Better Listening

100+ Printable Chore Cards for Kids to Teach Responsibility, Helpfulness and Independence

Inside this post: How to use printable chore cards for kids to teach responsibility, promote independence and encourage hard-work.


I sat in the car driving the kids to preschool, when she said something brilliant.

“How would it feel to have your kids grow into adults who could make good choices without a threat, bribe or incentive?”

When I reached the stop light I put the car in park, grabbed my phone and hit rewind on the podcast. I wanted to hear that part again.

As I continued driving, she spoke in detail about how to raise kids who were intrinsically motivated. You know…kids who do stuff out of the goodness of their hearts.

Kids who pick up the toys because it’s the right thing to do. Kids who see the dog needs a walk, grab the leash and ask if it’s okay to take the dog outside. Kids who make you a smiley face sandwich for dinner just because they love you.

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I hung on her every word.

She had the elusive magic parenting sauce, and I wanted it too.

I thought for awhile about how to teach kids responsibility and age-appropriate chores for kids. Mainly because chore charts and reward charts for kids are a terrible idea.

One of my friends swore off chart charts entirely after her oldest daughter asked “What she would get” if she cleaned up some juice she accidentally spilled.

Another mom I know quit chore charts after her middle child repeatedly said “No, thank you” to the extra allowance earned from chores.

Here’s the problem.

Chore charts work initially. They are alluring, new and fun for kids. They want the coveted reward.

But after a while, the allure wears off. Leaving kids to request a bigger and better reward or simply not take the bait at all.

Using chore charts based around incentives (i.e. money, a sticker or candy) for expected behavior erodes intrinsic motivation and it forces you to constantly manage your kids’ behavior.

It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. It’s basically like herding cats.

A simple solution for busy parents.

Using a set of 100+ printable chore cards for kids is an excellent swap for a chore chart, and I find it results in a lot more cooperation because it puts the child in the lead.

They are easy to use, teach kids responsibility and they are vastly different from chore charts.

In the past, when I introduced my oldest to a set of printable routine cards, I used a very specific Language of Listening® approach to help him learn how to use the cards.

I used the exact same approach to teach him how to use these chore cards.

Within a few days he was able to complete a few age-appropriate chores on his own, and I didn’t have to nag, yell or dangle M&Ms in front of his face.

Talk about relief.

Printable chore cards for kids.

Once you have your chore cards, you’ll want to print them on card stock or matte photo paper.

If desired, you can laminate them using some simple laminating paper, but I usually skip this step to keep it simple.

Printable chore cards for kids to teach responsibility, independence and hard work. The perfect alternative to chore charts and behavior reward charts.

You will have to cut these cards out, which I did pretty quickly while watching TV after the kids were asleep.

This was most definitely a worthy investment of time, since these cards now save me from nagging or reminding our oldest to help out around the house.

Next, you’ll want to choose the chores best suited for your child’s age and development. You can find a list here, but you know better than anyone what your child can do.

Then place those chores in a mason jar or basket. Anything you have around the house will work just fine. You could even use an empty tissue box.

Finally, have your child choose 1-3 jobs per day or per week (whatever works best for your family). Place them on the wall, fridge or place your child can easily see them.

Printable chore cards for kids to teach responsibility, independence and hard work. The perfect alternative to chore charts and behavior reward charts.

How to experience success with chore cards.

  • Choose jobs where your child is already feeling successful. Kids learn far better by success than failure.
  • Choose jobs where your child can manage themselves. If you have to sit their hoovering and correcting, you’ll both be left with feelings of frustration, or worse, flat out refusal from kids.
  • Add on more layers of responsibility as the child experiences success. You have years to help your child learn responsibility, helpfulness and basic life skills. Very little needs to get done immediately. Enjoy slow and steady progress in your child.

Before using the cards, I talked about them with my son to help him know what to expect. I said things like…

I have a special set of cards for you. They’re going to help you learn how to contribute to our family. So we can all do our part, help each other and keep the home running smoothly.

I also let him know that he would get to choose the jobs and when he did them…

You get to choose 2 jobs from the basket today. Choose any two that you’d like. They need to get done before dinner time. You can do them now or after you’re finished playing your game. You get do decide.

I started to see a lot more cooperation when there was some choice involved, rather than ordering him around or demanding the chores be done immediately.

It helped the whole situation feel like a collaborative effort, rather than a fight.

preschool-aged brother and sister standing at kitchen sink and doing dishes.

Finally, be sure to name a STRENGTH.

Each time he completed a job I named those STRENGTHs. This is crucial to helping your child see his or her inner greatness. Your child is already responsible, independent and hard-working. It’s only a matter of drawing out those strengths.

After the jobs were done, I said things like…

“You vacuumed the kitchen. That shows you’re responsible.”

“You made your bed. You handled that.”

“You finished all your jobs before dinner. That shows you’re independent.”

“You put away the clothes even though you didn’t want to. That was really helpful and shows you care about others.” 

But what if they refuse?

Printable chore cards for kids to teach responsibility, independence and hard work. The perfect alternative to chore charts and behavior reward charts.

You may run into a situation where your child completely refuses to do the jobs. This is where the Language of Listening® approach becomes so important. It’s a 3-step process, and it always starts with one thing:

1. SAY WHAT YOU SEE®.

Describe the situation without teaching, fixing, judgement or questions.

“Looks like you’re still playing. You can’t imagine doing any of these jobs right now. You’d much rather play and do what you want. That seems more fun to you.”

2. Offer a CAN DO. 

Offer the child something they can do that works in your boundary. Or allow the child to come up with a CAN DO on their own.

“These jobs need to get done AND it doesn’t seem very fun to you. There must be something you can do! You could turn them into a fun game. Or you could do them to music.”

“These jobs need to get done AND you’re not ready yet. There must be something you can do! You could do them before dinner or after dinner. You choose.”

child wiping counters with a sponge.

3. Name those STRENGTHs.

Find something in the situation that the child did well, even if it’s small or seemingly inconsequential.

“You found a way to make chores fun. That was very creative.”

It gets easier and easier.

These cards are a tool for long-term success in building responsibility and hard work.

The more we kept using them and integrating them into our routine, the more chores and helping each other became part of our family life.

They are now an expectation of family contribution that is not met with rewards, bribes or threats. There is no chart, stickers, “good” or “bad” acknowledgement, and it was very freeing for me.

Trying to manage or control behavior is insanely exhausting.

Coaching kids towards intrinsic motivation puts the child in the lead, takes you out of the nitpicking manager role and life becomes much more peaceful and cooperative.

 Printable chore cards for kids to teach responsibility, independence and hard work. The perfect alternative to chore charts and behavior reward charts.

You can find your 100+ printable chore cards for kids here.

Or discover the sister pack – Printable routine cards for kids here.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi! With your printable routine and chore cards does the format come in a way that I could print them through Shutterfly or other printing service or do they only come in the format of a sheet paper to be cut up?
    My husband and I are excited to get started with these with our 4 and 2 year olds! Thank you so much!
    Katie

  2. Hmmm good principles, but what if your kid flat out refuses or spaces out and doesn’t do the chores “before or after” as in their choice? Then what? Your article doesn’t articulate that.

  3. Hello, I was thinking of starting a chore chart until I saw this post. 🙂 One of our goals of using a chore chart was to teach them about money–how to earn it and then how to give/save/spend it. Do you have any blogs or articles that could speak to how to do that in other ways?

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