Household Chores and Contracts

An important part of implementing a household chore system is creating a formal agreement, commonly called a contract, for every member of the household. A contract defines the parent’s expectations and provides direction and parameters for the children. A contract can be a general form explaining household rules or a complex detailing of chore responsibilities for a specific person. For households with teenagers or even adults who shirk their responsibilities around the home, contracts can help pave the way to a new, orderly household in where everyone formally agrees to carry their own weight.

One main advantage of using contracts as part of a household chore system is that it reduces confusion about what needs to get done how, when, where and by whom. Contracts allow both the chore assigner and the chore assignee to agree on specifics. If chore processes are outlined in black and white, expectations are more likely to be understood and chores are more likely to be completed. For a household newly introduced to a formal routine of chores, contracts can be an invaluable tool for negotiating the maintenance of and organization the home.

Contract types aren’t limited in content. It should reflect the family’s personality and values. When devising your own, consider important areas that you’d like it to cover. Some common topics touched upon in contracts are listed below.

  • Behavior. Outline acceptable and unacceptable behavior and attitudes towards chores. Provide guidelines for interaction with other household members also participating in the chore routine.
  • Description of chores. Detail what specific chores are expected to be completed by each family member. Step-by-step descriptions reduce confusion and make the successful completion of each chore non-negotiable.
  • Timeline and dates. Define the timeline that chores are to be complete. Also take the opportunity to insert clauses about periodic contract review times in which a signer can look forward to having their contract modified.
  • Consequences and Rewards. Make signers accountable to their contract by reminding them what the consequences and rewards are for abiding by the contract or by breaking it. Define specific consequences and rewards, including punishments. Put figures into contracts if you’re working with allowances.
  • Miscellaneous. Add anything else that you feel is important to include in the contract. Many parents think to add stipulations to the contract here. For example, they may say that rewards for completed chores are forfeited if homework is not completed, household rules aren’t respected or if the chore performer is disrespectful about completing the chore.

It’s inevitable that as a household evolves, its needs will change as well. Making an allowance for future contract modifications, on top of the agreed to review period, can keep all family members satisfied with its contents.

By developing contracts that parallel the needs of your family, its members perceive their agreements to keep a household functional to be binding. Don’t be surprised if you find a new, more committed attitude toward the upkeep of your home, from the entire family, when a formal agreement is in place.

About the Author: Janet Nusbaum (AKA the Organizing Genie), WAHM of two, is an Organizing Consultant, Speaker & Author of ‘Mom, Can I Help Around the House?’ A Simple Step-by-step System for Teaching your Children Life-long Skills for Pitching in & Picking up’, who helps individuals, families, seniors and businesses organize life and navigate transitions. Visit to receive a FREE chapter of her new book and family chore system.

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