This was sparked by the "Dishes dilemma" thread and I thought there might be some not following the thread who might find it useful. So it's some thoughts about kids appreciating what we do for them and being willing to give back.
1) Have reasonable expectations for their age. If they aren't appreciating or helping in return, it could be they aren't old enough -- aren't developmentally ready -- to grasp that what you're doing isn't just part of what you're programmed to do for them ;-) They are hard-wired to trust that you will provide a home that meets their basic needs for safety, food and love.
2) Trust they're doing the best they can. Even (especially) when you think they aren't. What people give back in return is in proportion to how respected they feel. If the kids are "old enough" and their best is half-assed, it's because they're in defensive mode. They feel like a spring that's always offered their own trickle of water freely but that wasn't good enough and adults have sunk in a pump to pull out what they wanted instead. To get the spring to flow freely, you need to stop pumping. Trust that what they're giving is the best they can do (right now).
3) Be with them. Doing chores alone feels tedious. Doing them together can make the task seem much smaller.
4) Be someone they want to do things for. We can't make people appreciate us. But we can become people they feel appreciate them and who want to return that appreciation.
To be someone people will want to show appreciation for -- and much of this applies to how we treat our spouses (and friends) too!:
1) See the tasks as yours. The conventional view is kids are part of the family and they need to contribute. But it will be much much easier to get help if mom retains responsibility for the task and asks others to help her out. It's much much harder to get people to help when someone dumps a task on them (or makes them pick a task from a list) and expects it to be done by the task master's standards. It's much much easier to ask (rather than demand) and honestly appreciate the help when you hold the mindset of "This all belongs to me and is fully my responsibility." It's harder to ask and appreciate when you see the task as everyone's responsibility (and everyone's being a slacker ;-) A lot comes down to attitude.
2) Treat some tasks as a given in your family culture. Don't make kids comply but project an attitude of the expected. If you want the aftermath of a project cleaned up before the next project is brought out, say "Let's get this cleaned up." And then do it, encouraging their help (with the ideas below) but not requiring it. Make it part of the atmosphere just like it's accepted and expected that dinner will happen not long after Dad gets home.
3) Be joyful. Who wants to help someone who's grumpy and obviously hates doing what she's doing? Don't stuff down your distaste and pretend. (Kids will know.) <i>Shift your thinking.</i> Focus on the end result, the plentitude in your life, the fact that your family is whole and healthy. *Whatever* will help you see the blessings that need some help rather than the onerous task of up keep. (As yucky as it might be to clean toilets, how many would choose to trade one for an outhouse (and the bugs and the smell and the cold and the splinters) and daily emptying of slop buckets;-)
(I recently had this insight that one big resistance to seeing the fullness of a cup is that it feels like your winning if you let the task know you don't like it in your life ;-) If you give in and accept the task, it feels like the task has won. Let that idea that you're in competition go. The task is just there, not competing. It's your own projection that's pitting you against each other! ;-)
4) Make it fun for others. In addition to the previous item, be playful. Turn tasks into games. Roleplay. (For some kids it can be a lot more fun to clean a sink when they're pretending to be castle servants preparing for the king's arrival :-) Put on music. Sing and dance.
5) Make the task easier. Rethink what and why and how you're doing everything. Do what you love to do and what makes you happy to give to your family. Deeply examine all the "have tos" and "musts" in your life. Bring them here if you can't find another way of seeing them. :-) Break large tasks into smaller specific tasks, eg, "Could you put the scissors back in the drawer?" or "Could you pick up all the blue things?" Make things easy to put away. Rethink how tasks are done and what really is necessary to accomplish a goal.
6) Ask kids to help. This is confusing because conventional parents ask kids to help. But conventional parents aren't really asking! They're phrasing a demand "politely" when really it's just confusing to the child *and* the mom. If the kid says no -- as a question suggests is one possible answer -- Mom gets mad. ("I asked nicely but the lazy brat refused!") So ask with the understanding that one acceptable answer is no. Be mindful of when you're asking. If the kids are involved, don't expect them to drop what they're doing and jump to do something less interesting. People *do* want to be part of the world around them feel they matter to someone and to the success of a task so don't hesitate to ask!
7) Thank them! Even if they haven't done it the way you would. Even if they've done less than you think they're capable of. <i>Thank them.</i> They've set aside time from something they find valuable to do something for you. Appreciate that they're willing to do that for you. The more they feel appreciated for what they choose to give, the more they will give when they're able. People want to feel they're appreciated.
8) Make your world part of theirs. If they're too young to be much help, or there isn't much for them to help with, invite them along to keep you company, do things near them. Put on a movie. Listen to an audiobook. Let them do the periodic fun (to them) parts (flipping the pancakes, spritzing the clothes with water as you iron).