Friday, May 27, 2011

To do chores, or not...?

     I remember being a kid and absolutely hating to do my chores! I hated mowing the grass, cleaning my room, and most of all the dishes! I just knew that I would never, ever make my children do chores when I was a mom. Yes, that is what I told myself as I pushed through a jungle of grass in my childhood backyard.  I was going to be so cool and never make them do anything that my mom and dad made me do!

                                    THEN...I BECAME A MOM!

     Even when Dylan (now 12) and Amanda (now 10) were younger, I was still of the mindset that they were just little people and couldn't grasp the idea of how to clean up after themselves. Besides, they had a mom, and it was MY JOB!  Looking back, I think they would have handled things just fine! In fact, it would have saved me some trouble later on down the road.

     My family has grown considerably over the last decade. We now have five lovely children that have two hands a piece!  As my family grew, I realized that I couldn't possibly keep up with the amount of housework that is needed to keep our house spic and span. I was constantly cleaning up after everyone while they sat around and did nothing without being expressly told to do so.  It was time for a chore list of some sort.

     We have gone through MANY, and I do mean many systems. We have tried ideas from magazines, internet searches, TV shows, other mommies, etc. However, none of it worked completely with our situation. Just a few weeks ago, I finally had enough of trying this and experimenting with that. I was going to sit down, think about the ideas we tried, decide what worked, what didn't.  I was going to come up with a way to keep my house amazingly clean, with little effort from everyone, with a reward system....but still have consequences for the children that choose to be lazy! AND...wouldn't you know it! I did....and it is working!

     Before I get into what we are doing that is working for us, I want to make an admission. We have only been doing this system for two weeks. I know it is fairly early on in the game, however, my children  are acting differently with their response to chores. They are getting  in a routine of knowing what is expected of them, and what happens if they do not.

  • The first thing I recommend is figuring out a list of chores that your children are capable of completing mostly on their own.  How much time will you be able to devote to chores? 
  • Next, come up with a way you will keep track of who does what. Will you use charts and stickers, marbles, a computer program, etc?  
  • Lastly, decide on how to reward your children. What motivates them to do a good job? 

     We decided to create a system that included parts of what worked before, with some new twists.

     First, I typed out a list of age appropriate chores for Dylan and Amanda, my two oldest children. Then I made a separate list for my two smaller girls, Tabby and Hannah.  I came up with twenty chores for each group.  I wrote out each job on the front of an index card. On the back of each index card I wrote out any special instructions that they needed to know to complete the job the correct way. On the little girl's cards I drew pictures of the job along with the name of it since they are not reading quite yet.  I placed both sets of chores in an index card holder to keep them in one place.  Dylan and Amanda's chore cards are in red ink, Tabby and Hannah's are in green.

     When it is "time to clock in,"  the children have the opportunity to begin their chores. They have from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. to get them done.  I let them know if we have plans for the evening and we are flexible in allowing extra time for those busy nights.  However, if we are home, it is up to them to balance their time appropriately.  We do remind the little girls of course.  The children basically choose the card (job) they wish to complete. They obviously have their favorites and try to get to them before their sibling. Has that created some arguments? Sure it has!  However, as you will see later on, this system encourages teamwork in order to get everything done! Each child has ten jobs per day and earns ten marbles per day.

    What sorts of jobs do my children do? Dylan and Amanda do anything from sweeping the kitchen floor to scooping the cat litter. They do dishes, the toilet, and stuff in between.  The little girls clean mirrors, wipe down dining room chairs, and do general tidy sorts of chores.

    How long it takes each child to do their ten chores depends on how long they want to make it take. Since we have been doing this system the house has stayed clean, so Dylan, Amanda, and Tabitha have figured out if they just do it and get it takes about 45 minutes per day.  Hannah on the other hand tends to take her sweet little time. Hannah lives her entire life like that. 
     So after each job is complete, they put the card in a different index card box behind a card with their name on it, so that way I can keep track of who did what.  Seven p.m. is "quitting time."  I take the box of completed chores and start to distribute marbles into their individual marble jars with their names on the outside.  One marble per chore complete.

     So what happens when the chores they are expected to do are not completed by 7 p.m.?  Here is where it gets good!  Let's say Amanda only does seven chores and Dylan does ten chores. From 7 - 8 p.m., Dylan is given the opportunity to do the three chores that Amanda did not do.  Amanda's consequence for not doing her chores is that SHE has to give TWO marbles from her jar to her brother for every job that he does for her!  It is a great consequence for the one who doesn't do their jobs, and a great reward for the one willing to work!

     I can hear it now, you are wondering what happens if NEITHER child completes the jobs?  We have that covered too~  They do the jobs, together...and pay ME two marbles a piece, per job, out of THEIR jars.  We haven't had to go there yet, and I am assuming that we won't. It is a pretty big consequence.

    Lastly, the fun part!  Rewards! What to do they get for all those marbles they rack up?  Every Saturday is pay day. The children count their marbles (which will be an average of 60), turn them into me, and get cash! For 60 marbles, they get $5.00.  We have a pay scale set up for as few as 10 marbles, but as much as 100. It is possible for them to earn more than 60 through taking on jobs their siblings don't do. They can also lose marbles form paying their siblings, but also for bad behavior.  Mouthing off to mom now costs them a marble. And the loss of a marble is now costing them money.

     Anyway...that is the basic set up of our chore system. It is working fantastically!  the kids are learning all sorts of beneficial things from this system~ responsibility, time management, teamwork, earning money, losing money, consequences of bad behavior, rewards for the good.   I hope you can take something from what works for us and make it your own.  If you have any questions,  please ask! I am more than happy to share my thoughts and ideas on your situation.

    The most important thing I can say to wrap this up is to please, don't do a disservice to your children by thinking it is OK to not teach them responsibility at an early age. You will have a MUCH harder time later on in life, and so will they.  Most children are able to be held responsible for some duties around the house.  The longer you wait, the more you give in to whining and complaining, the harder it will be on you....and them!





  1. I've had the girls doing a few things a day - really just two or three things - but know I have to add in more (for their sakes). I've also been trying to come up with a way to address the occasional spats and grumpiness/attitude issues. I think I may try your plan here! :^)

  2. What a wonderful idea, Amy! I may put it into practice this summer!

  3. Sounds like a good system. I'm glad it's working for you and hope it continues. I really wanted to get something started with my kids last year, but it just never happened. I need to start thinking of something so I can be ready next month when we get moved.