Doing Hard Things: Seven easy steps I took to get my four year old to clean our bathrooms

For my day job, I get to work with a variety of different consultants and experts in policy and messaging. One of my favorites is a gentleman named Kevan Kjar. He is a businessman that focuses on helping organizations develop compelling stories. In addition to being a great guy, he has a simple but powerful life moto that he shares with others (usually with an accompanying bumper sticker as a gift):

Do Hard Things

Three simple words that can make all the difference in your life. On Product Management has a great excerpt from a conversation with Kevan:

I asked Kevan about the logo and what it represented. “It’s a personal challenge that I’ve adopted and I use it when working with youth groups.” Kevan then asked, “Would you like to take the challenge?” I said, “Sure, tell me more.


Kevan shared, “The challenge is simple, but not necessarily easy. Pick one thing that you know is hard to do. Plan how you will do it, when you will do it, and then consider what would happen if you don’t do it.” It’s often easier to do a hard thing, than live with the consequences of not doing anything at all.

I have spent a lot of time contemplating what that means for MY life as a working professional, wife and mother. But it wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about what that could mean for my kiddos.  And I realized something….kids are amazing!

Seriously! Have you ever watched a determined two year old try to sneak a cookie out of the kitchen? Or what about your teenager figuring out a complicated computer game? With drive and determination, kids can do a heck of a lot more than we think they can.

So I started being more aware of “hard things” that my kids can take on. And one day, after spending a stressed morning cleaning-up grime and toys I realized that these kids should be doing the cleaning instead of me. They wouldn’t do it perfectly right away, but with time and plenty of training I bet within a year they will be able to handle the majority of household chores.

So we had a family meeting to discuss starting an allowance.  There would be basic everyday responsibilities they would need to accomplish before getting to do additional “jobs” for money. The basics include getting dressed, making the bed, brush teeth, clearing table after eating and picking up toys. They then each chose chores and we discussed how much each one was worth.

The next morning we went to the store and picked out buckets and the appropriate cleaning supplies for their jobs. They decorated their buckets and then we got to work!


I was shocked at how excited my four year old little guy was to clean the bathrooms.  Yes, he basically sprayed half a bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles on the toilet, tub, sink and floor and then wiped it clean…but it was sparkling! My daughter was a fantastic duster and sweeper.


It has been three weeks, the kids are getting better at their jobs and the house looks great! But more importantly I see the pride they take in their hard work and contributing to the family.

      Echore GChore

Kids need difficult responsibilities! A study by Marty Rossman, associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, found that the best predictor of a child’s success (completing education, good career, no drugs and having quality relationships) is that they begin helping around the house at age three or four.

Chores build bonds through the family working together and kids get a sense of pride from their hard work. They want to feel needed and contribute to the household.

So how do you get started? Here are the 7 steps I took:

  1. Plan with the kids. Ask them what chores they would like to do and then create a list. To get the brainstorming started, here is a great list of chores that kids at different ages can do.
  2. Choose the “must-dos” vs the “extras”.  Don’t pay for the “must-dos” like clearing the table after a meal or picking up toys. They need to accomplish the “must-dos” before earning money on the “extras”.
  3. Agree on payment. We don’t do an automatic allowance in our house, they can work for their money. We pay between $1 – $2 per chore.
  4. Create an easy-to-use chart to remind the kids of their “must-do” and “extras”. Here are links to an editable word docs you can use. We have one for kids that can read and one that has images for kids that can’t read. I laminated our charts and hung them in the kitchen for easy updating.
  5. Buy the right equipment. Take the kids shopping and buy easy-to-use products that are kid friendly. Don’t forget a bucket so they can carry their supplies.
  6. Have them personalize their bucket and choose a convenient place to store for easy access. So that one day you can wake up and find your children happily dusting the baseboards and coffee table…yeah I can dream!
  7. Hold your tongue for the first few weeks while the kids are just learning. Praise praise praise and then demonstrate how they can improve. If the job is not done to your liking then wait till after they are in bed to get every last crumb dusted off the table. You want to keep this experience fun and empowering so they stay motivated. Think about paying out that day for the work or create a weekly “payday” and keep track of what they have tackled.

How do you handle chores? What do your kids do well and what is like pulling teeth to get them to finish? I would love to hear from you if you try this out.  Send me pictures (email to [email protected]) of your kiddos doing “hard things” and we will post them on the blog and our Facebook page!

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2 Responses to “Doing Hard Things: Seven easy steps I took to get my four year old to clean our bathrooms”

  1. ShannanSeptember 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Hooray for 4 year-olds who love cleaning bathrooms! I thought that this NYT piece on chores for older kids who are capable of performing chores perfectly was pretty good and had idea that we are implementing in our home.

  2. Jennifer Butler
    Jennifer ButlerSeptember 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Fantastic!! I will share this on our Facebook page!