clean ones away. He of course has to clean his own room and gather his laundry for me to wash. I have started to show him how to wash clothes. I don't think he is ready for that responsibility yet but when he is he will know what he is doing. So I don't think you are asking to much for your son to help out around the house. It is part of being a family. I agree I want my son to grow up to be a man who is respectful and helpful to woman. So it is important to really push for it now. I wish I had a magic tip on how to get him to do it. I just make him push through the complaining and moans and groans and sometimes tears (which I know are fake to get out of the chore) and get the chore done and over with. If he were an adult at a job and he didn't want to do something his boss wouldn't allow him to get out of it because he started crying. Better to teach him these things now I think. Good luck! I hope you get some really great and helpful advice here.



answers from St. Cloud on

HI K.! I just wanted to post since I am a "messie". Contrary to the believe of some, this was not modeled to me. My mom had a very neat home and while I should have picked up that skill, I didn't.
Now, I HATE mess! It stresses me out but I get overwhelmed with a task because I never know where to start. I excelled in school and love being with the people most of all. I say all of this because for a long time I thought I was stupid for not even being able to clean a messy room! I found that I don't mind doing ANYTHING if I have someone to do it with!
My hubby is able to clean really well and quickly. He's also fun to be around and I enjoy cleaning when I get to spend the time with him.
Could your son be the same way? I know that it's hard to be everywhere at once when you are a mom but could you pair your son with a younger sibling to get a job done?
I have no idea if this applies at all but I think you are doing a great job of instilling responsibility in your son as well as erasing the mentality in our culture of "women's work". Good job!



answers from Minneapolis on

I suspect three factors may be at play here;

1. He's at that tween age where he's testing limits and freedoms. Get ready...as he gets older and school crushes, and cars come along it'll get more challenging. Hold to your guns!

2. He's indignant that you're expecting him to clean on top of helping with the younger siblings. Right or wrong, he might think you're taking advantage of him because you're suddenly upping expectations. I gather from what you have written, because he helped with the little ones in the past, you let other chores slide, but now you want and expect more from him because both he and the younger ones are a bit older. The switch up might be confusing or understandably frustrating him.

3. If your other kids or even you and your husband don't have assigned duties and expectations, that means there's no consistency in overal expectations within the household. If there's no consistency in expectations for everyone at home, he's merely following example.

In short, I think the solution to your problem is going to be setting up a chores schedule/calendar for the entire household (that means everyone from the toddler to the parents)and reinforce it with a rewards system of your choosing.

I think children don't do so well when they are "told" to do something. They need to see and be shown what to do. Using a set schedule will help you to effectively establish and enforce the all too important and necessary consistency within the household for expectations, it also visually shows everyone what your expectations are, and will also equal the playing field by showing everyone has a job to make the house comfortable and nice.

Be sure to tell the kids this is how to make the home a happy and clean place to be. Make duties age appropriate and explain this to all involved so no one argues the plan is unfair. Duties for the youngest can be as simple as picking up clothes, putting toys in the toy box, or giving the dog water. Middle to older kids can do way more, including help with dishes, floors, yard work, even laundry.

Be sure you as parents are includ yourselves in the duty mix. Keep in mind, if there's a way you want things done, you are the one who must set the example. Don't nag, don't chastise, just reward well when it's done the way you like. Competition among the ranks will naturally occur and in no time your expectations will be met! ;)

Remind the kids that "everyone" will be expected to chip in, making it fair. Make the duties fun, and avoid calling them chores. Make sure all are made accountable by checking off on the weekly list their accomplished duties.

If someone does not keep up with the schedule, there should be consequences or some sort of penalty such as a removal of a privilege or docking in pay from the "reward system."

Good luck and hope this helps.



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.
My son is also 9 and gives me the exact same attituide when asked to do his chores. What we have started doing is makeing his chores worth time to do something he likes to do. so if he cleans out the dishwasher he earns 10 minutes of videogame time and when he has completed all his chores without giving me grief he gets a half hour to play his video games and if he does not do his chores he gets nothing. It is the only thing that has worked for us hope it helps T.



answers from Appleton on

It seems that for some reason your son has decided that doing chores is a contest of wills.
Try talking to your husband and have him take over the battle. Since your husband has no problem cleaning and being neat have him show your son how to do his chores. your son may have gotten the message from who knows where that 'real men' don't clean. If he works with his dad he will see that real men do clean. Maybe this is a cry for attention from his dad.


answers from La Crosse on

The responses below are both excellent advice. Whatever you decide to do, stick with it. My son, also a "messy boy", is now 22 and often thanks me for making him do those chores. When he got to college, he knew how to take care of himself and his apartment. Many other boys did not. He is working now and says it also helped his work ethic. He never gave me much attitude, but my 18yo daughter still at home always has. She knows she can give me every bit of attitude she wants, but it still has to be done. And if she pulls the trick of doing it halfway, she has to do it until it's right. This just happened last week! I made her re-clean her bathroom 3 times before it was acceptable! I'm not sure how she will be at college next year, I just pray she gets a roommate with a lot of grace! :)



answers from Fargo on

I have an 11 year old boy with three younger siblings. He too has always been willing to help out with his brother and sisters and pick up toys, bring me a diaper and what not. We told him once he turned 6 he was going to be expected to do more things than pick up toys, put his dishes in the sink, make his bed and make sure his clothes made it to the hamper. We slowly have added to his "duties" AND fun "big boy" activities usually right around his turning a year older, we try to make it into "You are getting so grown up! Now that you are turning 6 you GET to do more things like ride your bike on the sidewalk and not just in the driveway and play with the little tiny legos, learn how to read and have more duties around our house. Isn't that exciting! You are such a big boy!" At 7 he was responsible to unload the dishwasher and keep his room clean, sweeping and some dusting. At 8 he was in charge of setting the table for meals and emptying all the garbage cans for garbage day and helping with some of the raking and the shoveling, folding his clothes and putting them away. Right before his ninth birthday he got a paper route which he loves -- it gives him a lot of satisfaction to do a job well and have the freedom to leave the block without his siblings and get paid -- this helps us to teach him the value of money early on and how to budget that small amount of money. I didn't add extra "duties" that year. At ten we gave the dishwasher unloading to his younger brother and he was in charge of loading it and doing more dishes by hand and mowing a little, vacuuming a little. We also had a baby that year so he helped a lot around the house, he and his siblings were in charge of putting EVERYTHING away that they got out. Now that he's 11 and our 5 year old and 8 year old are taking over some of his old duties, I'm starting to teach him how to do his own laundry and cook simple meals. Our goal for all of our children is for them to be able to run a household (all the basics of cleaning, cooking and money management) by the time they are 13 or 14. (I can't take credit for this timeline-- I have a mentor mom who has done this/is doing this with nine children who I talk to regularly) After 14 life gets so busy for a high schooler that they are rarely at home or have the time to teach them the fundamentals of running a home. Does he complain and procrastinate sometimes-- yes -- he's normal. Does he do his "duties" perfectly-- no-- but he has a year or more to learn it before something else is added. I try to remember to praise them for their efforts and not necessarily for the outcome -- especially at first--and I try really hard not to do it over later if it wasn't done "perfectly". Does our house look like a wreck on a regular basis-- oh yes! But when everyone knows what their duties are we can get it back to looking somewhat normal again fairly quickly. We have sat our children down and told them what we are going to expect from them a few days before we start a new duty so they can get used to the idea and we always add some fun things that they get to do because they are a year older. That really motivates them. When a job doesn't get done then they don't get to do those fun "grown up" things either. This has been a trial and error learning experience,because what works for one child (usually what motivates them) doesn't work for all of them. They keep us on our toes. Hope this helps! You are doing a great job. :)



answers from Omaha on

Well I have 6 brothers and sisters. Yes SIX! LOL! Well this was always an issue in our house. Our mother was somewhat of a neat freak. Anyways, so if she didn't come home to a spotless house there was trouble. So my eldest sister was off and married already, my second eldest went to school and wasn't really home, my big brother watched all of us, then my sister who was closest in age sound alot like your son. Every chore was a chore to get her to do. Nothing ever worked for my mom... So usually I would end up doing her chores. My youngest sis would do her chores, and my little brother was the baby and did none. So of a house of this many people there were two of us children that would do chores... and that was it!

So eventually my mom started a reward system. As you can imagine there is ALOT of laundry for this many people. She would give us a quarter for every basket of laundry we folded. Not alot but it was some. This was about when that sister was 10. My mother just took our allowance away completely and established a monetary value to every chore. Now my sister was FIGHTING to do her chores. She couldn't buy cd's, movies, go to the movies, get candy, fast food... etc. Unless she had money so she had to do her chores to get money. This actually worked quite nice with her until she turned 15 and got a job. Then she did nothing again.

So something to think about. If your son gets an allowance make it so everything he does has a value and he only gets what he's earned. Worked for all of us. Although this might not work if your son isn't yet interested in buying his own stuff but when he is it's an idea.



answers from Rapid City on

That brings back a lot of memories. My boys hated any cleaning chores also. I decided to do the Jim Faye way. I would smile nicely and tell the kids "You have a choice, you may clean your room now... or you may clean it during dinner" They are smart kids and always chose to clean it now instead of during dinner. My daughter caught on right away telling me "I hate that you went to the parenting class and listened to that dweeb guy" Then she would tell me "those are real choices anyway!" Thing is they did it, not always to my expectations... the boys anyway.. my daughter on the other hand had a bit more incentive to clean hers good. She was a saver... I bet she had every gum wrapper from the time she was old enough to chew gum until she was about 11. That is when I found some crackers with peanut butter hidden away in a drawer in her room. I took some rice and colored it black with a sharpie marker and set it on her desk around a open piece of candy. When she got home and went in her room I heard her scream "MoOooOOOOMMMMM" and went in. She said "what is that??" I said "Oh it looks like mouse droppings".. that wasn't a lie, it did LOOK just like little droppings. I told her that if I were her, I would get rid of any food in the room and clean it really really good. I would also get rid of old papers and such that aren't needed. She asked "Why... do mice eat paper?" I told her "no, they make nests and have babies in it" I never again had to ask her to clean her room, she helped out really well keeping the rest of the house clean and turned out to be a better house keeper then I am now that she is grown. Yes I did tell her about my rice trick... when she was around 20 and she got a kick out of it and tells everyone why she is a good house keeper. Don't know if it works for boys cuz they would like to find the mice, but it worked wonders for a 11 year old girl!

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