Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kid Chores

Every year, right about this time, I start brainstorming what to do about chores in our home.

Before I had children, this was a no-brainer.

After one child, this became an area that required consistency and a few packs of gold stickers.

After two children, I found it was just easier to do the chores myself.

And now, with three children, it is definitely easier to do the chores myself, but that's not really the point of assigning them. For the kids, they are proud of their work, take better care of things, and enjoy learning how to manage their "commission" (Dave Ramsey lingo).

It hasn't been easy to stick with these, however. The problem couldn't possibly be with I make yet another chore chart, another cute chore craft with pictures and popsicle sticks (found and copied from here).

As a completely indulgent aside, I think it took me a few years to figure out that children four years and younger really don't understand chore charts. This should have been apparent to a high school math teacher who has tried to teach bar graphs to high school students. The embarrassing part is how long my toddlers had me fooled, slapping gold stickers on a chore chart with reckless randomness. So, we don't do the official chore charts in our house yet. If we did, I would be making my own Mom Chore Chart one day and watching gleefully as the chart extended down the wall and down the hall. Well, maybe not that far, but it'd still be deeply satisfying.

Anyways, here's how chores work in our house:
  • Age-appropriate chores are for everyone. The two-year old puts his blankie and stuffed animals back on his bed, cleans his messes (yeah, right.), helps take the trash out, and sometimes, when we use non-breakable dishes, he sets the table. Our four-year old makes her bed, dresses, cleans up her messes (yeah, right.), sorts the laundry into colors, and transfers the laundry from the washer to the dryer. The six-year old does these, helps Dad wash the cars, and loves to dust with socks on her hands.
  • We pay our children for their "official" chores. I know this is different for each family. My own parents did not pay me for chores, simply adopting the philosophy that "Family works together." I totally get that...but what better way to teach my kids about money than to give them some, even if it's just a dime or a quarter? I know that it would be super hard for me to go to work without getting a paycheck (Oh wait, I already do that. Huh.) And I figure God's economy is full of rewards, even Heaven itself. So, we pay our kids.
  • We do not pay our children for basic assumed responsibilities - cleaning up after yourself, personal hygiene, picking up your shoes, taking two items with you as you unload the car (these are your "tickets" out of the car, into the house). Because let's face it, we all have to do some things whether we are given an incentive or not. Can you say annual OB appointment? No incentive. Not even a sugar-free candy on the way out the door. All you OB/GYNs, can I make a personal request that you add a little treasure box full of Oriental Trading Company gadgets in the corner of your waiting area? After I survive, I really want to go in the corner and pick a glow-in-the-dark kaleidoscope. Or even just a princess sticker or two. It would make it all better.
  • How do we get them to do their chores? This is an easy one - they're not teenagers yet. So, they just do it. A time or two, I have threatened to do their chores for them and they will pay me from their piggy banks, and that was enough motivation. I'll have to get back to you when I actually have teenagers. Kevin Lehman's idea is a good one though -you can give your adolescents until a specific time, say on Saturday, to get their chores done. If they do not get them done by that cutoff, just hire the neighbor kids.
  • Our chore system: we have three magnetic boards attached to a wall at the kids' eye level. I bought sticky-sided magnets at Staples and affixed clipart pictures to the magnets. Each morning, the magnetic board shows what chores need to be done, with no words, just pictures. I'd share the clipart, but I'm pretty sure I broke some hidden copyright rule somewhere. You can go to Google Images and just type in the chores, one by one, and get lots of cartoon art for it. When the kids finish their chore, they slide it into a plastic pocket until I use it again the next day. I check off the day when they have finished all of their chores. I never forget to do this. Ever.

  • If your kids are away from the home for school each day, I might encourage you to take a much lighter approach to chores. As for us, homeschooling means that they have more time and more messes throughout their day. So, they get to help more.
  • If you are looking for ideas for age-appropriate chores, you can check this list out for a few.
  • Jolanthe is the queen of organization and her chore charts are the real reason I didn't share my own. :) Here are the preschool ones, and the older children versions. In fact, I probably should have just given you the title, Kid Chores, a link to her blog, and a smiley face for good measure.
Well, anyways, it's written so I'm posting it. I'd love your own tips on keeping chores organized, Management motivated, and children self-directed.

Resting in Him who Makes the Work of Our Hands Beautiful,

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