We have a "Must Do" list. Getting everything done on a day nets 50 cents and the opportunity to do paid "May Dos" . Do it 7 days in a row and everything doubles in value, even the past days. I think our best is a 10 or 11 day streak. Turns out money isn't the right incentive, even if there's a lot of stuff she wants. (Plus, why should she spend her money - shouldn't we buy it with our money?)
I have found a few tactics that do help, but I don't always think to use them consistently.
Every so often I'll ask for patently, nay, stupidly simple requests for assistance, typically in the form of a favor. Something that there's no way she can say no to, something that's not going to take her away from her task for very long. Earlier today I was in the laundry room loading the washing machine and I had closed the door to the upstairs. I realized it made it more difficult to hear Ben in his room, so I called up to her and asked her to open the door for me so I could hear Ben better. She did and it gave me an opportunity to thank her multiple times, when she did it, when I came back upstairs and then a few minutes later as if I had absentmindedly forgotten. She liked the praise and it helped me to ask for a bigger favor a little bit later (priming the pump, if you will).
Aborted (Fake) Requests
I started to ask for a second favor and then thought better of it. But I had already started to ask. So then when I thought better of it, I said "On second thought, never mind. I can take care of this myself." She thought she had gotten out of having to do something for me and if necessary, I could use that later.
Sometimes she'll lock herself in her room and play and play and play. LEGOs, Littlest Pet Shop, coloring. We still haven't convinced her of the "If I put it away when I'm done with it, there's never anything to put away." So instead we're stuck with the Must Do "Put away 50 items" - pick up any 50 things in her room and put them where they belong. It doesn't keep her room clean, but it stems the tide. This morning I asked her to do 10, she did 12. I asked her to do another 10, and she did. Then I asked her to do the rest and she did, plus 18 extra.
Make it Easier
One of her responsibilities is taking down the laundry and sorting it into the bins under the washer and dryer. On weekends, depending on how much there is, I may just say that it's fine to sort it onto the floor or just dump it in one big pile for me to sort.
Give and Take
Sometimes, I might need to do something but I'm waiting for her to complete a step first. Say I want to run laundry but the laundry hasn't been taken down yet. In the past, I might have asked her to do it and it might lead to a battle where it doesn't get done at all or where it takes forever and no one's happy. I've come to learn that sometimes it's just easier and quicker to do it myself. If I end up doing it because she refuses, she doesn't get credit. But if I just do it (without asking) then she still gets credit and often I can use that to get some other concession out of her later.
Of course, there's still plenty of times where it doesn't work. We hit a brick wall. It doesn't get done, or we have to to it ourselves, or we have to negotiate, cajole, harass or force as the issue requires. Some things just must be done and they aren't things we can do ourselves. And that's never fun. But whenever I can remember these tactics above, I'm able to avoid some of that and get necessary things done with less unpleasantness.
Would love to hear your tactics in the comments below.