When I only had one child and all her toys fit in a laundry basket, keeping the house clean was pretty easy. Now I have two kids that have way too much stuff, one house that is way too small and not nearly enough time to deal with working, parenting, chauffeuring, cooking AND housekeeping.
Put the kids to work!
Well, that was the idea but it mostly amounted to me asking them to do various things around the house and them complaining and/or procrastinating and generally resisting anything resembling a chore.
After a few nonstarters with charts and stickers and such, I almost gave up. But then I looked at my house and my work-allergic children lounging about while I did everything and decided there had to be a better way.
I gave it a lot of thought and concluded that my eldest, almost eleven, always responds best to
bribery a rewards system. It worked for potty training, it worked for straight A’s and if I had my way, it was going to work with chores.
My then-five year old..well, he was five—I didn’t expect a whole lot from him but I figured I better get him used to doing his share and teach him to embrace the joy of earning your own money *snort*
I mentioned my dilemma to a friend who told me about a system where kids earn marbles for their chores and cash them in for money. This idea definitely sounded like it had potential so I decided to try a modified version of my own.
This is what I did…
I got two mason jars from Michael’s and two bags of those glass stones usually found in faux floral arrangements.
I gave each child a Sharpie and a bunch of stickers and told them to put their name on their jar and decorate it to their heart’s content.
While they decorated, I created a chore sheet in Excel. On each line was a chore, accompanied by a picture that indicated the chore (my son was still in kindergarten so the pictures were helpful).
In the next column was a number that indicated how many of those colored glass stones they would get for completing the chore.
The concept was very simple and easy to understand—do THIS CHORE and get X number of stones—no stickers or daily notations.
And at the bottom, in a large, bold typeface: Full Jar = $10
Then I sat down with the kids, showed them the sheet and explained the new system.
In a nutshell, every day I would tell them which chores needed to be done. Whoever did those chores would get the corresponding number of glass stones deposited in their jar. When their jar was full? They got ten smackers, ten greenbacks, ten big ones, TEN WHOLE DOLLARS!
They were psyched and and for a while, the chores got done lickety split. The chore jars, however, were taking ages to get full and I could see they were losing their motivation. I decided to increase the amount of stones for each job and this got us back on track.
Since my son is little and can’t do all the available jobs, it takes him longer to fill his jar (he’s filled it once and is about 1/3 into a new jar).
My daughter, on the other hand, has filled her jar two times and is on her way to filling it again. It takes her about a month to fill a jar so it comes out to $10 a month or $2.50 a week. That figure feels a little low for me until I remember she’s ten, has no expenses and is learning the value of a dollar. WIN!
Here’s an example of our chores and their values:
• Empty three small trash cans (bathroom, bedroom, office) : 6 stones
• Take out the recycling: 5 stones
• Take out kitchen trash: 5 stones
• Empty the dishwasher: 5 stones
• Load the dishwasher: 5 stones
• Scoop the litterbox: 7 stones
• Take clean laundry out of dryer, bring inside: 4 stones
• Vacuum living room and office: 7 stones
• Vacuum bedrooms: 4 stones
• Mow front yard with reel mower: 15 stones
• If you have more than once child, get each one different colored stones so they can’t steal them from each other.
• Hide your stash of stones so they can’t help themselves.
• If your kids aren’t motivated by money, you can always make the reward something more relevant.
• For little kids, try a smaller jar and adjust the reward accordingly. Little ones don’t really “get” the delayed gratification thing and may end up frustrated and unwilling if their participation doesn’t result in a reward in a reasonable amount of time.
So that’s The Chore System of Awesomeness we’ve been using. It’s been more effective than anything else and I suspect that as long as my kids ask for stuff and I tell them they need to save up and buy it with their own money, it will continue to be effective.
What’s your chore system, if you have one? How long have you been doing it? How’s it working?