Laundry Responsibility for a 10-Year Old

Updated on August 16, 2011
C.M. asks from Bartlett, IL
21 answers

I'm at wit's end trying to get my 10-year old to take responsibility for her laundry.

I used to wash all the clothes, her only responsibility was taking the folded clothes and putting them away, and sometimes she'd help me move clothes from the washer to the dryer. Sometimes she'd help fold the clothes.

Well, I found out she was being lazy about putting her clothes away and instead of putting them AWAY, she was dumping her clean clothes onto the floor at night and hiding them with her blankets, and then the next day she'd shove the whole pile (some still folded) into the dirty hamper. I could never figure out how her laundry basket got so full in one week. I finally figured it out when I remembered washing a few shirts and never saw her her wear them and they were FOLDED in the hamper.

So I taught her how to wash her own clothes and from then on I asked her to wash her own laundry (with me supervising of course). I figured if she had to wash it, she wouldn't be so careless about it. However, she COMPLAINS and WHINES about doing it when reminded. I just figured out she hasn't been changing her underwear because of course underwear is the first to all get dirty and that would mean she'd have to wash her clothes. Also, if what she wants to wear is dirty, she just pulls it out of the hamper and wears it all wrinkled and smelly. At age 10 she doesn't seem to care about those things.

I've gone 'round in my head with different ideas besides the constant war of "It's your laundry time" and "No! I don't want to do laundry!" I've thought of just driving with her to the laundromat and making her pay for the laundry and sit there until it's done, hoping that getting her laundry done at home will then become more appealing. Or drastically cutting down her wardrobe to just seven outfits since she can't seem to manage her wardrobe. Then she could do laundry once a week or run around naked.

The point is, she doesn't care. And none of her friends have ever said anything (because they are nice people) so she continues not to care.

Please tell me this will pass! What will I do until then?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks mamas! I'm sure doing laundry at age 10 depends on the child and the situation. I help her sort her clothes on laundry day (although she can do it on her own now) and she is certainly capable of putting in the soap, the clothes, the fabric softener and then pressing the button. Definitely NOT something she is incapable of doing! But certainly something she does not LIKE to do.

I will probably go back to doing all the laundry together and having her help with everyone's laundry because making her do it is taking too much time. HOWEVER, like a mom mentioned to me, if she throws her clean clothes on the floor then I will take them away because obviously she doesn't care about them. If she puts clean clothes in the dirty laundry then I will take them away as well. She can "buy" them back with extra chores, or we'll donate them to someone who is not as lucky as she is to have such nice clothes.

If she ends up with nothing to wear, then too bad. I hope that's a better lesson for her, treat your things nicely or you won't have them.

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answers from San Francisco on

Here's the problem...
You have given HER the responsibility to do her laundry. Therefore it's up to HER when and how often she wants to wash her clothes. At ten I'm guessing it won't happen often, she's too young to care!
So you can either back off and let her stink, or you can go back to washing her clothes.
Personally I would still wash them. Mine didn't start doing her own wash until middle school, and yes, at that point she finally started to care so she did a decent job :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It seems like she is too young to care much about clothes and having them clean and presentable. I think she is kind of young for doing her own laundry--it seems more like a job for a 12 or 13 year old to me. I would either make her do it with supervision and ignore the whining or give her another chore ( dishes, trash?) as a consequence of the problems with laundry. For some reason getting the clean clothes put away is a stumbling block in my house too (even though I do nearly all the laundry). However, limiting her wardrobe or having things be slow to come back from the wash is a possibility to get her motivated.

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answers from Albany on

I know, right?! I HATE it when TEN YEAR OLD CHILDREN refuse to behave like ADULTS!!

Sorry, but I don't think children need to spend their entire childhood practicing to be adults. YOUR doing laundry with grace, humor, and determination is what's going to teach her to be a responsible adult.

(My oldest is a sophomore away at college. Last year it took him roughly 15 seconds to figure out how to do laundry, and less than a week to come up with a plan of his own to keep his clothes clean.)

I choose peace.


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answers from San Diego on

I can't believe some mothers think ten is to young to
Do laundry. My daughter started doing laundry at 9. Brung it from down stairs, sort, wash, put in dryer, fold and back up stairs. Their could be a reward and punishment. I definetly wouldn't be washing and folding her clothes. There should be a small punishment for her being disobedience and not being honest about putting up her clothes. It is our jib as parents to instill into our children age appropriate chores that teaches them responsibility. I teach college students and let me tell you thus generation is so lazy carries a sense of entitlement like you couldn't believe. We can't complain as mothers about being tired when we don't designate chores. A household shouldn't be run by only one person. My whole family chips in. Even my four year old folds her on clothes. Good for you for trying to teach her responsibility! Keep it up. I would even consider making her wear the same outfit for three days. I bet she would care about her appearance then! Good luck

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answers from Dallas on

my 7 year old puts all of her laundry away, on hangers or in drawers...I check after to make sure she has done it, if not then she is not allowed to do anything else until it (or her other chores) are done. it doesnt matter how much she whines, she doesnt have to do it right then but there is no tv, video games, playing outside, playing with toys etc until its done period

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answers from Chicago on

Single, working mom here and I have four kids. Every day two kids are responsible to help with the dishes and two are responsible to help with the laundry. When the dryer buzzer goes off, the kids assigned to that day and I fold/hang the clothes together. They are a huge help to me. And they don't complain because I'm right there doing it with them. Teamwork. Plus they've learned how to properly maintain their laundry by watching me as we work together.

I agree that kids need to be kids but part of being a family is helping each other. Working together as a family brings a sense of pride and accomplishment. And it doesn't have to be all about work - we've had a blast with break out water fights doing the dishes or throwing socks back and forth at each other doing the laundry.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I am with Momma L. Let her wear whatever is clean, and do NOT let her wear the dirty clothes. Maybe keep her dirty hamper in the hall or in your room. Every night make sure she takes it off and every morning make sure she puts something clean on. Like Momma L said, sooner or later if she is not washing her clothes, she will only have a super odd outfit to wear to school. And she will have to wear it. THEN she will realize that this sucks!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Some say a 10 year old shouldn't have to do laundry. Some say they should. Some say a child shouldn't have to practice being an adult. Some say a 10 year old should do chores, and others say they shouldn't.

Your child, your choice. I don't think children should be slobs just because we don't expect adults to be slobs. "What you are to be you are now becoming." Children get used to the way they live. If the parents are welfare and drug addicts and they never have enough to eat or clean clothes to wear, the kids think that is the norm. I had higher standards for myself and my kids. I required they have clean clothes and clean bodies to go to school, even though those are adult attributes. I just figured they should learn those things as kids and practice doing them all the way into adulthood.

My children became very, very, VERY, V E R Y lazy when they reached 10 to 13 years old. My wife would wash the clothes, fold them and then ask the kids to put them away. They would take them to their rooms and drop the clean folded clothes by their beds. Often they had to walk by their dressers to drop the clothes on the floor by their beds. Clean, folded clothes ended up in the dirty clothes just like you said.

We had to check the dressers for folded clothes. We had to follow them into their rooms and verify they put their clothes away where we told them to. We had to make sure they put dirty clothes in the hamper so they could be washed. My wife was a very good maid and laundress, but that's not what she said she wanted to do. There were times you couldn't tell the rooms had carpet for all the clothes on the floor.

After asking them more times that I wanted to count, I told them if they didn't have thier clothes picked up and in the dirty clothes and the clean clothes folded and put in their drawers, I would have to count the clothes and give them one swat for each of their clothes left on the floor. The first time, I gave them 30 minutes. The just sat on their beds grousing and complaining how unfair I was that they should have to put their own clothes away. I came in and when I counted out 5 items for each child in that room, I spanked them each 5 times and told them I would come back in 30 minutes and count the clothes again. By the time I came back for the third time, the floor was clean. The hamper was full and the drawers had clean folded clothes in them. I took them down stairs one room at a time and had them wash the clothes in their dirty clothes hampers. I had them take the clothes out of the washing machine and put them in the dryer and dry their clothes. When the clothes were dry, I had them take the clothes out of the dryer and fold the clothes and take them up stairs and put the clothes in their drawers. Then I checked the drawers. I told them they were going to have their rooms inspected and the clothes counted on Thursday and Saturday. It took about two months to get things back in order. You would have thought they would have learned sooner. Some of them did. I told them it was up to them. If I had to manage their clothes, then we'd do it my way. If they could manage their clothes by themselves then they could do it their way. I gave them the minimum acceptable standards. When their rooms were in order, their mom went back to washing clothes for them.

BTW, I folded my own clothes and ironed my own shirts in high school. In college I had enough clothes that I washed once per month, all day. (30 button shirts, 15 pairs of pants, 30 shorts, 30 T-shirts, 30 pairs of socks.)

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Rotten kids: they can be so incredibly frustrating -- especially when they don't care about stuff that is (first) easy to take care of (like putting clothes away) and (second) part of being a responsible & respectable person!

I have two recommendations:
1. Pick your battles. Ten sounds a little young to be responsibly handling her own laundry. For some kids, it's probably not a big deal -- those organized kids with a little natural energy & sense of responsibility. None of my kids were like that -- and it sounds like maybe yours isn't, either.

2. Inspect what you expect. If she's supposed to put away her clean clothes, ask her if it's done. "Honey, did you put your clothes neatly in the drawers where they belong? If I looked right now, would I be happy with where I found your clothes? If not, go do it right now. I'll be in to check in 5 minutes." Then check. She doesn't get to do anything until it's done.

Personally, I'd talk with her. Tell her you're willing to go back to doing her laundry if she's willing to put it away properly when it's done. Then, when the clothes are clean, hand her pile to her and tell her she needs to put them away properly while you watch (for the first few times). Then, she can put them away and you'll check for a few times. You will, periodically, have to check on her. Yes, she should do it on her own. But she doesn't. And she's only 10. It will get better with time -- but forsome kids it's a LONG time!!!

For what it's worth, my two oldest are adults who have their own homes. It wasn't until they'd been out of our home for a year or so that they finally understood why I always said certain things -- and now my oldest, who has two little ones of her own, complains regularly about stuff her kids do that is EXACTLY like she did as a kid. At least she has the good grace to acknowledge that she now understands shy it made me crazy!

Point is, they do come around -- not as quickly as we'd like, but they get it eventually

Hang in, mama! This too will pass -- and you'll both live through it!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Yep, she doesn't care, but I think you hit the nail on the head with your own idea ~ 'drastically cutting down her wardrobe to just seven outfits since she can't seem to manage her wardrobe. Then she could do laundry once a week or run around naked.' Just explain to her that since she's not ready to accept responsibility you have to take charge and make some changes.

~ Assign a time for her laundry to get done, between "___" and "___" on the day she'll be doing it, giving her a few hours leeway, say on Saturday. Schedule it early in the day in the event she doesn't do it, and tell her she's grounded the rest of the day if she doesn't ~ what 10 year old wants to stay home, not watch TV and miss out on doing fun things on Saturday? Then give her the same time on Sunday, she HAS to do laundry for school... Hide some mismatched outfits for her to "buy" for a couple of $ of her own money when she doesn't take you seriously and neglects doing her laundry, something she'll have to wear but won't like, and schedule something away from home like grocery shopping so she can't just sit in her room wearing it. Scheduling times to do laundry is what they did in my college dorm and an apartment building I lived in, use your time or lose it because someone else has to do theirs. (And do some of yours so her time is really up!)

~ If she wants to exchange some of her outfits for the following week make sure she washes the dirty ones first and then exchanges them ~ just in case she thinks she can outsmart you.

~ As far as whining and complaining, send her to her room to do it, or walk away and go to your room, lock the door, and tell her if she keeps it up she'll lose a privilege like TV, going to a friend's or the movies, etc., it's unacceptable. Treat her like the toddler she's behaving like.

~ Move her laundry hamper to the washer/dryer area, she can place dirty clothing there after her daily shower or changing. The less she has to deal with in her room, the better. And hide the laundry secretly in a trash bag where she can't find it in the event she tries to sneak something out.

~ Make sure there isn't a lot of junk in her closet and wherever she puts clean laundry, my daughter was a packrat :-/ If she appears to be keeping her things better organized consider adding one outfit back a week, and be prepared to trim them back down to 7 if she starts being messy again.

~ I seriously got rid of a lot of clothing when my daughter was starting 6th grade, (11) she had way too much stuff and it was hard for her to keep it organized after looking through everything for something to wear. We kept the things that were most versatile, that could be mixed and matched to give her the most clothing options with the least amount of pieces. She had no problem with it and was still one of the coolest-dressed girls in her class. She also learned how to shop wisely, "what does this go with?"

So exhort your authority, set up some new rules, and, yes, it will pass...middle school or junior high is coming in a year or two!!

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answers from Houston on

She can wear smelly and wrinkly clothes. Or not allow her to wear anything unwashed, so when Thursday comes around and all she has that is clean like sweatpants and a weird top that doesn't match, she has to wear it. Every Saturday, was our cleaning day. We cleaned EVERY day, but Saturday, before we were allowed to do anything, we had to deep clean. Maybe she needs more reinforcement and actual consequences. She wants to go to a friends house or swim, or watch a movie?... that depends on if her clothes are clean and put away. And yes, get rid of a lot of the clothes, she probably only wears a small amount of what is actually in her closet. It may help make things more manageable anyways.

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answers from Cleveland on

My children have to do their chores in the morning, and until all their chores are done, they are not allowed to do anything else.

If my 10 yo refused to do a chore, I'd sit her butt down in a kitchen chair and make her sit there until she was ready to do it. Or, I'd make her write 50 times, "I am a member of this family and will do my chores responsibly, like everyone else." And she would NOT move from that chair til it was done!

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answers from Dallas on

i think 10yo is a little young to be doing ALL of her own laundry on a full-time/forever basis, but every family is different, and if that's what she is told to do, she certainly needs to do it. i'd also make her keep her room more picked up, i can't imagine my kids being able to hide stacks of clean clothes... That said, it also appears that you have a lack of control over her, if she's this willing to disobey you at 10, i'd hate to see what she's gonna be like at 14. if i want my kiddos to do something, i generally don't "ask"(to me, asking would indicate that they have the option to refuse) my kids to do it, i TELL them to do it. i tell them nicely and say please the first time, and i generally don't have to ask more than once(although i'm sure that will change as my 2yo girl grows up!). it's time for two things to happen. one, impress upon her that YOU are the parent, YOU are in charge, and doing what you tell her to do is not optional. you will do your laundry every saturday morning before you do ANYTHING else - put some consequences in place, and stick to them. secondly, it's time for a SERIOUS talk about hygiene and personal care - my 5yo and 8yo BOYS wouldn't be willing to wear dirty clothes unless it was some VERY dire emergency. she needs to respect herself enough to present herself in a clean and neat way. good luck with her :)

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I made my daughter responsible for her own laundry in sixth grade for similar reasons. If she didn't do laundry, she wore dirty clothes - period.



answers from Miami on

I'm going through the same thing with my 10 year old. She hates putting laundry away. I've found that if i'm involved with the process then she is more apt to do it. Meaning Itell her ok its time to put your clothes away I follow her into the laundry room. She carries most of it I'll carry one or two items. Usually an item that needs hung up. then I sit on the bed and talk to her and she puts them away. Tag team so to speak. But it is frustrating at times.



answers from Charlotte on




answers from Chicago on

Having her help with laundry is great. However you might want to tackle the bigger problem for her of organizing her clothing and where it goes. Maybe take half of what is in her closet / dresser out and keep only about 10 days worth of clothing in it. My son could not put laundry away in a dresser to save his life. It was a constant battle. a lot like you describe above. So to see if it would help we took the dresser out of the equation. in his closet my husband put up shelves. they go from side to side. 3 shelves. on the shelves I put a basket on each shelf. 1 basket holds underwear, 1 holds socks and the other pj's. the other parts of the shelf holds folded pants and shirts and shorts etc. at the time we went through this he had nothing long to hang up just some shirts so they still hung above the shelves. Maybe she is overwhelmed with trying to do it. take the hard part out and let her just lump them on the shelves. as far as letting her go out smelly not an option. take all the other privileges she has away until she gets that she is responsible for taking care of her clothing. Become the keeper of the underwear lol. Make her trade you a dirty pair for a clean pair each morning. Laundry must be done but give her the option of when she wants to do it. maybe once a week while having dinner or after school or maybe putting the load in before school and drying when she gets home?



answers from Spokane on

So, she wasn't managing the responsibility of putting away her clothes properly so you gave her MORE to do?? That doesn't make any sense and is just setting her up for failure.

Baby steps!

First, go back to YOU washing and folding and HER putting away. Show her how, check that she did it right. When she's got *that* part figured out, THEN you can add folding to her responsibilities. Eventually you can give over all her laundry duties to her, but she really needs some time, guidance and patience to be taught the proper way of doing things.

Trust me, by the time boys start looking "appealing" she'll be WELL on her way to caring about her appearance :o)



answers from Dallas on

My 7 & 9 yo's are responsible for putting away their own laundry. We have a pool table in the loft outside their bedrooms. I put clean clothes (folded) on the pool table, they put them away. They are not allowed to take clothes off the pool table to wear and if all the clean clothes are dirty too bad. Having the stopping place (pool table) between fold/put away has helped because we can all see what needs to be done and they aren't tempted to 'hide' clean clothes.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I think 10 is awfully young to be responsible full time for their laundry. I think they don't have the cognitive ability to fully "get" the whole spectrum of it. The sorting colors, the sorting fabric weights, bedding separate from clothes, etc....those are hard concepts for some adults who wonder why their clothes look crappy. My BFF doesn't understand why every tee shirt and pair of underwear turn gray. She doesn't sort anything out and they all turn the dingy yucky gray color.

So, I agree that she needs less clothes. But in reality until you address the putting away the clothes she will never succeed at this chore. I say get the laundry all done up, put a lock on her closet, have everything hung that will go, shorts, tops, pants, dresses, skirts, everything that will hang is in the closet. Then only let her have her socks, panties, slips, and PJ's in her drawers. Having to get a grown up to let her have clothes every morning will make her want to have her clothes and start to feel that need to take care of them. She needs to learn how to put them up first is my point I guess.


answers from Austin on

I had a similar problem with my son who's 9 years old. He doesn't care about having clean clothes and would keep wearing the same ones for days if I let him. I do the laundry, and he helps(although not as an assigned chore) by moving it to the dryer or bringing back a basket of empty hangers. He has dresser drawers for shorts, underwear, socks, and pjs. Pants and shirts go on hangers. Nothing is folded. I give him a batch of 1 type of clean clothes and he's supposed to put them away. He puts them in a rolling laundry basket(the delivery truck) and then delivers them to the dresser.
This worked out fine until he got bored with it. When I found out that he dumped clean clothes on hangers on the floor, I told him that he wouldn't be getting any clean clothes deliveries until the clothes on the floor were hung up. But I would still make him wear a clean outfit of my choice when we were going out of the house. This had no effect on his behavior. He never quite ran out of clothes, and wore the wrinkled ones one at a time instead of ever hanging them up. He didn't even care that the cat sat on them.

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