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Family Work: Our Chore Chart

My kids are 2 and 4 and they have been doing family work to some extent since they could pick things up. I have always felt that it is extremely important for kids to, at the very least, learn to clean up after themselves. When I was potty training one of the keys for us was that the child clean up his/her own accidents (I know many of you moms cringe at that thought, but I'm telling you, it works). Many kids would balk at this responsibility, but to my kids it was such a regular occurrence for them to clean up their own mess that they didn't even hesitate. Of course, we still have the same battles every family has over cleaning up toys every night, but I think that's a necessary developmental stage... or something.

But lately I have been ready to take it to the next level- I want them to go beyond simply cleaning up their own messes and do work that enriches the entire family and that, well, makes my life a little easier. But don't get me wrong, making my life easier is not my only motivation. I think that learning the importance of work at a young age is critical. It gives anyone, child or adult, a feeling of self worth to do something that others rely on, and it makes them feel like more of an important part of a whole. But I also think that is important not to make it feel so much like a chore, and part of what makes jobs miserable (at least for me) is "HAVING" to do them. So I don't want to force my kids to do anything (beyond cleaning up after themselves, they don't have much of a choice on that one... or rather, their choice is either clean up or I clean up, meaning their toys get boxed up and put in the basement).

Enter my most recent incentive system. I'm not that huge of a fan of charts for many things. They are an unfair and externally motivating system that rewards good kids while giving "not good" kids very little incentive to improve. So I encourage you to think very critically about your children and whether or not this would be effective before doing it. If there is a huge difference in attention span and/or ability between your children, especially if the child with the lesser attention span/ability is sensitive, you may want to come up with another system. However, my kids are close in age and ability, and while Izzy's attention span is greater than Oliver's by leaps and bounds, he also doesn't really care as long as he earns a treat (the lowest incentive on our chart) every once in a while. For example, last week Oliver earned 6 stars to Izzy's 12, but he didn't care at all.

Here's how the system works. I had just happened to read a post about family work, and had been thinking about it quite a bit. Then we went to Target and stopped in the marker board section, as I needed a new dry erase marker for my menu board. Right there was a chore chart. And Izzy instantly picked it up. She can't read yet, but was instantly attracted to the order and design on the board (is she my daughter, or is she my daughter?!). I took it as a sign, so we bought the board. At home we sat down together (involving them is super important) and made a list of chores they are both (more or less) able to do... obviously Oliver gets a tiny bit more le-way with the chores to earn a star... like he would get a star if he helped me with dishes (and actually helped, not just made a mess), while Izzy would have to do a majority of the work in order to earn one. And at the bottom I added a "bonus" so that they could get a star by doing something extra... for example, Oliver fell asleep on the couch last week and had an accident. While I was pulling the cover off the couch cushion to wash it, Izzy asked if she could help, so I had her get the spray bottle and a wash cloth and clean off the cushion form. That way they can get credit for doing something extra that you may not have thought to include on the chore chart.

However, I've also made it amply clear that they do not get a star for EVERY little thing they do. I strongly discourage you from including things like cleaning up toys, making the bed, or cleaning up their room on their chore chart. These are things that they should be responsible for without expecting a reward. I also don't give out stars for things she still thinks of as fun, like helping me cook.

They accumulate stars during the week, Monday- Sunday, and there are three incentives they are working for. At 5 stars they get a "treat" totally of their choosing, even something totally junky (I'm talking under $1, though, like a candy bar or whatever... but this is a HUGE deal to kids who don't often get stuff like that). To his credit, Oliver chose fruit leather as his treat last week:) At 10 stars they get to choose a book (under $5... I know they don't understand prices, but I steer them towards the cheap section and seldom get an argument). At 15 stars they get ice cream. Not super pricey stuff, and both will probably not get all things all weeks, but obviously if this is not in your budget, adjust accordingly. You know what your kids like and what will motivate them.

Don't think your child is old enough to do chores? My four year old can switch laundry from the washer to the dryer (and turn it on), do the dishes (I usually put the clean ones away while she's washing, so I'm right there to help if she needs it, but she mostly does it herself with the exception of heavy pots and pans), put silverware away (because she can't reach the rest), weed in the garden, feed the dog, set the table, dust, clean windows, fold laundry, and put laundry away. She can also make herself a peanut butter sandwich, including cutting the bread, but she doesn't get a star for that one, I just like to use it as an example of what a 4 year old can do if given the chance... obviously not all 4 year olds would be able to handle a knife and you have to know your own kid, but it never hurts to give them the chance to try it a few times with your supervision. And my two year old hyper unfocused child can feed the dog, weed in the garden, put his laundry away, put silverware away, and set the table. And clean up all the messes he makes:)

Do your children do chores? How do you feel about kids doing chores?


Brianna said...

Izzy can cut her own bread. But she can't cut it with a chainsaw.

simply heidi said...

I love the way you are teaching your kids responsibility so young. It will really pay off to you and them when they get older. Great post. I hope you are planning on linking it on Friday! :)

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